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This workshop has so far been held, and will be repeated at:

DLD College in London 13/7 2016, with the kind assistance from Vincent Smidowicz
 
DLD College on 14/7 2017 - 17:45 -19:00, with the kind assistance from Francisco Bustos  
 

Based on the book "NO CONTEST: The Case Against Competition (Houghton Mifflin, 1986/1992)" by Alfie Kohn

Program:
 
Show the sync swimming film  

How do we get in the best position to collaborate?
(rearrange the room)

How much time have we got?

What are our priorities?
 
What is the best of all rewards?

(remove some goals together)

How can we best reach our goal? 
Would we then acheive what we want? 
Is this what we want?

Do we have enough time? Let's make it easier on ourselves.

(We do not need to discuss the texts. You can find more online.)

http://ravenseyemedia.com/705.asp
 
We have reduced scarcity together.
We have looked at what, and how...
Let's work and then play

Who wants to do something physical?
And who wants to do something more academical?

Physical: "Chairs", "Messy Mum"
Academical: Read the texts from webpage

Reading the texts (time)

Project collaboration:
- focus on the subject
- be guided by your interests
- contribute with your special skills and knowledge
- keep eye contact while you communicate
- do not interrupt and stop talking when you are done contributing


Design your ideal house for living in:
- form working groups around areas of interest related to the house
- design your area of interest with pen and paper
- design to complete vision, groups working together 
- present your project all together

Write Blog together:
- help each other make up your pseudonym in the groups.
Write me an email with your contribution to our Blog with your pseudonym.
Email: elizabeth@ravenseyemedia.com

At the end, everyone comments...



Slides:
 
 


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1.











Life for us has become an endless succession of contests.












We have a cultural obsession with victory.












It trains us not only to triumph over others but to regard them as obstacles to our own success.












Within the family there is rivalry - a muted but often desperate struggle that treats approval as a scarce commodity and turns love into a kind of trophy.












Our lives are not merely affected by, but structured upon, the need to be “better than.”












Competition is a deeply ingrained, profoundly enduring, part of our lives, and it is time to look more closely at what it does to us.












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2.











There is a difference between allowing one person to succeed only if someone else does not, on the one hand, and allowing that person to succeed irrespective of the other’s success or failure, on the other.












One can both accomplish a task and measure one’s progress in the absence of competition.













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3.











Structural cooperation sets things up so that by helping you I am helping myself at the same time.













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4.











Four central myths: Competition
- is an unavoidable fact of life, part of “human nature.”
- motivates us to do our best - we would cease being productive if we did not compete.
- contests provide the best, if not the only, way to have a good time.
- builds character. It is good for self-confidence.









Scientific research found:

Cooperation is at least as integral to human life as competition, and
competition is a learned phenomenon.









The vast majority of human interaction, in our society as well as in all other societies, is not competitive but cooperative interaction. 









Without the cooperation of its members society cannot survive, and the society of man has survived because the cooperativeness of its members made survival possible.









Prosocial behaviors - cooperating, helping, sharing, comforting, and so on - occur in almost every child. 









In nature it's not competition, as much as better integration into the ecological situation, maintenance of a balance of nature, more efficient utilization of available food, better care of the young, elimination of intragroup discords (struggles) that might hamper reproduction, exploitation of environmental possibilities, which determines success.










Natural selection does not require competition; on the contrary, it discourages it. Survival generally demands that individuals work with rather than against each other.










Competition is limited among animals to exceptional periods. Better conditions are created by the elimination of competition by means of mutual aid and mutual support. To combine and practise mutual aid, is what Nature teaches us.










Lapwings protect other birds from predators; baboons and gazelles work together to sense danger; chimpanzees hunt cooperatively and share the spoils; pelicans fish cooperatively. 










Prehistoric people actually were remarkably cooperative, and in fact may have distinguished themselves from other primates precisely by virtue of the extent of their cooperativeness. A growing number of anthropologists are concluding that cooperation - not brain size or the use of tools, and certainly not aggressiveness - defined the first humans.










The emerging human primate, in a life-and-death economic struggle with nature, could not afford the luxury of a social struggle. Co-operation, not competition, was essential. 










THE ZUÑI INDIANS

Possession of material goods is not seen as desirable; wealth circulates freely, and there is therefore no competition in the economic sphere.

The major recreation cum religious ritual is a ceremonial four-mile footrace. Anyone can participate, the winner receives no special recognition, and his name is not even announced. In fact, someone who has consistently won is prevented from running.










Researcher found that with complex accomplishments in the arts, sciences, the law, there was no significant relationship between achievement and competition. 










An adult with a reasonably healthy self-concept, in other words, does not need to continue asking ritualistically, “How’m I doin’?” or even to compare herself or himself with others.










I may compare my own writing with Shakespeare’s (or, for that matter, with that of a contemporary) and sense my own relative inferiority. This could motivate me to improve or, specifically, to emulate features of his writing that I admire. Neither of these means that I feel the need to become better than he.









A system of equal rewards gives the best results and the competitive winner-take-all system gives the poorest results.









So far from making us more productive, then, a structure that pits us against one another tends to inhibit our performance.









Cooperation means more than putting people into groups. It suggests, rather, group participation in a project where the result is the product of common effort, the goal is shared, and each member’s success is linked with every other’s.










In a win/ lose framework, success comes to those whose temperaments are best suited for competition. This is not at all the same thing as artistic talent, and it may well pull in the opposite direction.










Trying to do well and trying to beat others are two different things.










We do best at the tasks we enjoy.








Money, grades, the trappings of competitive success simply cannot take the place of an activity we find rewarding in itself.
They eat away at the kind of motivation that does produce results.









One of the most powerful motivators is not money or victory but a sense of accountability to other people. This is precisely what cooperation establishes: the knowledge that others are depending on you.









Cooperation takes advantage of the skills of each member as well as the mysterious but undeniable process by which interaction seems to enhance individuals’ abilities.









Noncooperative approaches, by contrast, almost always involve duplication of effort, since someone working independently must spend time and skills on problems that already have been encountered and overcome by someone else.









People who feel accepted by others also feel safe enough to explore problems more freely, take risks, play with possibilities, and benefit from mistakes rather than endure a climate in which mistakes must be hidden in order to avoid ridicule.









Reduction of anxiety in the cooperative group has been used as another explanation for its higher productivity.









Some people complete a task more rapidly in a competitive condition, then, it may be because they are attempting to end the competition as quickly as possible so as to escape from its unpleasantness. 









Most economists see their job as finding the most efficient means of satisfying demand for commodities. Competition is justified on the grounds of its putative efficiency and, further, its usefulness at stimulating growth. The first question one could ask - although in practice almost no one does - is whether economic growth is always desirable, as growth entails significant costs to our health and safety, makes our working lives unhappy, fails to bring about greater equity, and actually represents a desperate and futile attempt to compensate for psychological and social deficiencies.









It is cultural norms and not objective scarcity that determine whether a society’s economic system is competitive. T
here is more than sufficient food to sustain everyone on the planet. The same is true of land and renewable energy. What appears to be a problem of scarcity usually turns out, on closer inspection, to be a problem of distribution. 









Play, quite justifiably conceived as the opposite of work, has no goal other than itself.









The person at play delights in seeking out challenges and overcoming them.









Our leisure activities no longer give us a break from the alienating qualities of the work we do; instead, they have come to resemble that work.










She who plays does not ask the score.









Noncompetitive striving can be very satisfying indeed, and cooperative games requiring skill and stamina similarly seem no less invigorating for the absence of a winner and a loser at the end.










For many children competitive sports operate as a failure factory which not only effectively eliminates the ‘bad ones’ but also turns off many of the ‘good ones', who finds competition unpleasant.










We act competitively because we are taught to do so, because everyone around us does so, because it never occurs to us not to do so, and because success in our culture seems to demand that we do so.









Competing at a given activity reflects insecurity with a particular facet of ourselves. We try to be the best lover (or have the most lovers) because we fear we are not really lovable. We want to have a more impressive job than others because we suspect our skills are actually deficient.









The individual who feels good about herself and is simply interested in doing well does not go out of her way to outperform others.









Being good at an activity is something we choose to do; outperforming others is experienced as something that we have to do. Our self-esteem is at stake.









Actual competence has little to do with self-esteem.









No matter how many times they hear it, many talented or attractive people do not truly believe in their talent or attractiveness. Their quest to be noticed, rewarded, acknowledged is endless.









The real alternative to being number one is not being number two but being psychologically free enough to dispense with rankings altogether.









It is not the excess that is problematic in the relentlessly competitive individual; it is the need to compete in itself.









Where there is no love, envy will do.









To be noticed is to be someone. 









Cooperative learning situations, compared with competitive and individualistic situations, promote higher levels of self-esteem and healthier processes for deriving conclusions about one’s self-worth.










People feel valuable and valued when their success is positively related to that of others, rather than negatively related, as in competition.









Most competitors lose most of the time.









If we feel impelled to prove ourselves by triumphing over others, we will feel humiliated when they triumph over us. To lose -particularly in a public event - can be psychologically detrimental even for the healthiest among us.



We equate losing with being a loser.










Winning offers no genuine comfort because there is no competitive activity for which victory is permanent.










In terms of both motivation and the skills involved, winning and succeeding are two different things. To beat any number of others is not a satisfying indicator of actual skill or accomplishment.










Winning doesn’t satisfy us - we need to do it again, and again.










Sport does not build character. Athletic competition limits growth in some areas and cause depression, extreme stress, and relatively shallow relationships.









Someone, who runs a major marathon faster than he has ever done before, is beaten by a well-known athlete, but he does not construe this loss as failure. Success and winning are two very different things









It is unconditional acceptance in our early years that best allows us to deal with rejection; it is an initial sense of security that helps us to weather the problems we will later face.









The idea that we are best prepared for unpleasant experiences by being exposed to unpleasant experiences, like competition, at a tender age is about as sensible as the proposition that the best way to help someone survive exposure to carcinogenic substances is to expose him to as many carcinogens as possible in early life.


Said Alfie Kohn.







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5.







Competition is “the most pervasive occasion for anxiety” in our culture.









When people are defined as rivals, it is difficult to build an overall sense of community or establish a genuine connection with a particular other. 









In sum, the security that is so vital for healthy human development is precisely what competition inhibits.









We are anxious about losing, conflicted about winning, and fearful about the effects of competition on our relationships with others - effects that can include hostility, resentment, and disapproval.









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6.









WHOEVER HAS THE MOST THINGS WHEN HE DIES, WINS.









The student who loves intellectual exploration will not want to rein in this impulse as the syllabus demands, and she will not have the highest grade-point average.









The intrinsic rigidity of the goal orientation, not surprisingly, makes the individual rigid, as well. We might propose that the more competitive an individual is, the less spontaneous he is, the less receptive to surprise, the less flexible his cognitive process.









In a contest, there are only two possible results: you win or you lose. Those inclined to see the world in an either/ or fashion will be attracted to competition, but, by the same token, competition will help to shape such an orientation.











