No Honour Roll Good For Self Esteem?

When I was a kid, I made the honour roll. Always.

But I didn’t get good grades because I wanted to be on the honour roll. I got good grades because my parents ingrained that expectation in me. If I didn’t do well in school, I was upset with myself, not because my parents would be upset (although they weren’t pleased). That said, it was really nice to get recognition at the end of the year for having achieved good grades.

Recently, a Calgary school decided to do away with its honour roll and academic awards. The explanation is that those who receive the awards don’t really care, and those who don’t get their self esteem and pride hurt.

Now, I don’t know for sure how a kid feels if he doesn’t make the honour roll, but I’m pretty sure that taking it away altogether doesn’t likely make him feel any better. And maybe the kids who get the awards act like it’s no big deal, but I’m guessing they’d be upset if the awards no longer existed. Because even if you take it away, the kids aren’t dumb. They know who did well and who didn’t.

By eliminating academic awards, all you do is take away the recognition that the “brainiacs” were getting. And let’s be real here. The kids who win the academic awards are likely not the kids who are also winning the sports trophies. Sure, there are exceptions, but generally speaking, these are kids of separate camps. I mean, I was no star athlete, nor were any of the other kids in my class who were kicking math’s ass.

Do we take away all the awards then so that no one gets upset they didn’t win one? Do we recognize no one’s excellence in order to avoid making anyone feel less than that?

Life doesn’t work this way, and I don’t understand why schools feel they need to. Recognizing excellence is a good thing, and gives people (kids included) something to strive for–Nobel Prizes, Olympic medals, Stanley Cups, Orders of Canada, job promotions, bonuses, and even gold stars.

I’m not saying we don’t need to acknowledge the kids who aren’t “winning” and their feelings; I’m saying we need to help all kids set goals and work hard to meet them. And this is a job for schools AND parents. It shouldn’t mean taking away the very accolades that we want them to strive towards.


  • Candace

    I never made the honour roll. Well, maybe once but certainly not consistently. I was envious of those that did. I did not harbour ill-will towards honour rollers nor was my self-esteem affected in any negative way. I was too busy being cool Kidding. In the real world those that achieve get recognition. If you work hard you get that bonus. You get that plaque. You get that extra day off work. You get that promotion, etc. At what point did we as a society start to believe we must never signal out someone and pay tribute to their abilities? Whether that’s a trophy for best player or an honour roll. Sigh. Is there an adult out there that blames honour rolls for ruining their lives? I’m intrigued.

  • Jamie Mac

    Well spoken, Colleen. This is an absolute frustration of mine with kids in grade school. What does a child or person have to achieve or reach to achieve if there is no goal? I have never been on the honor roll, but I never had any doubt as to why. I didn’t try hard enough. Ever. I got it. Even in grade school. When kids were getting “perfect attendance” awards, and I knew I couldn’t be a contender because I wanted to stay home every once in a while to watch TV, with an “upset tummy”. I wasn’t a bad student, and met honest and sincere career goals I set for myself.
    The point is…if you don’t have to reach for it, will you? If you never feel validated for how hard you work, will it change you? Kids are small, but they are not dumb. They get it…and if not, stop giving $1,500,000 prizes for a Nobel award for writing short stories. It’s much easier for them to reach for the sand on the ground in the play yard, than to reach for the Monkey Bars.

  • Shannon Hilton

    I believe strongly that we need to stop sugar-coating life for our children. Taking away awards, and scores in games, and grades (we just dropped a report card in Calgary – from 3 to 2) doesn’t teach them anything about how the world works. Life is competitive. Not everyone will be the CEO, or the gold medal winner. Should everyone try to be? Maybe not, but they need to TRY. And if we don’t award effort, then what are we left with?