I’ve been stirring things up on Shareable.net for the last few days talking about Alfie Kohn’s book No Contest: The Case Against Competition and some of his ideas for raising more cooperative, less competitive kids. My post begins:
In 2008, an interviewer admitted to Alfie Kohn that she considers herself a competitive person. “As long as you acknowledge that’s a problem to be solved; it’s not a good thing about us,” he responded. “People say to me, ‘Oh I’m really a competitive person,’ not realizing that it’s as if they’re saying, ‘I have a drinking problem.”
Competition, which Kohn defines as any situation where one person can succeed only when others fail, seems to be something of a state religion in the United States. But Kohn is convinced that we’ve all bought into dangerous myths about the value of competition in our personal lives, workplaces, society, and economic system. He laid out his arguments in his 1986 book No Contest: The Case Against Competition, and he’s been spreading the word ever since.
He insists that competition is not human nature; it’s something we learn. “The message that competition is appropriate, desirable, required, and even unavoidable is drummed into us from nursery school to graduate school; it is the subtext of every lesson,” he writes.
And according to Kohn, competition undermines self-esteem, destroys relationships, thwarts productivity, and discourages excellence, and he cites more than a hundred studies to back up his assertions.
I was surprised that most people who commented didn’t seem to have heard of Kohn or his theories and weren’t familiar with his research on the subject. So what ensued was a lively, mostly thoughtful conversation about the role of competition in our lives and society. You can check it out here. And feel free to add your thoughts to the discussion.
Shareable.net also published my story about Kidical Mass today. Kidical Mass rides are fun family-friendly bicycle rides where kids can learn the rules of the road.
The article begins:
“Where are all of the cars?” asks Paul Adkins as we pedal down a quiet tree-lined street in Eugene, Oregon on a sunny May afternoon.
Adkins is leading a three-mile Kidical Mass bicycle ride. I’m one of 19 participants; more than half are kids. Adkins is navigating for the group and helping his four-year-old son Dare, who’s new on two wheels, learn the rules of the road.
“There’s a stop sign. We’ll come to a stop, then look, signal, and turn left,” Adkins says.
“Good job, everyone,” he calls as the group glides around the corner behind him.
Occasionally we pass people working in their yards, and a chorus of bike bells dings. We’re usually greeted by enthusiastic waves and smiles.
“Look, there’s a turkey vulture,” a mom near the back of the ride says, pointing out a bird to her daughter.
Later a cat runs past with a garter snake hanging from its mouth, and we see a couple of horses grazing in a field. Both are big hits with the kids.
You can read the rest of the article here.