Saturday, July 3, 2010

Competition

It's easy to see how we American's get so stirred up on the 4th of July (to a lesser extent Veterans and Memorial Day's as well). We've been raised to believe in the virtue of beating others.

Alfie Kohn has written extensively about our ill conceived notions of competition.

"Competition is a recipe for hostility. By definition, not everyone can win a contest. If one child wins, another cannot. This means that each child comes to regard others as obstacles to his or her own success. Forget fractions or home runs; this is the real lesson our children learn in a competitive environment.

Competition leads children to envy winners, to dismiss losers (there's no nastier epithet in our language than "Loser!"), and to be suspicious of just about everyone. Competition makes it difficult to regard others as potential friends or collaborators; even if you're not my rival today, you could be tomorrow."

Other people, other religions, other cities, other communities, other countries... they all become our rivals. And our rivals are to be mistrusted and ultimately beaten.

Kohn's book on the subject some 20 years ago holds true today.

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