Chemistry values

Competition in school is harmful to the students. As unglamorous as it sounds, the purpose of a public education is to prepare the young person to enter the workplace as a fully functional worker. Competition encourages rugged individualists. The workplace needs team players who will cooperatively work together to meet common goals. The workplace does not need a group of stars who will not share the bonus and who work alone rather than working together. The more successful competitor, winner, or individual with a superior grade point average may develop an exaggerated sense of importance and think he/she contributes more than is really the case. The unsuccessful competitor, loser, or individual with the lowest grades will develop low self-esteem. Low self-esteem results in the feeling that it isn’t worth putting oneself out for anything which lowers the productivity of the work team and leads to unemployment. A poor self image leads to the belief that the individual is disliked by parents, co-workers, and bosses. Students and adults who lack confidence distrust their own abilities. Good school work should produce good feelings, pride, and self worth. Success in school also has a bearing on future career choices. Many academic competitions actually determine how fast a student learns rather than if a student grasps the concepts or can apply them. The Scrips Spelling Bee isn’t a competition among average students. The Scrips Bee winners study spelling all the time and pride themselves on the esoteric words they learn how to spell. That is why it is so important that there are no cuts in T-ball and Little League; that everyone gets to play. They don’t even keep score in T-ball to develop the basics in all players and to show that there are no stars and that everyone contributes to the team. It is true that everyone cannot play basketball like Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan didn’t play basketball very well until he was in high school. If he had been cut from youth basketball programs, he would have never developed his basketball abilities. The relationship between self confidence and good work is circular. Self confidence is derived from the ability to do work which is acceptable to or in keeping with the self picture. If students start out assuming that the impossible is expected, then they will not develop self confidence. Self confidence must take root and grow in order for excellence and accomplishment to be eventually possible. Low grades doom much of the population to unnecessary years of low pay, low social standing, and hopelessness. The low grades they received in their schooling gave them a poor self image and made them anxious about taking course work at a vocational school or college that would lead to careers with more economic stability. When schools stop being competitive, they will stop being judges, graders, and labelers. Then the schools can become educators and help students grow in self esteem, become lifelong learners, and become contributors rather than takers. Criticizing, reprimanding, punishing, looking for flaws, builds losers not winners. 2. Competition is a poor substitute for the academic and social challenges that students should be facing. Challenges and competitions both aspire to get students to do their best, but competition creates fear of failure whereas challenges present opportunities. Certai nly, there are competitive people. Those individuals thrive on winning, on being better than everyone else. Throughout their lives, competitive people will put themselves into competition. Because it suits them, because it is who they are. Athletes are a prime example. If they don’t win the race or the game, they lose. Losing makes them train harder. Competitive motivation pushes these people to excel. It also pushes many people away. Competition does not belong in the educational arena. Education is about gaining skills and knowledge. It is also about learning who we are, what we’re good at, and what we’re not good at. It is unrealistic to expect everyone to be good at everything. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each of us is born with gifts, interests and abilities. The competitive environment often teaches us too well what we’re not good at and neglects developing what we are good at. Martha Graham, the creator of modern dance, was quoted saying, ” You can only compete against what YOU know you can become.” A paraplegic would never consider competing in a running race. They would know better. By creating challenges in education, students are encouraged to find what works for them. There are many different learning styles, teaching techniques and testing methods. In order for education to be successful, students and teachers alike should be encouraged to challenge themselves to excel in their area of interest. How else can we learn to value the differences which give humanity the variety it needs to be successful. 3. Would you repeatedly call your child a failure? Would you compare him or her to their siblings or your neighbors children in terms of intelligence? Would you tell your child that they do not have the right to express their opinion if it does not agree with what is considered to be the ” standard” opinion? Would you rate your child on a daily level concerning how well they dressed themselves, how quickly they learned to be potty-trained or how thoroughly they brushed their teeth? Would you teach your child that other children who did not learn as quickly as he or she did were inferior and would not grow up to be in important positions in life? This is exactly what competition in schools teaches our children. They are constantly compared with their peers and expected to all learn the same way and at the same pace. If a child does not conform they are considered to be mentally inferior to their peers. My 23 year-old son was a brilliant, sensitive toddler. He learned to walk and talk at a very young age and had a beautiful free spirit. But, his brain didn’t work the same way as the brains of many of his playmates. He wasn’t a problem in the classroom really. He just preferred to sit and do his own thing his own way rather than to do it the way everyone else did. When he went into high school, he failed his first year. He hated school. He felt like he was being constantly pressured by his teachers to learn things that made no sense at all to him. So, he refused to learn things their way. Eventually, the school decided to put him through some tests to determine his need for ” special services.” To their complete astonishment, he tested out at genius level. Thinking that perhaps he had cheated somehow or it was a fluke, they retested him. He did even better the second time around. So, they sent him to a psychologist, a physician, and a social worker. Other than classifying him as socially immature, they didn’t find anything wrong with him. They suggested a series of drugs to help him focus, cure his depression (he was