It seems like kids are rewarded for everything nowadays.

They deserve the new iPhone the day it comes out. They deserve to be famous on the Internet, just because they have an Instagram account. These kids deserve medals, even if they don’t win the game.

Studies show that kids who think they deserve to always get what they want will grow up expecting the special treatment to continue.

But that’s not how the world works. Just ask the Canadian government.

But isn’t that… what a contest is — working for free and hoping that your submission will be chosen to win?

 (Shannon Baldwin/The Ryersonian)

Erin Petrow says that entering a contest is a chance to win money and  create a piece for the portfolio, not exploitation. (Shannon Baldwin/Ryersonian Staff)

The government-sponsored contest to find a new logo for Canada’s 150th birthday celebration has outraged the graphic design community, or more specifically, graphic design students who feel entitled to compensation for their ideas, win or lose.

But do they deserve it?

The contest, open to post-secondary students, rewards the winner with a $5,000 prize. Money aside, entrants will also benefit from the exposure that comes with winning the contest. At the very least, it’s another piece of work to add to their portfolios.

The Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD) fired back at the government, saying the contest is “exploiting students’ talents” and that the government shouldn’t expect people to work for free.

But isn’t that, in essence, what a contest is — working for free and hoping that your submission will be chosen to win?

As a student, I don’t condone working for free but contests differ from unpaid work. Students aren’t forced to enter. If they think it’s unethical, they don’t have to participate.

The RGD instead wants the government to spend extra time and money to scour the country’s schools to find the right candidates, connect them with professional design firms and, of course, pay them all for their time and effort.

I can’t see Canadian taxpayers being too happy about this suggestion.

The RGD’s plan also eliminates students who aren’t registered in design programs from participating. If certain graphic design students don’t want to “work” for free, maybe other artistically gifted students from other programs would be willing to.

That’s the beauty of Canada If you think you’re being exploited, you don’t have to participate, and if you really love drawing and creating you’re probably doing it in your spare time anyway.

The reality is this isn’t a contest to win a full-time job. It’s a one-off that might earn the winner some recognition, a bit of cash, and a place in Canadian history.

Perhaps the RGD should stop and think about whether the issue of exploitation is a real problem in this case or if they’re simply looking to win a participation award of their own and receive a pat on the head.

I’m not so sure they deserve it.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Jan. 28, 2015.

Erin Petrow was Op-Ed and Voices editors at the Ryersonian. She also interned at CTV Saskatoon and runs a personal blog that heavily features her obsession with both cats and tea. Erin graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 2015.