Having a kid in elementary school is a great reminder of ones age. You think about what school was like when you were a kid and quickly learn how much has changed! And mostly for the better honestly.
But one thing I keep running into is the insane competitiveness that seems to be taking over everything from reading to art and athletics at younger and younger ages.
For instance, how ridicules to take a sport, an activity that children are playing for fun and for health reasons and turn it into professional league training when the kids are still learning to do arithmetic. It’s called an ‘extracurricular’ for a reason. And now local high schools spend fortunes supporting playground activities and equal time recruiting kids into their districts to act as toys for the grown-ups who never grew-up. The father’s (and I have met a few) who are trying to relive their youth through their children.
Even reading is turned into a competition via the Battle of the Books. I have mixed feelings about this one, obviously. But I’m not sure increasing reading and comprehension needs to be in the guise of a ‘contest’.
I know schools are under pressure form the free-market types who truly do believe there is a winner and loser to everything but more and more I hear from children who are under pressure to read or dance and competitively engage in an activity that is not a ‘fight to the death’. Parental obsession is the main factor I see. Even some parents who should know better fall into it.
For all the talk of having a truly rich and multifaceted education it’s ironic that we turn everything into a binary system of rewards.
And often it’s parents who seem to be behind this desire to place children, exclude children and rank them in seemingly endless ways outside the classroom.
Now reading is a good thing for children. In fact more and more of the studies I have read say it is THE most important activity for building a strong mind and increase critical thinking (man do we need more of that, huh?!). But you undermine the value of reading and comprehension if you turn it into just another awards ceremony for gladiatorial combat.
There’s a place for competition, honestly as I’ve gotten older I see less reason for it, but yes, there is a time and place. But 3rd and 4th graders don’t need their schools turned into a endless and ultimately senseless race.