not depressed), and help him to become more socially adjusted. They also suggested that he join some clubs and groups within the school. On his sixteenth birthday, he and I went to his school, and I signed the papers to allow him to quit. He was much, much, much happier. Today, he is a loving and compassionate soul. He has a job as a fisherman which allows him to be outdoors in the space he loves. He does not aspire to be anything more. He has his own apartment and visits often. And, there is not one single day that he regrets his choice to leave school. Over the years, family and friends have suggested that perhaps he should go and get his GED. He always tells them that he doesn’t need a piece of paper to prove anything to anyone. I admire his courage and determination when it comes to sticking to his principles. School almost destroyed this precious soul. When he failed his first year in high school, he pointed to the big red F’s on his report card. He said to me ” Mom, you never once called me a failure.. What gives them the right?” I agree with all my heart and soul. 4. What does it mean to place the act of competition into an educational setting? Are students competing for knowledge, or perhaps intellectual supremacy? To answer this question, one needs to examine the end result of this competitive process, namely the grades and test scores received by students. Students are not competing for the actual knowledge which is being presented, the goal is to give all students access to this knowledge. Nor are students competing for any form of intellectual supremacy since the reward received is in the form of a grade or test score which does not necessarily accurately reflect the intellectual proficiency a student possesses. It then seems that the only object which students are competing are the test scores and grades which a student earns. If a student is forced to stay up all night before an exam by a scenario outside of the student’s control such as personal family issues, an illness, or perhaps an unfavorable living situation which results in a poor exam grade the next day, the student’s performance will still be viewed in comparison to his or her classmates whose circumstances may have been more ideal to optimizing their performance. Yet the grade received by the sleep deprived student is still marked down on paper as a representation of the intellectual attributes this student possesses. If this process happens on a consistent basis for any given student, they may find themselves suddenly being put into classes which cater to ‘slow learners’, when in reality this will only result in a student feeling demeaned and will prove detrimental to his or her self confidence. Third grade was the first year which my school began giving standardized tests. I thought these endless sheets of circles which you are forced to fill in were not important since they did not affect your grade in the classroom. Needless to say, I soon found out that standardized tests do not test your ability to make patterns on a bubble sheet. My parents were shocked when they were informed that I needed to attend a class designed to help students who lack adequate reading comprehension skills. I dreaded the twice weekly shame I encountered as the special reading assistant would come pick me up from class. Even though I knew my reading skills were above that of the average third grader, I also knew my peers viewed me as intellectually inferior since I had to attend special sessions with the learning facilitator. I do not believe competition cannot coexist with education, rather I believe the current model of educational competition does not properly achieve the desired objective. If you desire to utilize competition to determine a student’s intellectual development, it is necessary to develop a system which accurately reflects the intellectual development of students. The use of a grading system is merely an attempt to associate the intangible aspects of a student’s intellect, to the tangible attributes of a grade. This system fails students because it acts as an inaccurate portrayal of their intellect, while at the same time establishing precedent for future measures of intellect. This system does not work because intellect is not constrained by any form of precedent, rather it is continuously developing and obtaining new heights previously unimagined. It is absolutely necessary to abolish any form of precedent in an educational system; only then can competition be useful. If students are repeatedly placed into a fresh environment where they are not held back by their past performance, they will be able to focus on learning the issues presented to them without the psychological conditioning of knowing how their intellect is defined on paper. By incorporating a competitive environment which focuses on development rather than judgment, this system would then provide a means for students to strive to learn the information without fear of being judged for any failures they encounter along the way. Failures of students should ideally be shrugged off, and viewed as a necessary component of learning rather than a means by which to judge a student. I am not claiming that the failure of a student is necessary for a student’s success; instead, failure needs to be incorporated into the educational system in a responsible matter which allows students to continuously strive for success while furthering their education. My suggestion for an ideal academic system would get rid of the kindergarten through 12th grade system, and replace it with a subject related proficiency assessment system. This system would provide students the opportunity to advance at a faster rate in subject areas which the student is stronger in, while allowing the student more time for gaining necessary proficiency in areas of weakness. This system would place students into a competitive setting with students who are at their level of proficiency in a given area, and thus encourage a competitive environment in which students are on an even playing field. If a student feels equal to his or her peers, I believe the student will be more inspired to try competing with these peers, since the student will not feel incompetent or insufficient in comparison to his or her classmates. 