Max Gerber] I am often asked whether I agree with the new group selectionists, and the questioners are always surprised when I say I do not. After all, group selection sounds like a reasonable extension of evolutionary theory and a plausible explanation of the social nature of humans. Also, the group selectionists tend to declare victory, and write as if their theory has already superseded a narrow, reductionist dogma that selection acts only at the level of genes.
The first view holds that the more we immerse our children and ourselves in rivalry, the better. Competition builds character and produces excellence.
The second stance admits that our society has gotten carried away with the need to be Number One, that we push our kids too hard and too fast to become winners — but insists that competition can be healthy and fun if we keep it in perspective.
I used to be in the second camp. The trouble lies with competition itself. That may sound extreme if not downright un-American.
Competition, which simply means that one person can succeed only if others fail, is one of those things. Think for a moment about the goals you have for your children. Chances are you want them to develop healthy self-esteem, to accept themselves as basically good people.
You want them to have loving and supportive relationships. And you want them to enjoy themselves. These are fine goals. Competition is to self-esteem as sugar is to teeth. Studies have shown that feelings of self-worth become dependent on external sources of evaluation as a result of competition: Success comes to be defined as victory, even though these are really two very different things.
Even when the child manages to win, the whole affair, psychologically speaking, becomes a vicious circle: The more he competes, the more he needs to compete to feel good about himself.
When I made this point on a talk show on national television, my objections were waved aside by the parents of a seven-year-old tennis champion named Kyle, who appeared on the program with me.
Kyle had been used to winning ever since a tennis racket was put in his hands at the age of two. But at the very end of the show, someone in the audience asked him how he felt when he lost.
But none of these requires winning and losing — that is, having to beat other children and worry about being beaten. When classrooms and playing fields are based on cooperation rather than competition, children feel better about themselves.
Children succeed in spite of competition, not because of it. There is good evidence that productivity in the workplace suffers as a result of competition.
The research is even more compelling in classroom settings. David Johnson, a professor of social psychology at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues reviewed all the studies they could find on the subject from to Sixty-five of the studies found that children learn better when they work cooperatively as opposed to competitively, eight found the reverse, and 36 found no significant difference.
The more complex the learning task, the worse children in a competitive environment fared. Brandeis University psychologist Teresa Amabile was more interested in creativity.
It turned out that those who were trying to win produced collages that were much less creative — less spontaneous, complex and varied — than the others. One after another, researchers across the country have concluded that children do not learn better when education is transformed into a competitive struggle.
First, competition often makes kids anxious and that interferes with concentration. Competition is a recipe for hostility. By definition, not everyone can win a contest. If one child wins, another cannot. Forget fractions or home runs; this is the real lesson our children learn in a competitive environment.
This is not to say that competitors will always detest each other. But trying to outdo someone is not conducive to trust — indeed, it would be irrational to trust someone who gains from your failure. At best, competition leads one to look at others through narrowed eyes; at worst, it invites outright aggression.
Existing relationships are strained to the breaking point, while new friendships are often nipped in the bud. One study demonstrated conclusively that competitive children were less empathetic than others; another study showed that competitive children were less generous.The thunder-and-lightning example seems like a bad comparison for this kind of situation, in that the false claim is (1) easily observable to be untrue, and (2) utterly useless to the society that propagates it.
It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. Some people think that a sense of competition in children should be encouraged.
Others believe that children who are taught to co-operate rather than compete become more useful adults. Discuss both views and give your own opinion. Another great essay. I enjoy your writing so much Mr. Kingsworth– its like having my innermost feelings, thoughts and ideas given voice in a profoundly eloquent, erudite and insighful way.
- by Imran Khan Why does it seem that American society is in decline, that fairness and decorum are receding, that mediocrity and tyranny are becoming malignant despite the majority of the public being averse to such philosophies, yet the.
March (This essay is derived from a talk at the Harvard Computer Society.) You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible.