Friday, October 7, 2011

Making the Grade

I met a good friend for tea this afternoon. She's been studying for the bar exams these past few months, but took time off yesterday to celebrate with her husband and sons because the first term's marks had been released and both boys made the honor roll.

My sister and her daughters came along too, because both girls had gotten good grades as well. While sitting at a cafe outside a large toy store, we saw countless parents with their children there for the same reason. (Little A was home, asleep.)

I was simultaneously appalled and fascinated to see this blatant display of material rewarding. While at university 15 years ago, I remember being amazed at how some classmates would boast of receiving large cash sums as a "prize" for making the Dean's List. Upon mentioning this to my parents they replied, "We never believed in using such incentives. You should earn good grades for your own sense of accomplishment, not because there will be a cash reward for doing so." They were so right.

At boarding school, earning a prize on Speech Day came in the form of a paper certificate and a book token. I loved this reward system, because it made sense. Surely those hungry for knowledge would want to enrich this by acquiring more, then only available in the form of books.

As children, my sisters and I looked forward to visiting the bookstore on weekends with our parents and picking out one book each - two if we were lucky. I cannot recall a single instance of a visit to a toy store that inspired such happiness.

While sitting outside that toy store I wondered if the bookstore at the opposite end of the mall was doing as well. I hoped so, and I hoped that more parents begin to realize what my parents knew so long ago - that books can often create a far richer sense of fulfillment than many toys can.


Peter S. said...

Hi, Stepford Mum! When I was in my school years, my parents never rewarded me if I did a good job at school. Somehow I got this feeling that it was expected of me. On the other hand, I would get a long diatribe if I did miserably. :-)

Stepford Mum said...

Peter, it was the same in my family. My parents never really pushed us to do well, but none of us did badly enough to require remedial classes or tutoring or anything of that sort, thankfully. My mom said they were pleasantly surprised to discover a few days before my graduation that I would be getting medals, awards and so forth :)