Time to rethink ‘Best’ honors

A firmly held view here is that we must help our youth as much as each of us can. This view has its foundation in the fact that at no time in our history have the years of growing up and passing through the teens been more difficult and challenging than in today’s world. Specifically, teenagers go through something of a crisis where they must define and distinguish themselves from other teenagers while simultaneously trying to acquire respect and attention from their fellow teens and the community at large. Rather often, these comparisons result in deep-seated feelings of inferiority that are exacerbated by the onset of puberty and the social media monster.

Teenagers go through their years where the high school they attend usually has a huge influence on what they do afterwards and, perhaps most important, how well or poorly they feel about themselves. A high school’s administrators, teachers, counselors, coaches and others are there to help build self-esteem and acquire knowledge, shaping the citizens the teens will become. There is also the surrounding community with its impacts.

One factor coming mainly from the community is that of media bestowing athlete of the week, month, year and sport. In the first place, most of these athletes play on a team with several other athletes. Without team members, except in sports where individual competition is the name of the game, the singled-out athlete can’t do it alone and is mightily assisted by fellow team members upon whom he or she depends for success.

Then there’s the psychological impact having to do with young people given special attention along with rewards like a trophy or photo and celebration in local media. Meanwhile, other team members are ignored and left to feel inferior. Of course, there’s a lot going on in life where one person is judged superior to others; however, the “greatest athlete” is magnanimously-based on subjective judgements, biased by political considerations and even family wealth and community standing. Bottom line is that this kind of judgement call does not measure up to objectivity.

Further, why must some sports writers, coaches and community big shots use a popularity contest to judge who’s the best at anything? If it’s valid, why not judge them as individuals, going on record to make the judgement on who’s best and then take the “heat” for the disagreement (sometimes outrage) thereafter.

Youth of high school age do not need another way of feeling bad about themselves when they know they’ve worked at practices and played at ball games just as hard as anyone who receives special attention. Save the applause for later in life when people acquire a measure of maturity and resignation for their skills and abilities and can accept that they’re not necessarily the best at anything but still feel good about attributes like positive parenting and work place accomplishments. Meanwhile, let’s rid our youth of negative stuff that results in downers and self-loathing vibes.

Some might ask, what about the Valedictorian and Salutatorian recognitions? Answer: they’re apolitical, earned and objective-based on academic success. Further, high school students know why they are awarded while they serve to inspire underclassmen and upperclassmen to pay attention in class and study to learn how to make the grade at life, getting a whole lot more out of their four years than a brain injury complements of the gridiron. 

(Gene H. McIntyre shares his opinion regularly in the Keizertimes.)