When should we start competing?
Alfie Kohn, an American lecturer, wrote ‘Competition is to self-esteem what sugar is to teeth.’ How right was his assessment of the competitive world we inhabit today? Is competition, as many believe, a vital element of life and therefore something to be prepared for from as early an age as possible? Or is encouraging youngsters to compete simply setting many up to fail, and creating a situation where a loss of confidence is inevitable, with all the consequences that this brings? It is certainly a debate that is engaging everyone from educators and government, to parents and children themselves.
On the one hand, there are those who maintain that competition comes into every aspect of our lives. (1) _____ For proponents of this idea, it is essential for children to be exposed to the trials and tribulations, and occasional joys, of competing in all areas of school life. (2) _____ In answer to critics who suggest that weaker performers may feel inferior, it is argued that rewards can be given as encouragement in less demanding categories such as punctuality. Critics would reply that children know when they’re being patronised.
The subject of competitive sports in schools is also hotly debated. (3) _____.They say ‘someone has to come last’. But do they? Is it really a good thing for that child’s development to be seen to fail time after time? (4) _____ But then we find ourselves considering another thorny issue – that of the pushy parent who hopes to achieve his or her lifelong ambition through the child.
(5) _____. The children can play, but no league tables can be compiled, and there are no trophies or medals given out. The aim of this move was to protect children from ambitious parents and aggressive coaches on the sidelines, from bullying and from peer pressure.
There is no doubt that we live in a very competitive world and children must at some time learn to be able to make their way through it. However, perhaps school is a time for learning to co-operate rather than to compete. That will all come later.