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Sarcastic 'Catastrophe Award' Given to 3rd Grader Angers Parent


"That isn't an award."

Modern day education - especially of young children- is infamously infatuated with the concept of "self-esteem."

And within reason, why not? They're young, they're malleable, they're easily damaged. It's not as though teachers should be fountains of verbal abuse. However, when it comes to education, reason is rarely involved, as overprotective parents and overly careful teachers frequently end up taking this concept to a ludicrous extreme. That's certainly what happened in this story, where a little gentle sarcasm from a teacher has been turned into a miniature scandal by an angry parent and some thoroughly dubious education "experts":

Cassandra Garcia, an 8-year-old student from Tuscon, Ariz., became upset after her teacher gave her the "Catastrophe Award" for the "most excuses for not having homework." Garcia was given the "award" despite having a folder full of completed assignments, KGUN-TV reports.

Garcia's mother, Christina Valdez, was outraged by the incident, claiming the teacher humiliated her daughter in public for no reason.[...]

"That isn't an award. It doesn't fit the criteria," University of Arizona College of Education psychologist Sheri Bauman told the station, saying a negative award like that is inappropriate -- especially at such a young age. "They feel less than, they feel fearful of authority of what might happen if they make a mistake."

This video report from KGUN9 TV in Tuscon gives more details on the incident:


Now, granted, this is a bit of a harsh way to send a message to a student about doing homework. However, look at the "award" itself. The smiley face left by the teacher seems to pretty clearly suggest that this was intended as a good natured joke:

More to the point, shouldn't students receive some form of negative reinforcement if they do things wrong? A joke seems the least threatening way to send a message, as opposed to, say, caning the student, or yelling at them.

With that said, it was probably wrong to make this a form of de facto public humiliation. The kid is 8. We're not sure even Mao started the public shamings that young.

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