Here’s an amusing and refreshing piece taking on American culture’s so-called “Trophy-Industrial Complex,” arguing that learning to lose is as vital to childhood as winning. As the article admits, positive reinforcement does indeed have positive impacts on childhood development – a vital part of success is believing that success is actually possible – but, it turns out that phoniness and praise of failure actually convince children to quit more than motivate them to succeed. Children learn so see through the veil of fake-praise at a relatively young age, Ashley Merryman argues, and so telling children that they are succeeding when they can plainly see otherwise convinces children that simply showing up is worthy of reward.

This is, of course, a dangerous philosophy to sell our kids, particularly because it tends to produce the opposite of the results we wanted. If showing up is all that matters, why bother with the exertion? Melanie Phillips, a previous Fixed Point speaker, echoes Merryman’s concerns in her book, All Must Have Prizes, exploring the effect such a mentality has on education.  The world of adults rarely rewards failure, but it certainly doesn’t (and shouldn’t) reward laziness. Character is most tested, honed, and revealed in losing – and that starts with learning to do without the trophy.