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7.









Competition affects the personality. Turning life into a series of contests turns us into cautious, obedient people. We do not sparkle as individuals or embrace collective action when we are in a race.









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8.








That trophy is the truth, the only truth. I told him to get mean, punish some people, put some fear into them, you have to hate to win, it takes hate to win. I didn’t tell him to break anybody’s ribs. . . . I told him there is no such thing as second place.
- The Coach in Jason Miller’s That Championship Season










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9.
When I both regard you as a subject and recognize your otherness, there is the making of human relationship at its fullest. All of us can strive to receive others this way, and in so doing we prepare the ground for genuine dialogue, a reciprocal sharing by which both participants are enriched.









Competition: Because you are my rival, you are an “it” to me, an object, something I use for my own ends.









The reductio ad absurdum of competition is war, and it is here that we find antagonists most thoroughly negating the humanity of others in order to be able to kill them.









Competition ultimately discourages generosity.










We subtly discourage our children from being too concerned about the welfare of others.









Competition creates a prized status where none existed before, thereby giving us something to desire. Then it insures that not everyone can get it. Finally, competition requires that those who obtain the reward can do so only by defeating everyone else. Both the objective and subjective conditions for envy are established,









Since all but the brightest children have the constant experience that others succeed at their expense, they cannot help but develop an inherent tendency to hate - to hate the success of others, to hate others who are successful, and to be determined to prevent it. Along with this, naturally, goes the hope that others will fail.









Competition is a kind of aggression.









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10.









Watching others be aggressive does not discharge our own aggressiveness. What seems to happen instead is straightforward modeling: We learn to be aggressive. Our restraints against aggression are lowered.









Elementary-school-aged boys were more likely to shove or hit their peers if they had watched a boxing film.










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11.








When we cooperate, we are inclined to like each other more.









Cooperation teaches us, more broadly, the value of relationship.









Whereas competition creates an atmosphere of hostility and does nothing to overcome differences, cooperation builds bridges.











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12.
when studies found performance was enhanced by intragroup cooperation, people asked whether this effect actually relied on intergroup competition. The answer was unequivocally no



intergroup cooperation promoted more positive cross-ethnic and crosssex relationships than did intergroup competition. These results dis-confirm the position that competition among groups leads to attraction among collaborators . . . and they provide some support for the position that the more pervasive the cooperation, the greater the interpersonal attraction.



the citizens of a nation will indeed wave their flags more vigorously when they have been persuaded that another nation poses a threat. This phenomenon is not at all what I have been discussing. Allegiance to a country or school or corporation does not necessarily promote sensitivity, trust, better perspective-taking, and so on among those in the group.



the most effective way to set up cooperation does not involve tacking on competition at another level. Far better is cooperation at both the intergroup and intragroup levels.



the sort of affirmation that is concerned with besting others, the sort of camaraderie that develops from working to beat another group— or from simply proclaiming the superiority of one’s own— has an ugliness about it that I believe is intrinsically objectionable.



The We vs. They structure and the attitude that accompanies it are, after all, at the heart of every war. It is one thing to feel hostile in a contest that pits one individual against another. It is something else again to stoke the aggressive fires that rage in group rivalries.



the whole of competitive fury, like that of cooperative creativity, is greater than the sum of its parts.



Inter group competition is too high a price to pay for intragroup cooperation, and it is fortunate that it does not have to be paid. Intergroup competition also is not the way to bring harmony and good fellowship to a brittle planet.



“Our ultimate safety depends only upon enlarging the circles of helpful cooperation one last step to encompass our largest units, the nations.”



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13.
Children know that disagreement exists; to force them to agree in a classroom is to ask them to deny reality and it is to deprive them of a real education. It is no coincidence that the word challenge means both to require someone to use her full range of abilities and to call something into question.



What makes disagreement destructive is not the fact of conflict itself but the addition of competition. In a debate (as opposed to a discussion or dialogue), the point is to win rather than to reach the best solution or arrive at a compromise with which everyone is satisfied.



Trying to round up votes for one’s position or candidate has more in common with coercion by force than it does with working cooperatively to achieve consensus.



The difference between cooperation and competition is the difference between listening to each other’s points of view and twisting each other’s arms.



Structural cooperation is not at all inimical to conflict. It simply allows conflict to work most productively by keeping out the poisonous hostilities of a win/ lose arrangement.




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14.
For nothing can seem foul to those that win. —Shakespeare,



There are those in business who wear themselves to a frazzle trying to get ahead, as if professional success could compensate them for having turned their private lives into a wasteland.



if people are competing, many of them are going outside of the boundaries that have been established to delimit acceptable ways to win.



competition itself is rescued from any blame. If we get rid of the troublemakers, if we don’t go too far in our quest for victory, then there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the win/ lose structure.



you would argue that abusive, self-destructive, violent, or immoral behaviors are corruptions of real competition, which is in its essence as virtuous and healthy as these “exceptions” are nasty and neurotic.



In the case of competition, the root cause of abuses is the competitive structure itself. “Abuses,” then, is really something of a misnomer since these actions do not represent the contamination of competition but rather its logical conclusion.



a structural imperative to beat others invites the use of any means available.



The only goal that a competitor (again, qua competitor) has is victory; the only good is what contributes to this goal. If a new goal is introduced— particularly one that interferes with winning, such as staying within the guidelines of appropriate conduct— it is likely to be pushed aside.



we set up a structure where the goal is victory and then blame people when they follow through.



“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play,” he wrote. “It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence.”



competition itself is responsible for the development of a lower moral standard.



Sports provide an almost deliberate exercise in pushing the psyche to cheat and take advantage, to be ruthless, cruel, deceitful, vengeful, and aggressive.



The trouble arises from the generally received philosophy of life, according to which life is a contest, a competition, in which respect is to be accorded to the victor. This view leads to an undue cultivation of the will at the expense of the senses and the intellect.



researchers have found that the maturity of an athlete’s moral reasoning is inversely proportional to the number of aggressive acts he or she engages in or views as legitimate.  



To win an election, to increase one’s income, to outsell competitors— such motives impel many to participate in forms of duplicity they might otherwise resist. The more widespread they judge these practices to be, the stronger will be the pressures to join, even compete, in deviousness.



The pressure we feel to be number one creates a vicious circle as we expect others to play dirty and feel justified in breaking the rules ourselves— if not obligated to do so. If I play it straight, the next guy is just going to take advantage of me. To complain, as the lawbreaker often does, that honesty does not pay may be self-serving, but it is largely correct in a competitive society.



American malaise, the emphasis on success and frequent disregard for the nature of the means it takes to achieve it.



Our approval of winning at all costs is the secondary inducement to cheat; the primary inducement is the nature of competition itself.



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15.
the higher the concentration of competition in any interaction, the less likely it is to be enjoyable and the more likely it is to be destructive to our self-esteem, our relationships, our standards of fairness.



The female commitment to relationship, as it is manifested in moral reasoning and childhood play and conversation, is terribly important. The shift toward competition represents nothing less than an abandonment of this commitment, the attenuation of care. Perhaps it is unfair to hold women responsible for such a loss; the other half of the human race is even more alienated from the rewards of relatedness by virtue of its immersion in competition.



To cherish the part of our lives that involves connection with others hardly entails subjugating oneself to others’ needs. Neither does it mean that one has sacrificed healthy self-directedness or autonomy. What Gilligan has styled “the feminine voice” is perfectly compatible with a secure sense of self. In any case, competition would be a poor strategy for reaching this goal. As I tried to show in chapter 5, competition is associated with neediness and an external locus of control. Those who talk or act as if becoming more competitive were a sign of growth may have simply confused competition with autonomy or relationship with dependence.



women now need to focus on affirming the structures and values they bring to the question of competition versus relationships and start reconstructing institutions according to what women know.




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16.
How can we eliminate the competitive framework of our society so long as there still exists both a widespread belief that competition is desirable and a strong inclination to beat other people? On the other hand, how can we change these views so long as a structure remains in place that requires us to compete (and inclines us to bring our beliefs into line with our actions)?



The better I feel about myself, the less I will need to make you lose. Carl Rogers emphasized that the experience of being accepted by others permits us to accept ourselves. Intuitively this seems more promising than trying to triumph over others.



It may be fruitful to monitor one’s own competitiveness as it makes itself felt in various situations— and then make a conscious effort to tame this impulse. (“ Why did I just interrupt him again? I’m trying to prove to everyone that I’m cleverer than he is. What if I just sat back and listened to what he had to say?”



A directed awareness of our own competitiveness can help us to confront and transcend the reflexive urge to outdo everyone else.



It is possible to minimize the importance of winning and losing, but to do so requires one to swim against the current, to ignore what is demanded by the structure of the activity.



Our psychological state and our relationships with others not only are correlated with the extent of our intentional competitiveness but are changed by a framework of structural competition.



“the psychological orientations of the subjects [including] their views of themselves and of the others in their group were considerably different as a function of the distributive system under which they worked.”



To the extent that a man is rewarded for putting the organization’s goals first, harmonizing his own efforts with those of his colleagues, and making himself personally attractive to the people around him, he will develop situationally specific orientations in which co-operation, harmony, teamwork, etc. are seen as instrumental to success, intrinsically pleasurable, and morally desirable. From his job, such orientations can be expected to spill over to his family, community, and even society as a whole.



During World War I, army battalions that faced each other from their respective trenches often agreed not to shoot— a kind of “live and let live” understanding that emerged spontaneously. This mutual restraint was, of course, infuriating to the high commands of both sides, but soldiers had the temerity to persist in not killing each other. Obviously they had not been predisposed to work together, having been trained to hate each other; structural cooperation took root in spite of their attitudes. In fact, the new arrangement changed these attitudes. Axelrod cites an incident in which a shot was fired inadvertently one day, prompting a German to call out, “We are very sorry about that; we hope no one was hurt.”



Making our society less competitive ultimately depends on reducing structural competition.



It will be understood that an idealist is someone who does not understand “the world as it is” (“ world” = “our society”; “as it is” = “as it will always be”). This label efficiently calls attention to the critic’s faulty understanding of reality or “human nature” and insures that he is not taken seriously. Those who are “pragmatic,” by contrast, know that we must always work within the confines of what we are given. After all, if alternative models really were workable, we would already be using them.



New York Times education writer Fred Hechinger: Regrettably, the importance of the “message” has also invaded children’s television. . . . [One] episode of “The Flintstones,” a favorite children’s cartoon, had a hotly contested baseball game end in a tie, followed by celebrations of brotherly and sisterly love— hardly the real aim in any normal child’s view of competitive games.



If competition is indeed unhelpful and destructive, and if attitudes and personal goals are shaped by the win/ lose structure, then we need to set about the formidable task of undoing the arrangements that set us against one another— from parlor games to geopolitical conflict.



When cars prowl the city streets in search of parking spaces, the shortage is not invented and the quest is clearly competitive. But the number of spaces to be had downtown was not decreed by God. It is the result of a decision that can be changed.



