In their article titled: “Competition, education and assessment: connecting history with recent scholarship “, Robert Nelson and Philip Dawson study and debate theory of competition in our modern world, while searching for origins of the word competition, as well modern scholarly writing not he subject of competition. The authors convincingly argue that competition in education is not a natural phenomena, and how in many cases can result in a negative effect.
There are strong parallels between Hutcheon’s article and Nelson & Dawson article. Both articles use the rhetorical move of establishing the origins of the word competition at the time of greek philosophers such as Socrates. Hutcheon states that Agon meant a place of gathering. Nelson & Dawson establish that there is no evidence that competition existed in education at the time of Socrates, which was free of assessment. Greeks referred to competition as striving together(συνάγω) . Very much like Hutcheon, Nelson & Dawson argue that competition is not natural, specially in the field of education. Both articles argue that education and critical discourse should not be a battle ground of winers and losers, rather a collaborative environment for sharing and expanding our knowledge base, free of competition.
Modern paradigms of ranking systems in education create a setting in which unnatural competition can actually create demotivation, and further fails to gauge the degree of learning that has occurred. The negative result of competition in education is show cased in this passage:”Competition is a circumstance where every winner has a loser as a counterpart. If I cannot be a winner, I fear disappoint- ment, as if I am a failure, even if I have learned something in the process; but of course if I already feel the failure that I fear, my learning will be discouraged. I may have become competent but I have failed the competition. ” This passage shows parallels with the Garcia article in which individuals do social comparison by looking at other individuals to gauge their own success.
It is true that most grading systems in our modern educational paradigms use systems of norm-referenced assessments, ranking students against each other, which do not actually show what amount of learning was done by each student.
Despite Darwin’s claim that natural selection implies that competition is natural, I believe competition is unnatural in the world of education. as put elegantly by Micah Eaton :”Competition is not natural, competition is much less necessary to the field of education than is normally thought, and in fact, is distracting from the spirit of curiosity which motivates education. Because competition distracts from curiosity, it destroys the integrity of education.”
In My opinion, Nelson and Dawson’s article is the strongest case against competition we have read so far. The authors, relying on credible examples through out human history, ranging from greek philosophers to renaissance artists, showcase the unnatural and unnecessary nature of competition. Before taking this course, as a former business graduate, I had accepted competition as an absolute norm and a necessary function in our society. Nelson and Dawson illustrate that not only competition has not been the norm, that in fact its effect on the spirit of education is detrimental, leading to unnatural selection of who has learnt more via ranking systems.
Image Credit : https://theoatmeal.com/static/blog_jibbers_crabst.html