Rita Papazian
Published: July 20 -2012

Recently, I volunteered at the kids’ games at a church picnic. My one-hour
assignment was to sit at the prize table. When the children won a game – such as
a simple ring toss over a wading pool of frogs or a fishing game to catch a plastic
fish with a magnetic fishing pole, they would come to the table and select a prize.
The prizes were token prizes – a cardboard glider plane, candy or some other kind
of token prize that would grab their attention for maybe a minute or two. But, it’s
all in the fun of the moment: see what you can accomplish and get an award.

I enjoyed my little responsibility as children came to the table and told me
they had won. Earlier in the day I had brought my two grandchildren ages 4 and 6
to the kids’ games. They won and selected their prizes. Later, that day they flew
their planes in the backyard. We all were surprised to see how well these little
cardboard planes flew in the air.

During my volunteer hour one child, about 6-years-old, came up to the table and
claimed she was entitled to two prizes. Behind her, her mother held up one finger
to indicate she had won one game. The child took two prizes. No one, including
myself said anything. After all, I realized that this was a child’s play: win a game,
select a prize. A few minutes later, this same little girl came back to the table and
said she had won another game and she selected a prize. Let me just add that
the games were a few feet from me and I was trying to notice among the other
children if she was actually playing. She repeatedly came back to the table and
took a prize or two. Each time she appeared to select her prizes quicker and

I realized that the game set up was based on honesty. When a child won a game,
there was no ticket given to indicate they could go select a prize. No checks and
balances here.

As a mother, grandmother and college instructor, I began to observe these
children in a new light. Some followed the rules and like this little girl realized she
could beat the system.

A few days later I read news reports of the cheating scandal at Stuyvesant
High School in Manhattan where 70 students were involved in a pattern of
smartphone-enabled cheating during state exams.

© Copyright 2012 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.