I never thought I would write something complimentary about members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the day has come. Of course, my kudos are for their parenting, not their exploits on the gridiron.
Two members of the Steelers, James Harrison and DeAngelo Williams, have taken a stand against the “participation” awards that are now given to kids for pretty much everything they do. Last year, Harrison made his sons give back participation trophies and wrote:
“EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.”
This year, Williams made his daughter return a participation ribbon she received at a school track event, and reported that she went out the next day and won first place.
I think the notion of “participation” awards are one of the worst brainstorms ever devised by the fevered imaginings of school counselors and helicopter parents — and I say this not just because the participation awards the boys received cluttered our basement for years. Whether it’s sports, or chess, or science fairs, the ribbons and trophies should go to those who compete and win, not just those who show up. Kids know the difference between phony trophies and recognitions for true achievement; they discount and quickly forget the former and actually value the latter.
I’m with the two Steelers on this one. Forget the stupid participation trophies, and don’t try to make kids think that the world won’t draw distinctions between performance when adulthood arrives. Participation trophies teach kids exactly the wrong life lesson.
The futurists among us got a charge yesterday when the first test of the hyperloop transportation system occurred in the desert north of Las Vegas, Nevada.
The hyperloop system sounds like something from The Jetsons or a science fiction story. Using magnetic levitation technology and special propulsion units, the hyperloop would send sleds of people and cargo rocketing through above-ground tubes at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. Proponents say the finished product would allow people to get from San Francisco to LA, or from Washington, D.C. to Manhattan, in just 30 minutes. Hyperloop buffs also argue that the system would have lower energy costs and would create no carbon emissions.
The test yesterday wasn’t much — it lasted two seconds, and saw the propulsion unit push a ten-foot sled to speeds of more than 100 miles an hour before hitting a sand bank — but the founders of the start-up company Hyperloop One viewed it as their “Kitty Hawk” moment, when the concept of a new form of transportation get its first practical test, just as the Wright brothers’ plane did. And the promise of the technology is sufficiently attractive that other companies are pursuing the hyperloop concept, too.
Hyperloop has a long way to go, and there will be huge issues involved in developing the technology, getting the land rights and funds to build the sleds and elevated tubes and, eventually, convincing people to use a system that would put people in the position of the bullet in a gun. Still, we should all welcome the pioneers who try to develop new transportation approaches. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they prove uneconomical — anybody remember the SST? — but they always push the technology forward.
A fair question, though, is whether a sufficient number of people will be willing to sit in a tube and be propelled forward at hundreds of miles an hour. Why not? When you think about it, that’s basically what happens when you board an airplane.