Instead of taking competition for granted, we ought to be asking what broader arrangements might be altered so as to present us with a structure that does not require winners and losers.



“the old notion of ‘national security’ must be replaced by the new notion of ‘mutual security.’”



The motive for opposing competition and the arrangement to replace it are one and the same: cooperation.



So long as we remain a competitive society, however, it will be possible to insist that one has got to compete to survive. This argument is heard most often from those who actually have no inclination to stop competing, and those who are really invoking “survival” in order to justify their desire to beat others.



It may seem prudent to enter contests and devote ourselves to winning, but the many respects in which competition is destructive should be weighed against the need to join the race.



Even if it seems appropriate for me to compete— overlooking for the moment the price I pay for doing so— I need to ask whether it is in our collective interest to keep competing.



Replacing structural competition with cooperation requires collective action, and collective action requires education and organization.



People who have systematically been denied the opportunity to earn a decent wage, to lead a life with dignity, to make decisions about what affects them, may think it peculiar to be told that competition is destructive. After all, they might argue, “my only hope is to enter the race and try to win, to beat them at their own game.” It is not a coincidence that this is precisely the response to oppression encouraged by those who hold the power.



those who already are winners are in better shape to win succeeding contests.



to participate in competition is to help perpetuate an arrangement that caused the problem in the first place. No one stands to benefit more from a noncompetitive society than those who have been cheated by a competitive society.



Once it becomes clear why competition ought to be avoided, we must re-examine our own lives to determine what concessions to the prevailing ethic, if any, we are prepared to make. These concessions should be made with a clear understanding of the costs— both personal and societal— that they entail. And they should strengthen our resolve to work at the same time to create healthy, productive, cooperative alternatives.




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17.
Beyond explicit tutoring, when people work in groups there is a tendency for one person’s idea to evoke another idea from someone else. The second idea emerges as a reaction to the first and might not have occurred at all if its creator had been working on her own.



Group work leads to “more frequent discovery and development of . . . higher quality cognitive reasoning strategies.”



learning is never the result of the efforts of isolated, competitive individuals alone. . . . The evident weakness in American schools has much to do with the weakening of their community context. . . . Education can never merely be for the sake of individual self-enhancement. It pulls us into the common world or it fails altogether.



especially appropriate for open-ended cooperative assignments, is to let children form groups on the basis of the questions they are interested in exploring.



We can’t order it to work; we have to make it work. We have to teach children the skills of working thoughtfully and responsibly together. . . . I have heard teachers give it up after a single attempt. . . . But these very same teachers would never say, “These children cannot read by themselves,” and thereafter remove any opportunity for them to learn to read.



Social skills such as learning to listen carefully, to make eye contact, and to criticize someone’s ideas without being insulting can be taught just as reading can be taught.



A concern with how we learn, not only what we learn, requires attention after each lesson as well as before. A certain block of time— which, again, will vary with the age of the students and their experience with CL— should be set aside following the completion of a unit for each group to talk about how successful they have been at working together. They can be asked to consider whether everyone contributed to the final project or one person did most of the work, whether someone dominated the discussion, whether everyone felt free to present ideas, whether tasks were divided effectively.



I will focus on three interlocking domains to which we must attend in order to maximize the benefits of CL— or, for that matter, any learning environment. Let us call them control, curriculum, and community.

To be continued. Check in here again in a couple of months (12/7 2016)


Kohn, Alfie. No Contest: The Case Against Competition (p. 221). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.


1.
At every quarterly examination a gold medal was given to the best writer. When the first medal was offered, it produced rather a general contention than an emulation and diffused a spirit of envy, jealousy, and discord through the whole school; boys who were bosom friends before became fierce contentious rivals, and when the prize was adjudged became implacable enemies. Those who were advanced decried the weaker performances; each wished his opponent’s abilities less than his own, and they used all their little arts to misrepresent and abuse each other’s performances. —Robert Coram,



Life for us has become an endless succession of contests.



look at what it really means to try to beat other people, a careful investigation of this arrangement that requires some people to fail in order that others can succeed.



Different cultures depend on competition to different degrees in structuring their economic system or schooling or recreation. At one end of the spectrum are societies that function without any competition at all.  



cultural obsession with victory.



trains us not only to triumph over others but to regard them as obstacles to our own success.



within the family there is rivalry— a muted but often desperate struggle that treats approval as a scarce commodity and turns love into a kind of trophy.



Our lives are not merely affected by, but structured upon, the need to be “better than.”



That there might be other ways to do these things is hard for us to imagine— or, rather, it would be hard if we were sufficiently reflective about our competitiveness to think about alternatives in the first place. Mostly we just accept it as “the way life is.”



Competition is a deeply ingrained, profoundly enduring, part of our lives, and it is time to look more closely at what it does to us.



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2.
structural competition and intentional competition. The former refers to a situation; the latter, to an attitude.



mutually exclusive goal attainment (“ MEGA,” for short). This means, very simply, that my success requires your failure.



two or more individuals are trying to achieve a goal that cannot be achieved by all of them. This is the essence of competition,



If I must try to defeat you in order to get what I want, then what I want is scarce by definition.



intentional competitiveness.....an individual’s competitiveness, his or her proclivity for besting others.



neurotic, someone who “constantly measures himself against others, even in situations which do not call for it.”



three ways of achieving one’s goals:
competitively, which means working against others;
cooperatively, which means working with others;
and independently, which means working without regard to others.



There is a difference between allowing one person to succeed only if someone else does not, on the one hand, and allowing that person to succeed irrespective of the other’s success or failure, on the other. Your success and mine are related in both competition and cooperation (though in opposite ways); they are unrelated if we work independently.



One can both accomplish a task and measure one’s progress in the absence of competition.



A comparison of performance with one’s own previous record or with objective standards is in no way an instance of competition



Competition is fundamentally an interactive word, like kissing,



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3.
a cooperative classroom is not simply one in which students sit together or talk with each other or even share materials. It means that successful completion of a task depends on each student and therefore that each has an incentive to want the other( s) to succeed.



Structural cooperation defies the usual egoism/ altruism dichotomy. It sets things up so that by helping you I am helping myself at the same time.



Cooperation is a shrewd and highly successful strategy— a pragmatic choice that gets things done at work and at school even more effectively than competition does (as I will show in chapter 3) and can serve as a basis for creating challenging and enjoyable games that do not require us to compete against one another (as I will show in chapter 4). There is also good evidence that cooperation is more conducive to psychological health and to liking one another.



What people fear when they engage in the struggle is not that they will fail to get their breakfast next morning, but that they will fail to outshine their neighbors.” Bertrand Russel



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4.
four central myths,



competition is an unavoidable fact of life, part of “human nature.”



if it were true, arguments about competition’s desirability would be beside the point



competition motivates us to do our best— or, in stronger form, that we would cease being productive if we did not compete.



contests provide the best, if not the only, way to have a good time.



competition builds character, that it is good for self-confidence.



MEGA - How can we do our best when we are spending our energies trying to make others lose— and fearing that they will make us lose?



Can this sort of struggle really be the best way to have a good time?



What happens to our self-esteem when it becomes dependent on how much better we do than the next person?



Most striking of all is the impact of this arrangement on human relationship: a structural incentive to see other people Jose cannot help but drive a wedge between us and invite hostility.



I believe the case against competition is so compelling that parenthetical qualifications to the effect that competing can sometimes be constructive would be incongruous and unwarranted.



four central myths of competition— that it is inevitable, more productive, more enjoyable, and likely to build character—



Is Competition Inevitable? THE “HUMAN NATURE” MYTH Of all the vulgar modes of escaping from the consideration of the effect of social and moral influence on the human mind, the most vulgar is that of attributing the diversities of conduct and character to inherent natural differences. —John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy



If in contemporary physics— the hardest of sciences— one rarely settles a question to everyone’s satisfaction by performing an experiment, this is all the more true when humans are the subject matter. Even the sociobiologists admit that the idea that there are certain genes which determine our behavior is merely fanciful speculation at this point.



Who benefits from the belief that unregulated capitalism is “natural”— or the belief that any feature of the status quo follows from something intrinsic to our make-up? Clearly it is those who are well served by that status quo.



the human nature position is also an appealing one for psychological reasons. When we are criticized for an attitude we hold, it is tempting to respond, “Look, this is the way I was brought up.”



To be relieved of responsibility can, paradoxically, be experienced as freeing.



careful examination of the literature turns up virtually nothing.



(Ruben) has denied the very possibility of acting noncompetitively and so “proved” its inevitability.



“I think we’re all scared to face the competitive side of our nature,” comments Mary Ann O’Roark



Hardin’s point is that people who have not had to compete believe that competition is avoidable. But what if such people are correct?



suggestion that competition exists not because it is in our nature but because of economic or psychological deficits that are, in principle, remediable.



responses to the claim that competition is an inevitable feature of human life: (1) cooperation is at least as integral to human life as competition, and (2) competition is a learned phenomenon.



“The truth is that the vast majority of human interaction, in our society as well as in all other societies, is not competitive but cooperative interaction,”



“Without the cooperation of its members society cannot survive, and the society of man has survived because the cooperativeness of its members made survival possible . . .”



“prosocial behaviors”— cooperating, helping, sharing, comforting, and so on— occur in almost every child,



Even if other species were as competitive as some people think, this, like any fact about other species, has at best a very limited relevance to ourselves.



here— the mediating force of culture puts our species in a class by itself. Only humankind manipulates symbols, reflects upon the fact of its reflecting, questions, makes value judgments, appreciates absurdity, creates institutions and then considers their limitations.



“judgments as to the value of competition between men or enterprises or nations must be based upon social and not allegedly biological consequences.”



The equation of competition with success in natural selection is merely a cultural prejudice. . . . Success defined as leaving more offspring can . . . be attained by a large variety of strategies— including mutualism and symbiosis— that we could call cooperative. There is no a priori preference in the general statement of natural selection for either competitive or cooperative behavior.



Struggle is sometimes involved, but it usually is not, and when it is, it may even work against rather than toward natural selection. Advantage in differential reproduction is usually a peaceful process in which the concept of struggle is really irrelevant. It more often involves such things as better integration into the ecological situation, maintenance of a balance of nature, more efficient utilization of available food, better care of the young, elimination of intragroup discords (struggles) that might hamper reproduction, exploitation of environmental possibilities that are not the objects of competition or are less effectively exploited by others.



Natural selection does not require competition; on the contrary, it discourages it. Survival generally demands that individuals work with rather than against each other— and this includes others of the same species as well as those from different species. If this is true, and if natural selection is the engine of evolution— the central theme of “nature,” as it were— then we should expect to find animals cooperating with each other in great numbers. And so we do.



competition . . . is limited among animals to exceptional periods. . . . Better conditions are created by the elimination of competition by means of mutual aid and mutual support. . . . “Don’t compete!— competition is always injurious to the species, and you have plenty of resources to avoid it!” That is the tendency of nature, not always realized in full, but always present. That is the watchword which comes to us from the bush, the forest, the river, the ocean. “Therefore combine— practise mutual aid! . . .” That is what Nature teaches us.