5. Since Alex Osborn of the advertising agency Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn came up with the idea of brainstorming in the late 1930’s, education has been trying to wed creativity with learning. Unfortunately, the very nature of education tends to stifle creativity; as the very competition for grades it fosters, establishes one of the biggest blocks: THE FEAR OF MAKING A MISTAKE. Why do we grade? Why do we reduce the roamings of child’s mind to a letter? A plus or minus? A check? There are a host of reasons, but we do it largely, because we believe that children need an incentive to learn. We believe that if they are given a reward for learning, they will work harder and therefore do better. We also believe that if they are punished for not learning (or maybe just not performing) then they will also work harder to avoid the bad grade next time. We believe as children compete for grades, it will foster in them the desire to be the best they can be. My first year of teaching Elementary Art I had a fourth grader named Talon- a unique name, for an even more unique little girl. She wore these outrageous red sequined shoes like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and had an array of skin-tight stretch pants that she alternated with different crazy shirts. My first week of school I told my students that one of the rules in my classroom was they had to bring me a present each week. Jaws dropped, hands shot up- I will never forget it. This quickly led us into a discussion on rules and fairness. We decided to come up with our own class rules together. Needless to say, my rule about teacher presents was left off the list. However, each week from then on Talon would come into my room and give me a hug- ” Here is your present.” Needless to say, this created a soft place in my heart for this tender little girl. In spite of her tenderness, Talon didn’t do well in school. She actually quite stunk at it. This isn’t a judgment on her character. She was the poster child for emotional intelligence. She danced in the hallways; she smiled all the time, and talked to everybody. She was also a phenomenal artist. But when it came to reading, writing and arithmetic she was at the bottom of her class. Her parents were quite involved, as were her teachers. Talon was tested and re-tested. She was part of study groups. Every learning technique available was employed to help this little girl learn. And she did. She did learn and managed to keep up with her class. However the result of all this attention on her success in school proved to be problematic, because she was terrified to make a mistake. Since Talon was a naturally creative person, my class wasn’t scary for her- and we avoided confrontation in the beginning. But around Christmas time we began doing self-portraits and that all changed. I anticipated this of course. All of my students were scared of this project. Drawing is scary. Drawing yourself is even scarier. I was prepared. We had long class discussions before even picking up a pencil about risk taking, and making tons of mistakes. We talked about learning from failure. We even did art experiments to see who could come up with the craziest solutions by risk taking. By the end all my students were drooling to get started. Except Talon. She was passive at first. Head down, pencil on the table. Then she got teary-eyed. She begged, pleaded, and then just refused to do it. I will remember the words she repeated to me over and over. ” I just can’t. I’m not any good at that.” No elaborate excuses. Just that one reason, repeated again and again. I was gentle, then firm, then frustrated. This amazing girl- who got A’s on everything she did in my class- was absolutely refusing to try. She decided she would take a zero rather than risk failure. I was dumb-founded. I remember thinking- I am failing this girl. I would like to tell you the story ended well. It ended with a note to her parents granting Talon time to finish it at home. She brought it back one week later grinning ear to ear. It was a beautiful drawing. And a child did absolutely not do it. I didn’t question it. I was exhausted of it actually. I don’t remember her grade. But I will always remember her. Was Talon a unique case? Yes and no. Most fourth graders are willing to try. However I have yet to meet a fourth grader that hasn’t crumpled from frustration at some point in my class, and then repeated Talon’s sentiments: ” I just can’t.” When what they really mean is: ” I’m scared.” There are two big arguments I have heard from individuals who support this kind of competitive learning. The first sounds something like: ” I had to compete for grades, and I learned!” Perhaps this is true. I would like to point out that punching a person in the face and grabbing their wallet is a way to make money. Does it mean it is a good way? This is a myth that has caused so many problems for our world. Because we did it this way, so should our children. I don’t believe the ends justify the means when it comes to competition in schools. Will the damage we do to children be as visible as a punch in the face? No. It’s the kind you cannot see. Fear. Will kids become unglued by this fear? Absolutely not. Humans are adaptable. They will learn to believe that being afraid of failure is natural. When reinforced by the competitive nature of their education everyday- they will learn not to question it. Taking a Risk = Potential Failure; Failure = Bad. If an adult doesn’t use the ” it worked for me” debate- they will often become concerned over other claims like: ” If we take away competition, how will they be motivated? They’ll all just slack off in your feel good do whatever you want’ atmosphere.” Ah yes, we better watch out, or our children will run rampant on the streets without report cards to keep them in check. On the contrary- there are hundreds of scientific studies that prove this is completely backwards. This isn’t just a pissed of teacher ranting now. I am talking about many child psychologists who have proven that internal motivation blows external out of the water any day of the week. Have you ever heard a preschooler say- ” I can’t wait to go home, I hate school?” Very rarely will you hear that. I’ve never heard it, and I used to teach preschool. But for the sake of argument, let’s avoid making bold statements. It could happen- but it isn’t likely. Preschoolers LOVE learning. They will dive into block counting, book reading, and marble sorting with a fierce sort of passion. I dare you to debate me on this one. Children are born with an irrefutable natural love of learning. We don’t give infants a letter grade when they sit up for the first time for crying out loud. Or when they begin to crawl, and stand. We are literally handed veracious, passionate learners from birth and we recondition them. This explains why many very intelligent kids don’t play the school game very well. They hate being graded by how they perform. They see the flaws in the system better than many of us. My final sentiment before ending this exhaustingly long essay is this: How will we know until we try it? Some insist competition fosters learning best, yet cannot name one instance where a public school actually tried a non-competitive atmosphere. What if children COULD learn equally well without grading, contests, stars and stickers? Don’t we owe it to them to test the theory more fully? I think testing the theory is too big of a risk for people. Risk = Potential Failure and Failure = Bad. If someone decided to be brave and try- and it didn’t ” work” then those who tested it would be labeled as incompetent. No one wants to be labeled that way. It’s a hamster wheel we are in isn’t it?