I spent a bit of time in France and in the USA. I observed that there are many more awards given to students and academics in the US than there are in France. Is that observation correct, and if so what accounts for it?


Grade awards in the US:

  • University of Chicago Student Marshal
  • Dean’s List

Student research awards in the US:

  • Charles W. and Jennifer C. Johnson Prize
  • Jin Au Kong Thesis Award
  • George M. Sprowls PhD thesis award
  • William A. Martin Memorial Master's Thesis Award

Teaching awards in the US:

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    I am unclear what you're asking. Would you please clarify what you mean by "awards"? Nobel prize is of course an award. Do you consider scholarship an award? What other things would you consider awards? – scaaahu Mar 8 '15 at 7:26
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    @scaaahu Teaching awards, research awards, grade awards, leadership awards, etc.. Of course not considering funding-related awards as no such issue of funding in France. Not considering international awards either. – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 8 '15 at 17:32
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    @scaaahu Is it clear now? – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 9 '15 at 5:33
  • Well, there are many more people in the US... – David Ketcheson Mar 11 '15 at 6:11
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    @DavidKetcheson Sure but even looking at award per individual the rate is seems much higher in the US. – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 11 '15 at 6:23

I have half french kids and I have spent a lot of my life in France and in the Midwest. The answer is easy - culture.

Americans love recognizing everything. Participation awards, so many awards that anyone that is pretty good at something will surely get one. My 4th grader at the time got a ribbon for 4th place in a race and his French grandmother said, "Why?" She didn't even understand it.

In France if you win something you are really at the top of your game and its a big deal. They generally don't placate to keeping self-esteem high, even with children. Things are more regulated, committees generally mean something and there isn't a lot of duplication. Now I see this slowly changing in France over the years and it becoming more westernized.

Your answer is just, different culture. England is a bit the same as America except they seem to have accreditation companies and societies that also allow you to "pay" for an award.

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    I never knew it was possible to refer to Western Europe becoming "more westernized". ;-) – David Ketcheson Mar 11 '15 at 7:26
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    @DavidKetcheson well, USA and UK are at the west of France (or a very long way to the east). – Davidmh Mar 11 '15 at 8:23
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    @DavidKetcheson - You win the good observation award! – blankip Mar 11 '15 at 15:39

In the US, its common to try and award as many participants as possible. This trend hasn't gone unnoticed in the US either.

Usually this trend is blamed on one of two things - raising self-esteem of the participant, and need to show achievement to be accepted into a prestigious school or college.

In America, its pretty common for families to enroll their young children (middle school and younger) into summer sports teams. As these teams are meant more as a family bonding experience, several hand out participation and superlative trophies to encourage families to sign up next summer.

The other recent I hear less often is that most universities expect to see extra-curricular activities, and winning an award is better than simply participating. Therefore parents may expect (or demand) their child be awarded in some way. Sports and other clubs have responded by simply adding more awards.

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