Reading Response: Rhetoric and Competition

I’m glad I waited until tonight to write this because I feel like even throughout the day today, I have gotten more insight into what Linda Hutcheon is saying in this reading. Competition is something that we are submerged in and it is very hard to escape it – especially in the academic environment we are in every single day. As Hutcheon mentions, the competition in the academic world has become more of attacking and aggression than discourse about conflict. I personally see this as coming from a place self-entitlement, or seeing oneself as superior to anyone in their surroundings.

When a student our age is asked where the want to be in the future or who they see as their idol, more often than not, the answer will be someone or something in the position of power or dominance. Some of these people are those who already see themselves in those positions, creating the sense of self-entitlement. Many people around us see themselves as ‘better’ than others. This is, in my opinion, what creates the mentality to listen only to prove “that the speaker is entirely wrong” (44). We all have opinions which we think are correct, however the issue with self-entitlement becomes the urge and desire to demolish opposing opinions. Speaking from experience, this outlook has become a norm in university culture. Today, as I was discussing a couple of individuals that had come off as self-entitled, with my friend, a staff member at my Collegium came up to me and said “Welcome to university, you’re gonna meet a lot of those people”.

I would say this issue of “wolfish” competition is so interconnected with academia because in a sense, it is assumed that it is hard to succeed without a good education. And if we are getting what is considered a “good education”, we automatically see ourselves as superior due to the way the system is created. It’s no secret that it is hard to get into a university such as this one, but does that make us better than others? Have the “evaluation methods of business been all too easily translated into the status and hierarchy of higher education”? My Poli 100 professor, Dr. Erickson had a good argument to make about this question this morning. He said that he used to know a kid who worked in construction with his and “was clearly slower” than him in terms of academia. However, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t good at what he did. He theorized that if both my professor and his friend were asked to build a 10-foot moat, the other guy who was considered “slow” would do a much better job than him. Dr. Erickson was trying to make the point that one can succeed in a task regardless of their education, if that is what they are suited for. People with typical higher education are not automatically graced with being superior at all tasks, and it is important for us to have that realization and not create unnecessary aggressive attacks on that assumption.

Comparing this to the Bateson and Werron readings, I would say that Hutcheon’s views of competition are very similar to those of Bateson. They both believe that the negatives and aggressions of competition are what is causing harm in today’s world and society and that if we, as the population of the earth, were to work together and cooperate, we could bring about positive change and make the world an essentially better place. On the other hand, Werron takes a more objective point of view on competition, defining it throughout history, before coming to the modern definition and function of competition. Being a research paper, Werron is obviously displaying a more academic overview of the term competition and it’s use, whereas Bateson and Hutcheon are providing more insight and opinion based views of competition.

Overall, I really like, support, and agree with what Hutcheon has to say about the topic. Mentioning, “It seems natural to me that critical thinking means other than and more than confrontation. I naturally suspect that intellectual (or social) back-stabbing has never been as productive as encouragement and cooperation” (47). I don’t believe it is necessary for someone to lose in order for someone else to win. In terms of economics, not winning in a conflicting argument should be seen as an implicit cost – it’s not a loss, it’s just something that isn’t gained, which is almost never a negative thing. Having this outlook can minimize the negative impacts self-entitlement can have on rhetoric and discourse.

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