Response to “Competition, Education, and Assessment”

A point that really interested me was made in the beginning third of the article by Robert Nelson and Phillip Dawson. The point was about there being competition within both education and society at large and how they enforce each other. How I interpreted this point was that these two different competitions rely on each other as school helps teach you competition which is then later used in society at large. (later on in the article the authors state that school is not necessary to teach competition as there is competition in the wild) This also works both ways as society affects the competitions created in school. Later on in the article the authors talk about how society used to accept a pass or fail school system but now society helped change the competition within schools to a grading system where students are (not always but mostly) competing against each other.

This interested me because I feel that this point connects previous articles such as the article named Contested Meaning of Prescription Stimulant Use in College Academics by Amy Cooper and Lisa McGee. In that article, there was a student named Grace who tried to not use stimulants as she did not want to accept the role that competition played in her school. She said that she felt forced and pressured to accept the competition in her school as she felt she could not change the system because of the society within that school.

I felt that the use of different school systems over time helped convey this message. Competition as a Society at large changes and therefore competition within school changes. A great quote that helped me understand this message is that “what used to be an international network of scientific information has been splintered into an arena of competing teams”. This shows how competition for society at large changed into different fields competing against each other and therefore competition within schools changed to different programs/fields competing against each other. A real life example is that there is a divide between programs such as arts, sciences, and engineering which creates competition. This also relates to other articles such as Bateson where they discuss competition against each other and competition to help each other.


  1. Daler –

    I love your connections made between this article and others we’ve read in class; they are clear and concise. I agree that there is a reciprocal relationship between societal competition and academic competition, so maybe this means that in order to shift away from the culture of competition, we need to de-emphasize changes in curriculum and academic atmospheres and put more focus on changing cultural attitudes about the inherent value of competition or cooperation in various situations. Considering the additive nature of alternative learning (privatized education, homeschooling, individual/team work without influence of seeing others’ outcomes), we may be able to apply cooperative teamwork methodologies to a vast amount of other circumstances by educating society on the inherent value of cooperation and its potential benefits when used correctly. Great work.

    – Ava


  2. Hello,

    This is an interesting point that you bring up. Whether the education system is partly responsible for fulfilling the competitive society that we live in is quite complex indeed. It seems that you see the splintering of schools and subjects as a negative. Do you believe that it is possible that fields competition against each other can be beneficial since they can influence and push for more substantial findings, which makes them almost reciprocal to each other? Overall a great post and nice use of the quote in the last paragraph.


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