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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Is competition harmful to friendships and growth of the person?

Recently I responded to a thread that addressed the topic of those who were considered to be the best writers of a particular forum as well as who were considered to be the most intelligent. I looked at it the list and only saw one person that I knew, and I know quite a few. Though one could make the argument that perhaps some were slightly upset by the list because we were not on the list that was not my motivation for writing this discussion, my motivation was to promote thought. As I sat here writing my response to that particular topic my thoughts were on competition and the general nature of competition in a capitalistic free market system. My further thoughts as a teacher and parent were the effects of such competition on friendships as well as personal growth of the individual.

In my continuing education as an educator the methodologies for motivating students has changed radically since the days of the “gold star” and “blue birds” reading groups. We have realized as educators that this type of motivation does not work well. We have realized that we need to find ways to help students become intrinsically motivated. We also realize that separating our students by ability such as the old way of teaching reading did more harm than good. The good readers became better, but the poor readers stayed the same or became poorer readers. As educators began to understand this changes were made in how we teach reading, and we began to see that a mixture of students helped both. Stronger readers pulled the struggling readers up and sometimes beyond, and the strong readers still increased!

What was my reason for using an educational story? It is not much different in the world of adults. A person may not be the strongest writer on a forum but that in no sense of the word reflects upon their intelligence. I feel that perhaps this stigma though could cause a person to write less, and perhaps eventually stop participating. That does not seem to be beneficial for anyone. I also feel that this type of competition can lead to hurt feelings and loss of friendships. And it does not seem to be of benefit for individual growth. I believe we need to be very careful of our choice of words and think about their effect on others. Though we should motivate our friends and others to do their best, certain buzz words can make them feel horrible about themselves and this is not something that does the individual any benefit.

It is one thing to offer up suggestions in private to help friends grow; it is another to create a “list”. This sort of list or style of listing makes me think of the slam books so many junior high school students keep saying who is “in” and who is “out”. There is a lovely feature on the particular forum mentioned that allows us to email friends topics we find interesting or feel are worth the view, I feel this cuts down on any competition and hurt feelings.

What are your feelings on this topic? Can competition such as this be harmful to friendships and the growth of the person?


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