Change the world, please | Mark’s Remarks


I had a great discussion with my students the other day. It made me come away from school believing that there just might be hope for this world.

They were all excited about the Columbia High School homecoming parade. They were also excited about all the rumors they had heard about the alleged “hazing” that went on during spirit week.

I tried to explain things to them and tried to kill rumors. I also tried to explain the difference between pranks and down-right vandalism. All in all, I wanted to make sure they didn’t glamorize the things they had heard.

Our discussion of homecoming led to better topics like the game and coronation. Some students remarked that their good friends, relatives or acquaintances were on the homecoming court.

And then one student raised his hand and told everyone that he knew who the homecoming queen was. He announced a name of one of the queen candidates who had not received the crown.

A brief argument ensued. The student had been to the homecoming game and had seen the girl he mentioned. She was wearing a crown. After we discussed the matter, one student piped up and said, “All the girls had crowns on.”

Indeed, they did. I myself had been to the game and all of the queen candidates wore a small crown.

I did not go to the dance, but I assume the actual queen received a larger crown. Or maybe she didn’t.

I haven’t paid too much attention, but I’ve heard of other schools starting a tradition where all queen candidates receive a crown to wear whether they are named queen or not. I’m pretty sure they don’t do the same for homecoming kings, but I could be wrong.

The students continued the discussion. Some of them thought it was fair and nice that all of the girls got crowns. Some of them thought that only one should wear it.

When I went to high school (and I’m sure this is true for the rest of you), our class voted for two girls to be our class attendants. Later, when we were seniors, the whole class picked three gals to be the queen candidates. After that, the whole school voted for which one would be queen. Then, at the dance, the retiring queen crowned the new queen. We didn’t have a king. The senior football players escorted the gals at the dance.

When I went to college in the late 1980s, there were a few professors who preached fairness and equality for all. Now, don’t get me wrong; fairness and equality have a place and are important. I think we need to make sure kids know what both of those words mean.

Is it fair that everyone in a game receives a prize? Should everyone win? Do we really have to reward kids for an answer, even if it’s wrong. Should we always give partial credit? Should we make life fair, all the time, for everyone?

I think it’s important for kids to know that sometimes they are wrong. In fact, some people are wrong most of the time and only occasionally get it right.

We all learn at different speeds. Some of us try and try and never get elected. Some of us fail much of the time and win only once in awhile. Maybe never.

Hard work pays off. Much of the time, those who work hard and do the right thing end up winning.

Still, some folks who are slick don’t work hard at all and always come out smelling like a rose. They win because they have money, looks, fame or fortune. There isn’t a dang thing right about that and it’s totally not fair. But it happens anyway.

Now, I’m not trying to say any of those girls shouldn’t have had a crown on. I know some of them and any one of them is nice enough and deserving to be crowned queen. But who started the tradition of everyone getting a crown? Some parent who thought things should be fair and equal all the time? Some mother who was miffed that her daughter didn’t get a crown? Why don’t the king candidates get the same treatment?

After a lengthy discussion, my students decided they didn’t agree that all students should be rewarded. They all needed to learn there was only one winner.

Student council elections took place two weeks ago and there was only one winner from each homeroom class. The speeches were wonderful, and I wasn’t ashamed to admit that I was so proud I shed a tear. My students met the results with dignity and maturity, and I was glad. They were happy for who won.

And I’ll bet that the girl who was finally crowned queen was met with congratulations. I’ll bet the other candidates were happy and I’ll bet everyone had a great time. There were no hard feelings.

If the kids themselves are aware of how life really works and are completely fine with there being one winner, then why do we insist on trying to make everything so fair and even all the time? I told my students they are being raised in a world in which everyone seems to think they are entitled to the same things, all the time, no matter the circumstance. Everything has to be fair. If you want something, you should have it right now. And so on and so on.

Many of them shook their heads as if they couldn’t believe it. After a while, I asked them if they would do their old teacher a favor. “Hey guys; if you really feel this way, then go around and preach to the masses. Stand up for your beliefs and tell others that life isn’t always fair. Change the mentality of the world we live in.”

One of my students summed it all up by saying, “After all, you can’t win them all.”

“So true,” I said. So true.

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