“This competition, this ‘struggle,’ is a superficial thing, superimposed on an essential mutual dependence. The basic theme in nature is cooperation rather than competition— a cooperation that has become so all-pervasive, so completely integrated, that it is difficult to untwine and follow out the separate strands.”



cooperation is “not always plain to the eye, whereas competition . . . can readily be observed,”



Lapwings protect other birds from predators; baboons and gazelles work together to sense danger (the former watching, the latter listening and smelling); chimpanzees hunt cooperatively and share the spoils; pelicans fish cooperatively. Indeed, the production of oxygen by plants and carbon dioxide by animals could be said to represent a prototype for the cooperative interaction that becomes more pronounced and deliberate in the higher species. None of this, however, makes good television. It is easy to ignore an arrangement that does not call attention to itself.



Darwin, some biologists and zoologists34 use “competition” in its metaphorical sense, referring to nothing more than natural selection.



The very transmutation of natural selection into competition, of differential reproduction into exploitation, reflects a tendency to shape biological theories according to socioeconomic biases. (Unconsciously, we understand nature to be just like ourselves.) Then these biological theories— congealed into an account of how the natural world really is— are used to legitimate cultural practices. (Consciously, we use nature to justify ourselves.)



if we are concerned about our own collective survival, the natural world may have something to teach us after all. Its lesson is that cooperation generally has far more survival value than competition. This, as Darwin recognized, is particularly true for human beings.



In so far as man is concerned, if competition, in its aggressive combative sense, ever had any adaptive value among men, which is greatly to be doubted, it is quite clear that it has no adaptive value whatever in the modern world. . . . Perhaps never before in the history of man has there been so high a premium upon the adaptive value of cooperative behavior. Montagu



“Human beings by original nature strive for goals, but striving with others (co-operation) or against others (competition) are learned forms of behavior.” 40 Neither of these two, they continued, “can be said to be the more genetically basic, fundamental or [primordial].” Mark A. May and Leonard Doob



Competition is a learned phenomenon . . . people are not born with a motivation to win or to be competitive. We inherit a potential for a degree of activity, and we all have the instinct to survive. But the will to win comes through training and the influences of one’s family and environment. Thomas Tutko and William Bruns



“Well, who can tell Boris what the number is?” A forest of hands appears, and the teacher calls Peggy. Peggy says that four may be divided into the numerator and the denominator. Thus Boris’ failure has made it possible for Peggy to succeed; his depression is the price of her exhilaration; his misery the occasion for her rejoicing. This is the standard condition of the American elementary school. . . . To a Zuni, Hopi, or Dakota Indian, Peggy’s performance would seem cruel beyond belief.



a common lesson: other people are not partners but opponents, not potential friends but rivals.



“It is only very young children who sometimes wish, wistfully, that ‘everyone should win’; they soon learn that this is ‘impossible’— in American society, that is,



We grow up thinking of love as a scarce commodity— the prize in a desperate contest that we will enter again and again. We associate being loved with winning a race,



On the other hand, the idea that people attain excellence exclusively in a competitive setting— that no one would be motivated to work in a noncompetitive economic system— is something we often hear in just so many words. Even more common are expressions of the belief that one has no choice but to be competitive: competition is an unavoidable feature of human life, so you might as well get used to it right away.



“the experience of cooperation will induce a benign spiral of increasing cooperation, while competition will induce a vicious spiral of intensifying competition.”



Competition, we might say, cannibalizes cooperation.



whereas cooperative individuals realistically perceive that some people are cooperative like themselves while others are competitive, competitive individuals believe that virtually everyone else is also competitive.



Gerald Sagotsky and his colleagues at Adelphi University successfully trained 118 pairs of first- through third-grade students to cooperate in a series of classroom games. http://www.teachhub.com/6-awesome-cooperative-classroom-games



When another American teacher on the tour asked these children who was the smartest among them, they “didn’t know what he was talking about. They had evidently never thought about it. . . . There were no put-backs, grades, tests, gold stars. All stories and drawings were displayed on the walls. Children were not placed in failure situations, forced to prove themselves, to read at ‘grade level’ every week.”



took 3 weeks for changes to emerge [he continues]. The first was an end [to] the destruction of others’ work. Later a spirit of cooperation and help began to be common. Finally there was what I look for as the real measure of success: children talking freely to every adult and stranger who walks in, leading them by the hand to see projects and explaining their activities, no longer afraid, suspicious, or turned inward. Such changed attitudes developed because we stopped labeling and rank-ordering.



recreational cooperation cooperative games,



As of 1984, a pair of researchers were able to cite seven studies showing a preference for cooperative over competitive or independent experiences.



What precedes competition, it is argued, is not positive cooperation but merely the absence of competition (two very different things)



the absence of any sophisticated goal-directed activity.



cooperation can be learned; thus, competition is by no means inevitable.



Prehistoric people actually were remarkably cooperative, and in fact may have distinguished themselves from other primates precisely by virtue of the extent of their cooperativeness. A growing number of anthropologists are concluding that cooperation— not brain size or the use of tools, and certainly not aggressiveness— defined the first humans.



“The emerging human primate, in a life-and-death economic struggle with nature, could not afford the luxury of a social struggle. Co-operation, not competition, was essential. . . .



THE ZUÑI INDIANS—“ The orientations of all institutions, with little exception, to a basic principle of cooperative, nonindividualistic behavior is the pattern of Zuñi culture.” 87 Possession of material goods is not seen as desirable; wealth circulates freely, and there is therefore no competition in the economic sphere. The major recreation cum religious ritual is a ceremonial four-mile footrace. Anyone can participate, the winner receives no special recognition, and his name is not even announced. In fact, someone who has consistently won is prevented from running.



THE IROQUOIS INDIANS—“ Beyond the degree of cooperation required to achieve the greatest efficiency in production, there was found, especially in agricultural activity, cooperation for the purpose of experiencing the pleasures of group work.” 89 THE BATHONGA—“ Bathonga society is highly cooperative within the bounds of the village, and in all other social and economic relations it is essentially noncompetitive. . . . In economic organization, in technology, in social relations little range is given to any expression of competition.”



“rural Mexican mothers tend to reinforce their children noncontingently, rewarding them whether they succeed or fail,



The idea that children should be accepted and loved unconditionally— rather than in proportion to the number of others they have beaten at something— is a very peculiar idea to many Americans.



THE MIXTECANS OF JUXTLAHUACA, MEXICO, “regard envy and competitiveness as a minor crime.” 99



THE TANGU OF NEW GUINEA eschew competitive games, preferring one called taketak in which two teams spin tops. The objective of the game is to reach an exact draw. 100



THE INUIT OF CANADA live with virtually no competitive structures. Their recreation, like their economic system, is cooperative.



Third, there is a remarkable correspondence between competitiveness in a society and the presence of clearly defined “have” and “have-not” groups. 111 This correlation between economic maldistribution and competition seems to fit with the findings of Mead et al. concerning the absence of possessiveness and hoarding behavior in cooperative cultures.



there is no necessary relationship between competitiveness and achievement.



level, Roderic Gorney conducted a careful study of the research available on 58 cultures. He defined achievement as complex accomplishments in the arts, sciences, the law, and other fields, and found, to his surprise, that there was no significant relationship between achievement and competition. 112



competition is not a prerequisite for strong ego development, which is used by some psychologists as a shorthand expression for psychological health.



cooperation can be seen as an appropriate, rational response to scarcity since it is probably more effective at maximizing what one has.



psychoanalyst, lan Suttie, sees competition as a manifestation of the “search for the security and satisfaction of social integration (fellowship)” rather than as an autonomous instinct. 121 Following him, Roderic Gorney describes human development as a progression from “being preponderantly dependent on others for survival” to having “others predominantly depend on us.”



Our identities are a function of our social world; others define who we are. Therefore, it is proposed, we are always in the process of comparing ourselves with others— and our behaviors and products with those of the people around us.



It is not a fact of human nature that a person’s sense of competence or identity has to be derived comparison of one’s performance with that of one’s peers.



An adult with a reasonably healthy self-concept, in other words, does not need to continue asking ritualistically, “How’m I doin’?” or even to compare herself or himself with others. Interestingly, a number of psychologists have included autonomous self-evaluation in their definitions of psychological health.



no: I can compare my hobbies (or shoes or kitchen) with yours without feeling in the least that one is better than another. I may make the comparison with the intention of making sure I am not appreciably different from you; social comparison may be geared toward conformity. But even when this is not the case— and even when the comparison is suffused with judgment— it does not follow that I must feel competitive with you.



I may compare my own writing with Shakespeare’s (or, for that matter, with that of a contemporary) and sense my own relative inferiority. This could motivate me to improve or, specifically, to emulate features of his writing that I admire. Neither of these means that I feel the need to become better than he.



Competition, which is the instinct of selfishness, is another word for dissipation of energy, while combination is the secret of efficient production. —Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888)



The most common defense of competition turns out to rest on the assumption that success (or productiveness or goal attainment) means competition. Given this assumption, the assertion that no one would get anything done without competition doesn’t require proof; it is self-evident. “The American mind in particular has been trained to equate success with victory, to equate doing well with beating someone,” wrote Elliot Aronson. 2



But success and competition are not at all the same thing. Put plainly, one can set and reach goals— or prove to one’s own and others’ satisfaction that one is competent— without ever competing.



“Success in achieving a goal does not depend upon winning over others just as failing to achieve a goal does not mean losing to others.”



Do we perform better when we are trying to beat others than when we are working with them or alone?



almost never. Superior performance not only does not require competition; it usually seems to require its absence.



Roger Johnson: 65 studies found that cooperation promotes higher achievement than competition, 8 found the reverse, and 36 found no statistically significant difference. Cooperation promoted higher achievement than independent work in 108 studies, while 6 found the reverse, and 42 found no difference.



Japanese industry, which lately has attracted considerable attention in this country: employees within a given company work closely with each other and are encouraged to develop loyalty to the company, but the companies continue to compete with each other.



“performance benefits [from] cooperative conditions whether [they involve] additional intergroup competition or not,”



reserving a desirable reward for the winner is thought to promote excellence.



When tasks could be performed independently— that is, when there was low means interdependence— the system of distributing rewards had no effect on how good a job they did. There was absolutely no evidence to suggest that people work more productively when rewards are tied to performance than when everyone gets the same reward. But for those tasks where success depends on working together, there was a clear difference. A system of equal rewards, Deutsch discovered, “gives the best results and the competitive winner-take-all system gives the poorest results.”



Once we move from such measures of achievement as speed of performance, number of problems solved, or amount of information recalled, though, and consider the quality of performance, we find that competition fares even worse.



So far from making us more productive, then, a structure that pits us against one another tends to inhibit our performance.



