Nelson and Dawson’s paper “Competition, education, and assessment: connecting history with recent scholarship” seeks to examine the role of competition in education. Specifically, the paper looks at the history of competition in education to see if competition’s role in schooling has changed at all over the years. The paper mentions “philological methods”, with “philology” meaning the branch of learning that handles the growth and history of language, as well as “pedagogical research”, with “pedagogical” meaning in relation to teaching. The paper doesn’t define these terms, most likely assuming the intended audience would know their meanings. They point out that higher education is competitive on all levels, from admission into higher education to professor jobs. They point out that the balance of competition in education results in a win-lose situation – for example, if students are doing too well teachers worry that they aren’t sufficiently motivated. Thus, the cycle of competition prevails.
Nelson and Dawson look at competition as something inseparable from education. When compared to Caroline Pulfrey and Fabrizio Butera’s paper “Why Neoliberal Values of Self-Enhancement Lead to Cheating in Higher Education: A Motivational Account”, both papers view competition in education as a negative. However, Nelson and Dawson don’t go much into the empirical results of competition in education. They look at competition in education with a focus on its internal mechanisms. For example, the way competition can motivate or decrease motivation in students. Pulfrey and Butera look directly at cheating, one of the possible outcomes of intense competition within the education sphere. It is interesting to look at competition through Nelson and Dawson’s lens – as something inseparable from education – when taking a look at Pulfrey and Butera’s study on cheating in education. When combining the two points of view, it would stand to reason that cheating in the schooling system is an intrinsic part of education that cannot be removed entirely. However, Pulfrey and Butera’s experiment showed that cheating behaviours can be manipulated through verbal conditioning. They also mentioned that students in honour system schooling are less likely to cheat than those who are not. Pulfrey and Butera look at the effect of personal values – specifically, neoliberal values – on cheating and competition within the education system. As Nelson and Dawson look at the history and evolution of competition’s role in education, it would be interesting to study the effects of differing personal values throughout time. Is it that competition or education specifically has changed, or is it that our values and ideologies as a society have been altered throughout time?
As mentioned here, Nelson and Dawson’s article uses the same rhetorical device as Hutcheon’s. They return to the Greek roots of terms. This brings a modern issue into a historical and universal context rather than relying simply on modern ideas and methods.