ASK JUNE: The Prize Dilemma

I recently attended two events, one involving my niece and one involving a colleague’s spouse.

The first event was a local gymnastics meet for middle schoolers—just an informal, rec center thing. In my niece’s cohort, there were seven kids competing. My niece, who had won First Place at the previous meet, was very excited and did what I thought was a very nice routine. Anyway, it turned out that there were five awards, for First through Fifth Place, which were announced in reverse order à la Miss America Pageant, with many pauses and lots of drama. By the time they got to First Place my niece was practically jumping up and down with anticipation. When another girl won I could see her blushing and trying to hold back tears. The presenter then announced a sixth award, for a specific apparatus—and my niece didn’t get that one, either. So the result was that she in effect was told that she was the worst person competing.  

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