Cooperation means more than putting people into groups. It suggests, rather, group participation in a project where the result is the product of common effort, the goal is shared, and each member’s success is linked with every other’s.



Aronson, for example, conceived the “jigsaw method” of learning: When the task is to learn about the life of a well-known person, each member of a group is given information about one period of the individual’s life. Members of the group are thus dependent on each other in order to complete the assignment.



The cliché about teachers’ learning as much as their pupils is quite true, and the tutoring that takes place in a cooperative classroom actually benefits both the helper and the helped more than a competitive or independent study arrangement.



A study of 75 Midwestern second graders published that same year also reported that “high-, medium-, and low-achieving students all academically benefited from participation in heterogeneous cooperative learning groups.”



the data “dramatically refute the contention that competitiveness is vital to a successful business career.”



Seven different studies, then, with vastly different populations and measures of success, have all determined that intentional competition is associated with lower performance.



In a win/ lose framework, success comes to those whose temperaments are best suited for competition. This is not at all the same thing as artistic talent, and it may well pull in the opposite direction.



The most striking finding which emerged from the interviews is the dominant distorting influence of the “competitive force” in journalism. . . . Science reporters, based at preeminent publications, stated that competition for prominent display of their stories creates a strong motivation to distort their coverage.



the competition for publicity among scientists, hospitals, and universities; the combination practically assures that reporting will be distorted.



When a jet was hijacked by Shiite Moslems in 1985, one observer blamed the “distorted and excessive coverage of terrorist incidents” on “the highly competitive nature of network television.” 45 A second critic independently came to the same conclusion, noting that “too many decisions are made on the basis of beating the competition rather than deciding how to act responsibly.”



trying to do well and trying to beat others are two different things.



Here sits a child in class, waving his arm wildly to attract the teacher’s attention, crying, “Oooh! Oooh! Pick me!” The child is finally recognized but then seems befuddled. “Um, what was the question again?” he finally asks. His mind is on beating his classmates, not on the subject matter.



One can attend either to the task at hand or to the enterprise of triumphing over someone else— and the latter often is at the expense of the former.



It is true, of course, that the relative quality of performance is what determines who wins in a competition, but this does not mean that competition makes for better performance. This is partly because those who believe they will lose may see little point in trying hard. The same is true for those who feel sure of winning.



“Competitive individuals might . . . focus so heavily on outshining others and putting themselves forward that they lose track of the scientific issues and produce research that is more superficial and less sustained in direction.”



Actually, the pursuit of victory works to reduce the chance for excellence in the true performance of the sport. It tends to distract our attention from excellence of performance by rendering it subservient to emerging victorious.



Forcing children to compete is sometimes defended precisely on these grounds— that is, that early experience with competition will lead to more effective competition in later life. To some extent, this is true: one does learn strategies of competing by virtue of repeated exposure, just as one learns to regard other people as so many barriers to one’s own success. 58 But the distinction between competition and the task at hand will be present in the future just as it is today, so competition will not be any more effective then than it is now. Moreover, many people’s early unsuccessful experiences with competition will cause them to try to avoid competitive situations for the rest of their lives.



We do best at the tasks we enjoy.



An outside or extrinsic motivator (money, grades, the trappings of competitive success) simply cannot take the place of an activity we find rewarding in itself. “While extrinsic motivation may affect performance,” wrote Margaret Clifford, “performance is dependent upon learning, which in turn is primarily dependent upon intrinsic motivation.”



Like any other extrinsic motivator, competition cannot produce the kind of results that flow from enjoying the activity itself.



the use of extrinsic motivators actually tends to undermine intrinsic motivation and thus adversely affect performance in the long run. The introduction of, say, monetary reward will edge out intrinsic satisfaction; once this reward is withdrawn, the activity may well cease even though no reward at all was necessary for its performance earlier.



Extrinsic motivators, in other words, are not only ineffective but corrosive. They eat away at the kind of motivation that does produce results.



It appears that when people are instructed to compete at an activity, they begin to see that activity as an instrument for winning rather than an activity which is mastery-oriented and rewarding in its own right. Thus, competition seems to work like many other extrinsic rewards in that, under certain circumstances, it tends to be perceived as controlling and tends to decrease intrinsic motivation.



We destroy the . . . love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards— gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys— in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.



an extrinsic motivator can have a positive effect, one of the most powerful motivators is not money or victory but a sense of accountability to other people. This is precisely what cooperation establishes: the knowledge that others are depending on you.



assume— cooperation takes advantage of the skills of each member as well as the mysterious but undeniable process by which interaction seems to enhance individuals’ abilities.



Noncooperative approaches, by contrast, almost always involve duplication of effort, since someone working independently must spend time and skills on problems that already have been encountered and overcome by someone else.



people who feel accepted by others also feel safe enough to explore problems more freely, take risks, play with possibilities, and “benefit from mistakes rather than [endure] a climate in which mistakes must be hidden in order to avoid ridicule.”



competition’s unpleasantness diminishes performance.



They did best when they were measuring their improvement against their own record, not when they were measuring themselves against others. . . . They felt the competition so keenly as an aggression that they turned their attention to their relation to the aggressor



Blau pointed to the reduction of anxiety in the cooperative group as another explanation for its higher productivity.



some people complete a task more rapidly in a competitive condition, then, it may be because they are attempting to end the competition as quickly as possible so as to escape from its unpleasantness. 76



“The tendency to avoid failure . . . functions to oppose and dampen the tendency to undertake achievement-oriented activities.”



The case of competition is analogous. Competing for a job or a plate of food is a reasonable choice only if we restrict our vision to the situation as it exists in a given instant— if we disregard causes, consequences, and context. Really, we should want to know why the desired object is in short supply, what might have prevented this situation from having developed in the first place, how a competitive response will affect the two individuals tomorrow (as well as what other consequences it will have and so forth..



Decisions are based on the costs and benefits to the single actor, and a society is construed as just a collection of such actors.



Even contemporary China and Japan— to say nothing of less industrialized societies— contain elements of a qualitatively different worldview in which the group’s well-being is the standard by which decisions are made. The singular self is thought to be an illusion in certain cosmologies; the costs and benefits to any particular individual are seen as irrelevant in certain social systems.



The biologist V. C. Wynne-Edwards has proposed that evolution can more usefully be understood at the level of the group instead of at the level of individual organisms.



Will I lose in order that the group will gain? Sometimes such a tradeoff will occur, but it will not be seen as catastrophic. More to the point, this question would not even occur to someone whose worldview is different from our own. It would seem as odd as your feet asking whether the body as a whole benefits from jogging at their expense.



Will I lose in order that the group will gain? Sometimes such a tradeoff will occur, but it will not be seen as catastrophic. More to the point, this question would not even occur to someone whose worldview is different from our own. It would seem as odd as your feet asking whether the body as a whole benefits from jogging at their expense.



Economics is the study of how commodities are produced, distributed, and consumed. Most economists see their job as finding the most efficient means of satisfying demand for these commodities. Competition is justified on the grounds of its putative efficiency and, further, its usefulness at stimulating growth. The first question one could ask— although in practice almost no one does— is whether economic growth is always desirable. Paul Wachtel, in his book The Poverty of Affluence, shows how such growth entails significant costs to our health and safety, makes our working lives unhappy (for all we might gain in quality of life as consumers, we lose as producers), fails to bring about greater equity, and actually represents a desperate and futile attempt to compensate for psychological and social deficiencies.



The case for the desirability of economic competition is usually made as a result of assumptions about scarcity. Mead emphasizes that it is cultural norms and not objective scarcity that determine whether a society’s economic system is



competitive, but one could still argue that competition is the best arrangement for dealing with scarcity. The subject deserves attention. By “scarcity,” most of us mean that goods are in short supply: there isn’t enough of something to go around. While there often is no clear-cut understanding of what constitutes “enough,” the simple fact is that there is more than sufficient food to sustain everyone on the planet. 96 The same is true of land and renewable energy. The important question, then, is why the staples of life are so egregiously maldistributed— why, for example, the United States, with a little more than 5 percent of the world’s population, uses something like 40 percent of the world’s resources. What appears to be a problem of scarcity usually turns out, on closer inspection, to be a problem of distribution.



the key question is whether more competition would rectify the situation. It is hard to imagine how it could. Whoever has more resources is far more likely to win a contest, thus giving her even more resources for the next contest, and so on until the opponent is utterly vanquished or someone steps in to stop the competition.



“Our obsession with growth is the expression of neither inexorable laws of human nature nor inexorable laws of economics. . . . It is a cultural and psychological phenomenon, reflecting our present way of organizing and giving meaning to our lives . . . [that] is now maladaptive.”



“While attention is not intrinsically ‘scarce,’” he argues, “it tends to become so under . . . individualistic conditions of allocation and distribution.” 101 To ask whom I listen to or care for the most is to turn attention or love into a finite commodity.



If we view scarcity as a function of expanding human desire, this situation is largely created by the very system recommended to us as its solution. If we view scarcity as a situation of objective insufficiency, then the real problem turns out to be one of distribution— something that competition is more likely to exacerbate than remedy. In any case, the assumption that a competitive economic system is productive presupposes that competition stimulates optimal performance— something we now know to be false.



“Competition seeks to prove superiority, even if it does not exist. It places the emphasis upon capturing the buyer rather than producing a better product.”



Play represents a “process orientation,” a concern for what one is doing in itself, as opposed to a “product orientation,” in which one’s activity is justified by what it contributes to some other goal. Play, quite justifiably conceived as the opposite of work, has no goal other than itself.



As soon as play becomes product-oriented or otherwise extrinsically motivated, it ceases to be play.



the person at play delights in seeking out challenges and overcoming them.



structures, the tendency of play to be free suggests that it is also more or less spontaneous. Thus, rules, while not precisely inimical to play, may frustrate its purest expression.



our leisure activities no longer give us a break from the alienating qualities of the work we do; instead, they have come to resemble that work.



If you are trying to win, you are not engaged in true play.



Competitive recreation is anything but a time-out from goal-oriented activities. It has an internal goal, which is to win. And it has an external goal, which is to train its participants. Train them to do what? To accept a goal-oriented model.



Contrary to the myths propounded by promoters, sports are instruments not for human expression, but of social stasis. 25



If he is in a team sport, the athlete comes to see cooperation only as a means to victory, to see hostility and even aggression as legitimate, to accept conformity and authoritarianism.



Competition not only depends on attention to numbers— it shapes and reinforces that attention. By competing, we become increasingly reliant on quantification, adopting what one thinker calls a “prosaic mentality” in the course of reducing things to what can be counted and measured—



Play, by contrast, is not concerned with quantifying because there is no performance to be quantified. Like the seven-year-old athlete who was asked how fast he had run and replied, “As fast as I could,” 29



He who plays does not ask the score.



physical fitness obviously does not require competition—



Second, the camaraderie that results from teamwork is precisely the benefit of cooperative activity,



“It is not only work that is poisoned by the philosophy of competition,” wrote Bertrand Russell, “leisure is poisoned just as much.



noncompetitive striving can be very satisfying indeed, and cooperative games requiring skill and stamina similarly seem no less invigorating for the absence of a winner and a loser at the end.



competitive sports are less conducive to the flow experience than noncompetitive activities.



