Competition in the classroom

One approach to ensue academic progression seems to be fixated on a competitive atmosphere where people are compared and shown off to encourage better performance for peers. But surely this has negative consequences? There are benefits, I admit, but surely context restricts these. In a classroom, for example, I feel it is unnecessary to flaunt and boast about good grades in front of a student in a lesser position. That student may have tried twice as hard as you and felt confident and content with their results. That is until you buried them in your selfish exploits and lavish demonstrations of superiority and intellect.

Competition however works well in a professional situation where it is necessary for people to be compared and picked out in order for progress to be made. Not only is this argument relevant for myself at the moment, I feel it’s always been a stressed aspect of my life. I’ve never believed in academic comparison until you are on a level where you’re mature enough to appreciate and deal with it responsibly. I am however not on that level, I can admit to that. In Alfie Kohn’s article ‘Is Competition Ever Appropriate in a Cooperative Classroom?’ he states that “research has made it painfully clear that setting children against one another is destructive.” Although in a school environment the circumstances are far from this extreme, it still feels relevant to reference. The article is an interesting read and I feel it raises some interesting points about self-esteem and competitive advantages. He suggests “Not everything that is bad when done to excess is harmless when done in moderation.” and goes on to describe the disadvantages of competition among children.

Competition is merely a short-term solution for a long term problem. Which I admit at the early stages of someone’s education is relevant and most probably beneficial to their development however it still feels unnecessary. Nonetheless competition is used by almost everyone in almost every situation and fundamentally runs our lives; from childhood games to job application and from that the world is run.

With the scientific side of my brain screaming out to me I must compare these traits shown by teachers and other professionals with animals and our evolutionary past. It is instinct to compete with one another, originally for food and other resources, so it is not surprising we still carry this characteristic. What I find interesting about ‘The Academy of Evolutionary Metaphysics’s article on human evolution is that they make points similar to ones shown above. The article reads that “there will be a balance between how much they can cooperate and how much they need to compete” and “When conditions change, so will the best balance between competition and cooperation.” Thus providing the suggestion that context plays the key role here and also in modern day. I may be taking this statement more literally than is supposed but the balance between competition and cooperation should be kept in equilibrium.

In brief I believe we should limit the amount our younger generation are subjected and exposed to competition in the classroom and instead should be gradually introduced to the idea when appropriate to ensure a successful upbringing and education.

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