Sunday, June 8, 2014

If Competition Is So Great...

Reformsters love competition. Love it.

Our students should be competitive. Our measure of success is how well our students can compete with workers in Shanghai and India and China (we never discuss that a good way to compete would be to learn how to live on ten bucks a week pay, but never mind that-- competition!).

Our schools should be competitive. We should let everybody who wants to open up a school and then let them all compete and that would lead to awesome super-duper excellence in schools. Public schools are lazy and terrible because they don't have to compete with anybody (because devoting resources to marketing instead of teaching makes educational sense).

Our teachers should be competitive. They should not ever have job security; they should come to work every day watching their back for an attack from the next hot young teacher to enter the building. Fear of losing their jobs will totally keep them on their A-game (and having a collegial atmosphere in schools is totally over-rated).

So if competition is so awesome--

If competition is so awesome, why is the backbone of the Common Core revolution a system for making all states do the same thing?

Why are reformsters not saying, "The states should compete! By having each try to come up with their own standards, we will spark a great competition that will produce the greatest educational standards ever seen!"

Why are reformsters promoting and defending a system that has its basic policy that all states must do the same thing and never, ever fall out of lockstep. Whatever the states do, they must NOT compete.

Maybe competition is not always so awesome after all?


  1. Seems to me like competition is a fine way to organize a school system. It also seems impossible to have a truly competitive system if all the institutions depend on government funding. So what's the beef with competition?

  2. You don't encourage children to reach their full potential by comparing them with other children. You encourage them to be the best that they can be as themselves. Competition leads to the whole "keeping up with the Jones's" phenomenon. This is the antithesis of creativity. If everyone is after the same goals, where's the innovation? Is there a place for competition? Yes,... but it's not in the incubation of the school setting. If the system is set up for the adults to compete, it WILL have a trickle down effect to the children. Having worked in a "competitive school environment" (that shall remain nameless), I saw first hand how destructive the competition became. As a teacher, if you're competing with your "next door neighbor" to keep your jobs, the response is to close the door and keep your ideas and innovation to yourself. This is NOT good for the children. The point is to LEARN from each other in the spirit of collaboration. When one is competing for livelihood, survival of the fittest is the nature of the game, and RESEARCH SHOWS that when there's chronic stress the connection to the pre-frontal cortex of the brain (the part required for planning, organizing, and higher-level thought) is hindered. The kind of competition that's being pushed into education now is damaging to the brains of children and teachers alike due to chronic stress.

  3. Competing is what you do outside of your "in group." Inside your "in group" you cooperate. The point is that people in your in group are worthy of your help and not to be left behind. Just as an example, what would you think of a parent whose children had to compete in school every day to see who would get dinner and who would not. Good parent? I don't know anyone who would think that.

    So, apparently, now, everybody else is in the out group?

  4. The underlying premise of competition is this: One person's success must be at another person's expense.