Anyone oriented toward spirituality to the extent that playing football becomes a religious experience is likely to find many activities have a similar effect. Rebelling against death and flexing one’s freedom, meanwhile, were central themes for Albert Camus, but his attention was directed toward love and creation, and toward rebellion against injustice, as the means for living these things. Camus’s later works reflect a special emphasis on the need to work with others and affirm their humanity as part of our own expression;



the pure pleasure of competitive triumph is first cousin to the pleasure of punching someone in a state of manic excitement.



The constituents of enjoyment that are used to argue for recreational competition actually do not, for the most part, require competition at all.



“For many children competitive sports operate as a failure factory which not only effectively eliminates the ‘bad ones’ but also turns off many of the ‘good ones,’”



noncompetitive games,



“Caucus-race” described in Alice in Wonderland, in which participants “began running when they liked, and left off when they liked.”



Terry Orlick proposes instead that when a chair is removed after each round, the players should try to find room on the chairs that remain— a task that becomes more difficult and more fun as the game progresses. The final result is a group of giggling children crowded onto a single chair.



The Cooperative Sports and Games Book (1978) and The Second Cooperative Sports and Games Book (1982). Another good collection is Jeffrey Sobel’s Everybody Wins: Non-competitive Games for Young Children (1983).



In “Bump and Scoot” volleyball, for example, a player who hits the ball over the net immediately moves to the other side. “The common objective [is] to make a complete change in teams with as few drops of the ball as possible.”



Change the rules of Scrabble, for example, so that the two players try to obtain the highest possible combined score. Allow each to see the other’s letters.


 
 
When we shift our attention from performance to people, we find more than enough reason to oppose competition.



we will steer clear of unusually competitive people.



When we become aware of our own competitiveness, we often become uncomfortable— a fact that is all the more remarkable in light of the professional rewards for acting this way.



The reasons for trying to be successful at the price of other people’s failure are numerous and multilayered.



we act competitively because we are taught to do so, because everyone around us does so, because it never occurs to us not to do so, and because success in our culture seems to demand that we do so.



Psychoanalysts have contributed incalculably to the way we think about ourselves, but one of their central contributions— whose relevance to competition will shortly become clear— is the idea that we may unconsciously turn a wish or fear into its opposite. This can happen in several ways. Unacceptable feelings of hostility (toward people we are expected to love, for example) may be transposed into exaggerated concern. A dangerous attraction may present itself as extreme aversion, as in the classic case of the latent homosexual who incessantly ridicules gays.



I would offer the proposition that we compete to overcome fundamental doubts about our capabilities and, finally, to compensate for low self-esteem.



competing at a given activity reflects insecurity with a particular facet of ourselves. We try to be the best lover (or have the most lovers) because we fear we are not really lovable. We want to have a more impressive job than others because we suspect our skills are actually deficient.



To say that we become invested in certain qualities is to say that they are placeholders for our very selves.



Sometimes, though, there are no such placeholders— no mediating qualities or skills. Some competitive desires (to earn more money, for instance, or be judged more attractive) can be understood immediately in terms of low self-esteem.



the individual who feels good about herself and is simply interested in doing well does not go out of her way to outperform others.



One wants to outdo in order to make up for an impression, often dimly sensed, of personal inadequacy.



If competition has a voice, it is the defiant whine of the child: “Anything you can do, I can do better.” A competitive society is a chorus of such voices. And the energy of such a society (to switch metaphors) is provided by a combination of “obsessional thinking, anxiety over personal inadequacy, and hostility requiring an outlet,”



Because one is responding to the push of self-doubt rather than the pull of accomplishment, competition is more a need than a desire.



competitiveness is in reality a deficit-motivated trait.



Being good at an activity is something we choose to do; outperforming others is experienced as something that we have to do. Our self-esteem is at stake.



since the need to compete is really the need to win, we can watch what happens when such an individual loses. The result is more reminiscent of depriving a hungry person of supper than of removing a choice dish from the gourmet.



the original urge to compete may be experienced as a fear of not competing. “Whenever I enter a competition,” said one marathon runner, “I’m fearful and apprehensive to try it. It’s hard to go to the line. But I’m fearful and apprehensive not to try it.”



For many, competition feels like damage control. The point is not so much triumph as vindication, not so much winning as not losing. To lose is to have one’s inadequacy exposed. It is dreadful confirmation of precisely what was feared in the first place. One struggles to win, to be better than everybody else, in a desperate, vain effort to convince oneself of one’s value.



actual competence has little to do with self-esteem.



No matter how many times they hear it, many talented or attractive people do not truly believe in their talent or attractiveness. Their quest to be noticed, rewarded, acknowledged is endless;



Recognition for some particular ability doesn’t address the matter of overall worth.



the real alternative to being number one is not being number two but being psychologically free enough to dispense with rankings altogether.



In our culture, which is wedded to the assumption that life is a zero-sum game, one of the chief mechanisms is competition. (Your gain is my loss and vice versa).



Low self-esteem, then, is a necessary but not sufficient cause of competition. The ingredients include an aching need to prove oneself and the approved mechanism for doing so at other people’s expense. When we have both, we have millions of people who try to feel better by making the next person feel worse.



most of these same people, who argue competition is not rooted in psycological ill-health, will agree there is something amiss with the fellow who cannot walk into a room without wondering whether he is the strongest or wealthiest, or his date is the prettiest, or his name is the best known.



The hypercompetitive person may stand out in a crowd because of the urgency of his need to be the best, but the psychological forces at work are no different from those operating in people whose level of competitiveness is judged acceptable. He is just more extreme.



It is not the excess that is problematic in the relentlessly competitive individual; it is the need to compete in itself.



He assumes others are as competitive as he, 12 that rivalry is the way of the world, that his status is always on the line.



Where there is no love, envy will do.



To be noticed is to be someone;



“cooperative learning situations, compared with competitive and individualistic situations, promote higher levels of self-esteem and healthier processes for deriving conclusions about one’s self-worth.”



“experiences in human cooperation are the most essential ingredient for the development of psychological health.”



People feel valuable and valued when their success is positively related to that of others (rather than negatively related, as in competition).



most competitors lose most of the time.



If we feel impelled to prove ourselves by triumphing over others, we will feel humiliated when they triumph over us. To lose— particularly in a public event— can be psychologically detrimental even for the healthiest among us.



When “emphasis is placed not upon what is accomplished but upon what is publicly recognized, not upon the demonstration of competence but upon winning,” then the competitor eventually “comes to believe . . . that he is defective and deserves to fail.”



coming to equate losing with being a loser.



Psychological health implies unconditionality— the conviction that one is a good person regardless of what happens. In competition, by contrast, one’s self-esteem depends on the uncertain outcome of a contest, and this means that self-esteem is conditional.



Winning offers no genuine comfort because there is no competitive activity for which victory is permanent.



to become number one is immediately to become the target for one’s rivals.



In terms of both motivation and the skills involved, winning and succeeding are two different things. To beat any number of others is not a satisfying indicator of actual skill or accomplishment.



We want to be assured that we are fundamentally good, but goodness is difficult to pin down. The more desperate we are to believe in it, the more it seems to elude us. Thus we resort to reifying this goodness, externalizing it, literalizing it, trying to capture it in a specific quality.



After winning seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympics, Mark Spitz reported, “I became sick of myself. I never knew how far down someone could drop, especially after being up so high.” 33 Even without such a pronounced mood shift, any competitor knows that the effects of winning are not lasting, and this alone tells us of its irrelevance to psychological health. Self-esteem is not a passing thrill.



Winning doesn’t satisfy us— we need to do it again, and again.



“Feelings of competition cover the deeper feelings of insecurity. The competitive feelings then produce a new set of feelings of failure, lack of confidence, and inadequacy.” 35 Which, in turn, begets further competitiveness.



Competing drags us down, devastates us psychologically, poisons our relationships, interferes with our performance. But acknowledging these things would be painful and might force us to make radical changes in our lives, so instead we create and accept rationalizations for competition; It’s part of “human nature.” It’s more productive. It builds character.



Ogilvie and Tutko could find “no empirical support for the tradition that sport builds character. Indeed, there is evidence that athletic competition limits growth in some areas.” Among the problematic results they discovered were depression, extreme stress, and relatively shallow relationships.



even solid self-esteem does not confer talismanic protection from the effects of losing. Likewise, the vicious circle engendered by the hollowness of winning is not an event to which only neurotics are admitted—



we must recognize that the problem rests squarely with the structure of mutually exclusive goal attainment.



someone who runs a major marathon faster than he has ever done before but is nevertheless beaten by a well-known athlete. Surely such a loss will not be construed as failure. This qualification is quite sound— and it has the unintended effect of proving that success and winning are two very different things



it is unconditional acceptance in our early years that best allows us to deal with rejection; it is an initial sense of security that helps us to weather the problems we will later face.



The idea that we are best prepared for unpleasant experiences by being exposed to unpleasant experiences at a tender age is about as sensible as the proposition that the best way to help someone survive exposure to carcinogenic substances is to expose him to as many carcinogens as possible in early life.



 
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5.
if I cannot depend on what is around me, I will lack the means to accept myself— and I may even come to blame myself for the world as I experience it.



apprehension about losing.
feelings of apprehension about winning.
competitors may feel guilty for making other people lose
competitors may fear that the people they beat will become hostile toward them.
aggression is intrinsically connected to competition itself,



competition is “the most pervasive occasion for anxiety” in our culture.



This competitive philosophy “militates against the experience of community, and that lack of community is a centrally important factor in contempora[ ry] anxiety.” 61 When people are defined as rivals, it is difficult to build an overall sense of community or establish a genuine connection with a particular other. “Anxiety arises out of the interpersonal isolation and alienation from others that inheres in a pattern in which self-validation depends on triumphing over others.”



vicious circle. Not only does competing make us anxious by threatening our relations with others, but it sets up a scenario in which we try to solve this problem by returning to the very strategy that gave rise to it.



In sum, the security that is so vital for healthy human development is precisely what competition inhibits. We are anxious about losing, conflicted about winning, and fearful about the effects of competition on our relationships with others— effects that can include hostility, resentment, and disapproval.



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6.
is a reluctance to make other people lose (with the attendant guilt)— or, for that matter, an unwillingness to put victory before friendship— really something to be gotten over? I would contend it is more correctly viewed as an incipient sign of health. There is an important message in our recoiling from competition, just as there is in the coughing fit of a first-time cigarette smoker.



WHOEVER HAS THE MOST THINGS WHEN HE DIES, WINS.



The student who loves intellectual exploration will not want to rein in this impulse as the syllabus demands, and she will not have the highest grade-point average.



The intrinsic rigidity of the goal orientation, not surprisingly, makes the individual rigid, as well. We might propose that the more competitive an individual is, the less spontaneous he is, the less receptive to surprise, the less flexible his cognitive process.



