Let me make an uncomfortable observation.
One of my favorite scenes in the Disney classic The Incredibles is the discussion Dash has with his mom about being special.
Why is it one of my favorites?
Dash's mom, in an attempt to "settle" his desire to be involved with student activities and hide his incredible abilities says, "Everyone is special Dash" To which Dash responds, "which is another way of saying 'no one is.'"
For as long as I have been involved in cultural studies, I have heard and read people bashing Disney for their "devious and hidden sexual content" messages in their animated films. I find such allegations interesting, sometimes easy to see and always entertaining. I am not sure Disney peeps sit around and think of where they can "hide" profound and cultural influencing, reflecting content in their films. I am more interested in the obvious cultural messages. This conversation Dash is having with his mom is a true window into today's, highly competitive, I-have-an-honor-student-sticker toting, trophy-handing-out culture.
When did we get the idea that everybody is special?
Before you stop reading, let me clarify.
Indeed, we are all special in terms of our value as a person. A message that should be trumpeted from every adult and placed deep inside the heart of every student (and adult for that matter) is that every person is deeply loved for who they are and not because of what they do!
Our culture communicates a much different message. A message that leaves people believing their worth (ability to be special and/or loved) is determined by what they do and how well they do it. Therefore, Culture's attempt at correcting such an obvious injustice is to make everybody's "what they do and how well they do it" special (you may want to read those last two sentences again-they fly by really fast).
"What is the problem with that?" you ask.
A person's value is still being placed on performance. And, like Dash, our student's soon realize that in a world where everyone's performance is special, no one's performance is truly special! Therefore, the natural process (interest, attempt, success/failure) of a student discovering their own, unique and special abilities is lost.
Hey adults, our student's know the truth. They know...
...not everyone gets to be on the "A" team and/or be a starter.
...not everyone gets to sit in 1st chair.
...not everyone can make the cheerleader squad.
...not everyone can sing a high "C."
...not everyone makes the honor roll.
...not everyone wins the literary contest.
They know they are not special in everything and that is alright! Actually, they need to hear that more often. I am convinced the one's who are often not "alright" with this truth are we adults. Perhaps, the entitlement problem we say teenagers have is actually our problem.