Tuesday, July 15, 2008

15July2008 Competition

Competition can be quite a motivator when it is used as a means to an end. When it becomes the end in itself, it becomes quite destructive. For example, Alpine School District's knowledge bowl academic competition motivates participating students to learn as much as 6 grades ahead of where they are in school in a particular subject every year. Educators who think that competition is harmful to kids' are wrong.

On the other hand, some conservatives believe that competition is the silver bullet that will solve all of education's problems. They try to implement that with merit pay and/or vouchers. In these cases competition becomes destructive and interferes with good education. It turns educators away from focusing on the children. Instead they are forced to focus on competing - for money, for awards, etc. Competition then becomes the end in itself and defeats the purpose it was supposed to help.

2 comments:

Roadhouse said...

I respectfully disagree. Competition encourages excellence when applied to anything. The "Whopper" is a result of competing with the "Big Mac". Ford competes with Chevy and Dodge resulting in better vehicles from all three.
Vouchers force teachers and administrators to provide a better service or risk losing the customer to a competitor.
With the exception of less than stellar teachers, everyone wins and parents finally have choices.

ConservativeTeacher said...

Roadhouse,

How then do you explain the scenario I've described? I've seen it happen. Competition can have very positive effects in certain situations. It can also be very harmful, as it was around the turn of the century where the big and powerful businesses used competition create monopolies and drive out all the others. I could give many examples.

I might add, I'm not a newcomer to conservative thought. I was about as right-wing as they come early in life, still am in many things. But I've studied vouchers for 30 years, trying to find a way that it would work. It won't. It will end up bringing government take-over of the private schools, while vastly compromising the public schools. Vouchers hurts everyone.

Again I will say, competition, as with vouchers, would distract teachers and administrators away from students to creating the "show" rather than the substance.