In a contest, there are only two possible results: you win or you lose. Those inclined to see the world in an either/ or fashion will be attracted to competition, but, by the same token, competition will help to shape such an orientation.



People, including ourselves, are either number one or they are unworthy. This is not a terribly productive way of thinking about restaurant meals or computers, much less about human beings.




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7.
when we perform this kind of value-laden division, we normally place ourselves on the good side, and we want the good to triumph over the bad. A gulf opens up between “us” and “them,” and this very division invites aggression—



we claim righteousness for ourselves and require an “other,” an opposite (religious, political, racial, national, sexual, name-it), a nonself who embodies evil. To that degree does blame become a basic behavior and revenge a solution. Such polarity not only implies superior-inferior; as it denies complementarity, it also invites battle. For superior tends to become pitted against inferior.



individualism?

IS IT the freedom to think and act on one’s own, the commitment to deeply held values, the courage to risk disapproval and worse from others. OR “you do your thing and I’ll do mine,” the pathetic attempt to compensate for loneliness in “be your own best friend,” the undisguised selfishness in “look out for number one.”



It is with this latter kind of individualism that competition is compatible. A narrowly conceived self-interest is conducive to beating out others. It is a short step from looking out for number one to trying to become Number One.



competition does not promote the more substantial and authentic kind of individualism. On the contrary, it encourages rank conformity.



‘Winning out’ in this respect does not make rugged individualists. It shapes conformist robots.”



“Competition can only work if people agree to seek the same goals and follow the same rules. Accordingly, as competitors strive to beat each other’s records, they tend to become more alike.



“In order not to fail most students are willing to believe anything and [not to care] whether what they are told is true or false,” writes Jules Henry. 77 If people tend to “go along to get along,” there is even more incentive to go along when the goal is to be number one. In the office or factory where co-workers are rivals, beating out the next person for a promotion means pleasing the boss. Competition acts to extinguish the Promethean fire of rebellion.



competition affects the personality. Turning life into a series of contests turns us into cautious, obedient people. We do not sparkle as individuals or embrace collective action when we are in a race.



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8.
That trophy is the truth, the only truth. I told him to get mean, punish some people, put some fear into them, you have to hate to win, it takes hate to win. I didn’t tell him to break anybody’s ribs. . . . I told him there is no such thing as second place. —The Coach in Jason Miller’s That Championship Season



“Industrial man, consciously or unconsciously, often considers not only his business rivals as competitors but also his sex partners, siblings, neighbors, and peers of his group,”



The pursuit of a lover is a competitive game in which success is called “scoring.” Would-be suitors jockey for position to take the prize, and they regard each other with suspicion or outright animosity. A couple forms, and the two find their love frayed by the need of each to outdo the other: Who has the bigger paycheck, the most friends, the sharper wit? Who is giving more to the relationship, is more skillful or selfless in bed, has sacrificed more to be with the other?



The character of all our human relationships is molded by a more or less outspoken competition. It is effective in the family between siblings, at school, in social relations (keeping up with the Joneses), and in love life. . . . The genuine erotic wish is often overshadowed or replaced by the merely competitive goal of being the most popular, having the most dates, love letters, lovers, being seen with the most desirable man or woman. . . . Marriage partners, for example, may be living in an endless struggle for supremacy, with or without being aware of the nature or even of the existence of this combat.



Competition acts not only to strain our existing relationships to the breaking point, but also to prevent them from developing in the first place. Camaraderie and companionship— to say nothing of genuine friendship and love— scarcely have a chance to take root when we are defined as competitors.



I feel my worth is in doubt— it is contingent on winning— so I am unable to extend myself to you.



“The experience of failure in competitive settings that resulted in depressed beliefs in their own ability . . . is likely to affect negatively the child’s own feelings of competence and self-worth and potentially interfere with future relationships with others.”



competition decrees that both of us cannot succeed.



the pattern of behavior that emerges is one of treating virtually everyone as inimical to one’s own goals and wishing them ill. “In a competitive culture,” writes Henry, “anybody’s success at anything is one’s own defeat, even though one is completely uninvolved in the success.’”



Kwhen we repeatedly encounter people under competitive conditions, we will spontaneously begin to regard all others as rivals and treat them accordingly.



You are not just a part of my world but the center of your own.



war is caused by a “monstrous lack of imagination”; it should be clear now that he meant the ability to imagine the subjectivity of others.



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9.
When I both regard you as a subject and recognize your otherness, there is the making of human relationship at its fullest. All of us can strive to receive others this way, and in so doing we prepare the ground for genuine dialogue, a reciprocal sharing by which both participants are enriched.



competition entails a kind of perverse interdependence: our fates are linked in that I cannot succeed unless you fail. Thus I regard you merely as someone over whom to triumph. Because you are my rival, you are an “it” to me, an object, something I use for my own ends.



The reductio ad absurdum of competition is war, and it is here that we find antagonists most thoroughly negating the humanity of others in order to be able to kill them.



Depriving adversaries of personalities, of faces, of their subjectivity, is a strategy we automatically adopt in order to win. Some people do this more effectively than others, but the posture is demanded by the very structure of competition. We may try to reassure ourselves with talk about “friendly competition,” but the fact remains that seeing another person as a rival and seeing her as a “partner in a living event” are fundamentally incompatible stances.



“There is considerable evidence to suggest that cooperative settings, when compared to competitive settings, promote more mutual liking, more sharing, and more helping behaviors,”



competition ultimately discourages generosity.



our fundamental orientation toward others is trying to beat them.



we subtly discourage our children from being too concerned about the welfare of others.



“Competitiveness . . . creates easily aroused envy towards the stronger ones, contempt for the weaker, distrust towards everyone . . . so the satisfaction and reassurance which one can get out of human relations are limited and the individual becomes more or less emotionally iso lated.”



Competition creates a prized status where none existed before (see page 75), thereby giving us something to desire. Then it insures that not everyone can get it. Finally, competition requires that those who obtain the reward can do so only by defeating everyone else. Both the objective and subjective conditions for envy are established,



Since all but the brightest children have the constant experience that others succeed at their expense, they cannot [help] but develop an inherent tendency to hate— to hate the success of others, to hate others who are successful, and to be determined to prevent it. Along with this, naturally, goes the hope that others will fail.



set up a system where we must compete against each other, and a breeding ground for distrust has been established.



Whatever I tell you about myself or do to help you will, in a zero-sum situation, be at my own expense. In a competitive culture, we come to look at each other through narrowed eyes.



When we compete, then, we objectify others, lose our ability to empathize, become less inclined to help. A chasm opens up between us, leaving us distrustful, envious, and contemptuous.



competition is a kind of aggression.



In a competitive relationship, one is predisposed to cathect the other negatively, to have a suspicious, hostile, exploitative attitude toward the other, to be psychologically closed to the other, to be aggressive and defensive toward the other, to seek advantage and superiority for self and disadvantage and inferiority for the other, to see the other as opposed to oneself and basically different, and so on. One is also predisposed to expect the other to have the same orientation.


 
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10.
Once upon a time, theorists speculated that participation in or controlled exposure to competitive sports or other aggressive behavior would drain off one’s reservoir of aggression. This came to be known as the “catharsis” theory, after Aristotle’s notion that one can be purged of unpleasant emotions by watching tragic dramas.



“competitive or spectator sports . . . raise aggressive feelings of competition to the boiling point.”



Watching others be aggressive does not discharge our own aggressiveness. What seems to happen instead is straightforward modeling: We learn to be aggressive. Our restraints against aggression are lowered.



Elementary-school-aged boys were more likely to shove or hit their peers if they had watched a boxing film.



“where we find warlike behavior we typically find combative sports and where war is relatively rare combative sports tend to be absent.



“Innumerable studies of aggression in children have illustrated that attempts to reduce aggression through the use of aggressive and vigorous play therapy have the opposite effect. . . . Sports participation may heighten aggressive tendencies,” says one. 43



whether or not we are unavoidably aggressive— and the data suggest that we are not— one cannot argue in good faith that sports merely dramatize conflict.



The point is not that athletes will rush to enlist, but that athletic competition both consists in and promotes warlike aggression.



“There are so many cases of spectators becoming violent as a result of an emotionally pitched game,” says Terry Orlick, “that we have to wonder why the notion persists that the viewers will lessen their aggressive inclinations by seeing the game. Clearly someone forgot to tell these fans that watching highly competitive or aggressive sports is supposed to subdue their aggressive tendencies.”




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11.
when we cooperate, we are inclined to like each other more.



cooperation teaches us, more broadly, the value of relationship.



cooperation offers an opportunity to interact positively (which independent effort does not and which competition actively discourages);



Children can more readily move beyond a self-centered orientation and begin to take others into account once they are placed in a cooperative environment,



Deutsch’s classic experiment with undergraduates showed that when students worked cooperatively, “more ideas were verbalized, and members were more attentive to one another. . . . They had fewer difficulties in communicating with or understanding others.” (With competition, Deutsch adds, communication tends to be “unreliable and impoverished.”)



Even when individuals have unequal power (as represented in an experimental game), they tend to trust each other in a cooperative structure. Trust is virtually absent under competition.



Whereas competition creates an atmosphere of hostility and does nothing to overcome differences, cooperation builds bridges.



After the lessons are over, students in cooperative classrooms socialize more heterogeneously than those in competitive or independent learning situations.



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12.
when studies found performance was enhanced by intragroup cooperation, people asked whether this effect actually relied on intergroup competition. The answer was unequivocally no



intergroup cooperation promoted more positive cross-ethnic and crosssex relationships than did intergroup competition. These results dis-confirm the position that competition among groups leads to attraction among collaborators . . . and they provide some support for the position that the more pervasive the cooperation, the greater the interpersonal attraction.



the citizens of a nation will indeed wave their flags more vigorously when they have been persuaded that another nation poses a threat. This phenomenon is not at all what I have been discussing. Allegiance to a country or school or corporation does not necessarily promote sensitivity, trust, better perspective-taking, and so on among those in the group.



the most effective way to set up cooperation does not involve tacking on competition at another level. Far better is cooperation at both the intergroup and intragroup levels.



the sort of affirmation that is concerned with besting others, the sort of camaraderie that develops from working to beat another group— or from simply proclaiming the superiority of one’s own— has an ugliness about it that I believe is intrinsically objectionable.



The We vs. They structure and the attitude that accompanies it are, after all, at the heart of every war. It is one thing to feel hostile in a contest that pits one individual against another. It is something else again to stoke the aggressive fires that rage in group rivalries.



the whole of competitive fury, like that of cooperative creativity, is greater than the sum of its parts.



Inter group competition is too high a price to pay for intragroup cooperation, and it is fortunate that it does not have to be paid. Intergroup competition also is not the way to bring harmony and good fellowship to a brittle planet.



“Our ultimate safety depends only upon enlarging the circles of helpful cooperation one last step to encompass our largest units, the nations.”



