We consider competition on the sports field to be a good thing while we strive to keep competition out of the classroom.
Competition in children's sports is beginning younger and younger. Third and fourth graders on the football fields, basketball courts, and baseball diamonds across this country are encouraged to practice longer and harder. Summer camp for a chosen sport is almost a must to play on next years team. Coaches are drilling children with improve, improve, improve. A child who is unable to master the necessary skills will be left sitting on the bench, watching the game pass him by.
While at the same time, in classrooms all across the United States, educators and government are admonishing teachers to keep competition out of the classrooms. That to set high standards of performance and reward those who achieve them hurts the fragile self esteem of those children who cannot measure up. To hold a child back, is to make them feel like a failure. To this I say Hogwash!
If we are to have an educated society of adults, we must have competition in our classrooms. We must set high standards and goals and recognize those achievements. Competition contrary to popular belief actually enhances a child's self esteem rather than hurts it.
Consider this. You have two students of average intelligence. One studies hard, does all his homework, and contributes in class discussions. The other just does enough to get by. Come grade card time, both students receive the same grade. What message have you just sent to the child who studied hard and actually learned something? You have just told him, that his efforts were meaningless.
That he has achieved nothing by studying and working hard. How does that help him feel good about himself?
To make matters worse you have sent both these students the message that little will be expected of them in the real world. When they leave school they will carry the lessons you taught them into the work force, they will believe that if they do enough to just get by at their job, they will be considered a good employee. They will wonder why, they can't hold a job because they have been taught from an early age that to strive to achieve, to work hard, and to do your best are not qualities to be admired but to be hidden.
For those who chose to go on to an institution of higher learning, they will find that they are now struggling. That they are expected to work harder than they ever have before. They are suddenly expected to achieve. For many this will mean dropping out. Failing. The self esteem you thought you were guarding by expecting nothing will take a real beating. For some, it may never recover, leading to failure after failure.
Now think of the child who has difficulty mastering a subject. You have set high standards you expect that child to achieve. He works and studies and yes, sometimes he becomes frustrated and needs to seek out help. Then when report cards come out, this child, who had been taught to believe he was only capable of C or D work, gets a B on his report card. His self esteem soars, he feels like a winner, even though he was not at the top of the grade scale. Why? Because he achieved something that was difficult. He did something that perhaps even he did not believe himself capable of. He is a winner!
Having achieved something he will believe that it is possible to achieve even more. He will work harder and longer and while he may never reach a 4.0 average, his self esteem will rise with each new achievement. He will be proud of himself and what he has accomplished.
When this child goes into the work force, he will continue to achieve. His recognition will come in increase pay because of his hard work and determination.
He may even choose to go on to college, where again he will achieve, because he has learned that hard work and studying does pay off. He will have the belief in himself necessary to mastering the goals set by institutions of higher learning simply because he will not expect his courses to be easy and effortless. He will achieve. He will have learned that he is not competing with others but with and within himself.
Life is a competition. We compete in one way or another for everything we have and achieve. Whether it is on the sports field, the job, or in the world markets. Teaching a child how to compete for those things he wants, for his own achievements is the best thing our school system can do for a child. To not give him the tools and the ability to compete and achieve will leave our children sitting on the bench, while the rest of the world passes them by.
Competition in the classroom is not only helpful and healthy for our children it is necessary if they are to seep up with the growing demands of technology and the world today.