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The book reviewed at the link below became my bible as i wondered and worried about competitiveness and inequality in our society.  Alfie Kohn's 1986 book does not address inequality but the implications for me were clear.  If one of the outcomes of competition is the division of life into winners and losers, and the process of creating this outcome has so many dangers and so few benefits, doesn't that suggest that inequality itself is a process and state with many dangers and few benefits?

"Kohn quotes the late anthropologist Jules Henry who tells a story of an episode repeated daily in classrooms throughout the world. Boris is unable to solve an arithmetic problem. The teacher asks him to think harder while the rest of the class responds with a forest of waving hands and much sighing. Finally Peggy is called upon and proudly delivers the correct solution. 'Thus Boris' failure has made it possible for Peggy to succeed; his depression is the price of her exhilaration; his misery the occasion of her rejoicing ... To a Zuni, Hopi, or Dakota Indian, Peggy's performance would seem cruel beyond belief.'"  --from the review below.

No contest: the case against competition, by Alfie Kohn (book review ), Share International Archives


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 17th, 2012 08:23 pm (UTC)
I don't know whether I've thanked you yet for introducing me to Kohn-- even if so, it bears repetition!
Apr. 17th, 2012 08:51 pm (UTC)
You are so welcome!

People might ask, What is Peggy (or the other students) supposed to do? The Hopi answer, of course, is that they should maintain silence in solidarity with Boris. This is why Indian children are regarded as stupid.
Apr. 17th, 2012 08:51 pm (UTC)
what do you believe are some practical steps you and i, we, can take regarding competitiveness and inequality in our society?
Apr. 17th, 2012 09:09 pm (UTC)
It is my belief that politics is inherently a destructive and hierarchy creating process as is contentious debate.

This is one reason , but only one, that i am striving to pursue the "saint's path.' Control the behavior of the only person whose behavior i am (even partially) able to control; give my stuff away (with my spouse's permission), Follow Kipling's advice in the poem "If," (treat beggars and kings as my equals). If i am poor there will be one less person in contention for the rewards of this world.

In that spirit, i want to particularly apologize to you for my seeming criticism of your faith. I do not criticize your faith, least of all because i know nothing about it. I like to win arguments! That is a negative thing on my part because it puts me in competition with other arguers. Like the hypothetical Hopi in Jules Henry's anecdote above, i should find it unseemly to try to win an argument, especially with a friend,
Apr. 17th, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks Bobby for sharing ideas about the way you deal with competitiveness and inequality. We're on a long journey of discovery and new insights. I appreciate your spirit and value the paths you are walking.
Apr. 18th, 2012 01:19 am (UTC)
An interesting point is that as educators research how to really help people learn math & science, the results of having the students work together to solve problems is showing to be more effective than the competitive and singular route.
Apr. 18th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
Yes, the evidence does keep coming in.

Educators need to ask themselves what they are educating children for, especially since there is an unstated goal which is built into the system. That unstated goal is to fit future workers and consumers in to the roles they are expected to play in adult life. Obedience and punctuality for the children of the poor; creativity for the children of the rich, If it wasn't for this unstated goal, i doubt that such things as spelling bees and grades and not cheating would play such a big part in what goes on in classrooms,
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )



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