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13.
Children know that disagreement exists; to force them to agree in a classroom is to ask them to deny reality and it is to deprive them of a real education. It is no coincidence that the word challenge means both to require someone to use her full range of abilities and to call something into question.



What makes disagreement destructive is not the fact of conflict itself but the addition of competition. In a debate (as opposed to a discussion or dialogue), the point is to win rather than to reach the best solution or arrive at a compromise with which everyone is satisfied.



Trying to round up votes for one’s position or candidate has more in common with coercion by force than it does with working cooperatively to achieve consensus.



The difference between cooperation and competition is the difference between listening to each other’s points of view and twisting each other’s arms.



Structural cooperation is not at all inimical to conflict. It simply allows conflict to work most productively by keeping out the poisonous hostilities of a win/ lose arrangement.




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14.
For nothing can seem foul to those that win. —Shakespeare,



There are those in business who wear themselves to a frazzle trying to get ahead, as if professional success could compensate them for having turned their private lives into a wasteland.



if people are competing, many of them are going outside of the boundaries that have been established to delimit acceptable ways to win.



competition itself is rescued from any blame. If we get rid of the troublemakers, if we don’t go too far in our quest for victory, then there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the win/ lose structure.



you would argue that abusive, self-destructive, violent, or immoral behaviors are corruptions of real competition, which is in its essence as virtuous and healthy as these “exceptions” are nasty and neurotic.



In the case of competition, the root cause of abuses is the competitive structure itself. “Abuses,” then, is really something of a misnomer since these actions do not represent the contamination of competition but rather its logical conclusion.



a structural imperative to beat others invites the use of any means available.



The only goal that a competitor (again, qua competitor) has is victory; the only good is what contributes to this goal. If a new goal is introduced— particularly one that interferes with winning, such as staying within the guidelines of appropriate conduct— it is likely to be pushed aside.



we set up a structure where the goal is victory and then blame people when they follow through.



“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play,” he wrote. “It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence.”



competition itself is responsible for the development of a lower moral standard.



Sports provide an almost deliberate exercise in pushing the psyche to cheat and take advantage, to be ruthless, cruel, deceitful, vengeful, and aggressive.



The trouble arises from the generally received philosophy of life, according to which life is a contest, a competition, in which respect is to be accorded to the victor. This view leads to an undue cultivation of the will at the expense of the senses and the intellect.



researchers have found that the maturity of an athlete’s moral reasoning is inversely proportional to the number of aggressive acts he or she engages in or views as legitimate.  



To win an election, to increase one’s income, to outsell competitors— such motives impel many to participate in forms of duplicity they might otherwise resist. The more widespread they judge these practices to be, the stronger will be the pressures to join, even compete, in deviousness.



The pressure we feel to be number one creates a vicious circle as we expect others to play dirty and feel justified in breaking the rules ourselves— if not obligated to do so. If I play it straight, the next guy is just going to take advantage of me. To complain, as the lawbreaker often does, that honesty does not pay may be self-serving, but it is largely correct in a competitive society.



American malaise, the emphasis on success and frequent disregard for the nature of the means it takes to achieve it.



Our approval of winning at all costs is the secondary inducement to cheat; the primary inducement is the nature of competition itself.



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15.
the higher the concentration of competition in any interaction, the less likely it is to be enjoyable and the more likely it is to be destructive to our self-esteem, our relationships, our standards of fairness.



The female commitment to relationship, as it is manifested in moral reasoning and childhood play and conversation, is terribly important. The shift toward competition represents nothing less than an abandonment of this commitment, the attenuation of care. Perhaps it is unfair to hold women responsible for such a loss; the other half of the human race is even more alienated from the rewards of relatedness by virtue of its immersion in competition.



To cherish the part of our lives that involves connection with others hardly entails subjugating oneself to others’ needs. Neither does it mean that one has sacrificed healthy self-directedness or autonomy. What Gilligan has styled “the feminine voice” is perfectly compatible with a secure sense of self. In any case, competition would be a poor strategy for reaching this goal. As I tried to show in chapter 5, competition is associated with neediness and an external locus of control. Those who talk or act as if becoming more competitive were a sign of growth may have simply confused competition with autonomy or relationship with dependence.



women now need to focus on affirming the structures and values they bring to the question of competition versus relationships and start reconstructing institutions according to what women know.




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16.
How can we eliminate the competitive framework of our society so long as there still exists both a widespread belief that competition is desirable and a strong inclination to beat other people? On the other hand, how can we change these views so long as a structure remains in place that requires us to compete (and inclines us to bring our beliefs into line with our actions)?



The better I feel about myself, the less I will need to make you lose. Carl Rogers emphasized that the experience of being accepted by others permits us to accept ourselves. Intuitively this seems more promising than trying to triumph over others.



It may be fruitful to monitor one’s own competitiveness as it makes itself felt in various situations— and then make a conscious effort to tame this impulse. (“ Why did I just interrupt him again? I’m trying to prove to everyone that I’m cleverer than he is. What if I just sat back and listened to what he had to say?”



A directed awareness of our own competitiveness can help us to confront and transcend the reflexive urge to outdo everyone else.



It is possible to minimize the importance of winning and losing, but to do so requires one to swim against the current, to ignore what is demanded by the structure of the activity.



Our psychological state and our relationships with others not only are correlated with the extent of our intentional competitiveness but are changed by a framework of structural competition.



“the psychological orientations of the subjects [including] their views of themselves and of the others in their group were considerably different as a function of the distributive system under which they worked.”



To the extent that a man is rewarded for putting the organization’s goals first, harmonizing his own efforts with those of his colleagues, and making himself personally attractive to the people around him, he will develop situationally specific orientations in which co-operation, harmony, teamwork, etc. are seen as instrumental to success, intrinsically pleasurable, and morally desirable. From his job, such orientations can be expected to spill over to his family, community, and even society as a whole.



During World War I, army battalions that faced each other from their respective trenches often agreed not to shoot— a kind of “live and let live” understanding that emerged spontaneously. This mutual restraint was, of course, infuriating to the high commands of both sides, but soldiers had the temerity to persist in not killing each other. Obviously they had not been predisposed to work together, having been trained to hate each other; structural cooperation took root in spite of their attitudes. In fact, the new arrangement changed these attitudes. Axelrod cites an incident in which a shot was fired inadvertently one day, prompting a German to call out, “We are very sorry about that; we hope no one was hurt.”



Making our society less competitive ultimately depends on reducing structural competition.



It will be understood that an idealist is someone who does not understand “the world as it is” (“ world” = “our society”; “as it is” = “as it will always be”). This label efficiently calls attention to the critic’s faulty understanding of reality or “human nature” and insures that he is not taken seriously. Those who are “pragmatic,” by contrast, know that we must always work within the confines of what we are given. After all, if alternative models really were workable, we would already be using them.



New York Times education writer Fred Hechinger: Regrettably, the importance of the “message” has also invaded children’s television. . . . [One] episode of “The Flintstones,” a favorite children’s cartoon, had a hotly contested baseball game end in a tie, followed by celebrations of brotherly and sisterly love— hardly the real aim in any normal child’s view of competitive games.



If competition is indeed unhelpful and destructive, and if attitudes and personal goals are shaped by the win/ lose structure, then we need to set about the formidable task of undoing the arrangements that set us against one another— from parlor games to geopolitical conflict.



When cars prowl the city streets in search of parking spaces, the shortage is not invented and the quest is clearly competitive. But the number of spaces to be had downtown was not decreed by God. It is the result of a decision that can be changed.



Instead of taking competition for granted, we ought to be asking what broader arrangements might be altered so as to present us with a structure that does not require winners and losers.



“the old notion of ‘national security’ must be replaced by the new notion of ‘mutual security.’”



The motive for opposing competition and the arrangement to replace it are one and the same: cooperation.



So long as we remain a competitive society, however, it will be possible to insist that one has got to compete to survive. This argument is heard most often from those who actually have no inclination to stop competing, and those who are really invoking “survival” in order to justify their desire to beat others.



It may seem prudent to enter contests and devote ourselves to winning, but the many respects in which competition is destructive should be weighed against the need to join the race.



Even if it seems appropriate for me to compete— overlooking for the moment the price I pay for doing so— I need to ask whether it is in our collective interest to keep competing.



Replacing structural competition with cooperation requires collective action, and collective action requires education and organization.



People who have systematically been denied the opportunity to earn a decent wage, to lead a life with dignity, to make decisions about what affects them, may think it peculiar to be told that competition is destructive. After all, they might argue, “my only hope is to enter the race and try to win, to beat them at their own game.” It is not a coincidence that this is precisely the response to oppression encouraged by those who hold the power.



those who already are winners are in better shape to win succeeding contests.



to participate in competition is to help perpetuate an arrangement that caused the problem in the first place. No one stands to benefit more from a noncompetitive society than those who have been cheated by a competitive society.



Once it becomes clear why competition ought to be avoided, we must re-examine our own lives to determine what concessions to the prevailing ethic, if any, we are prepared to make. These concessions should be made with a clear understanding of the costs— both personal and societal— that they entail. And they should strengthen our resolve to work at the same time to create healthy, productive, cooperative alternatives.




¸.•¨¯`•*¨`*•.•´*.¸.•´*•.•´



17.
Beyond explicit tutoring, when people work in groups there is a tendency for one person’s idea to evoke another idea from someone else. The second idea emerges as a reaction to the first and might not have occurred at all if its creator had been working on her own.



Group work leads to “more frequent discovery and development of . . . higher quality cognitive reasoning strategies.”



learning is never the result of the efforts of isolated, competitive individuals alone. . . . The evident weakness in American schools has much to do with the weakening of their community context. . . . Education can never merely be for the sake of individual self-enhancement. It pulls us into the common world or it fails altogether.



especially appropriate for open-ended cooperative assignments, is to let children form groups on the basis of the questions they are interested in exploring.



We can’t order it to work; we have to make it work. We have to teach children the skills of working thoughtfully and responsibly together. . . . I have heard teachers give it up after a single attempt. . . . But these very same teachers would never say, “These children cannot read by themselves,” and thereafter remove any opportunity for them to learn to read.



Social skills such as learning to listen carefully, to make eye contact, and to criticize someone’s ideas without being insulting can be taught just as reading can be taught.



A concern with how we learn, not only what we learn, requires attention after each lesson as well as before. A certain block of time— which, again, will vary with the age of the students and their experience with CL— should be set aside following the completion of a unit for each group to talk about how successful they have been at working together. They can be asked to consider whether everyone contributed to the final project or one person did most of the work, whether someone dominated the discussion, whether everyone felt free to present ideas, whether tasks were divided effectively.



I will focus on three interlocking domains to which we must attend in order to maximize the benefits of CL— or, for that matter, any learning environment. Let us call them control, curriculum, and community.

To be continued. Check in here again in a couple of months (12/7 2016)


Kohn, Alfie. No Contest: The Case Against Competition (p. 221). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.





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