The Evils of Excellence

Susan Black on the “Trouble with Classroom Competition”:

How much competition is too much?
I asked myself that question some years ago when I was appointed director of curriculum and instruction for a Midwestern city school district. Making the rounds of the district’s 12 schools I found competition everywhere.
In a 10th-grade English class, I found kids writing essays on citizenship for a local bar association’s contest. Moving on to a middle school, I saw seventh-grade science students drawing posters for a county humane society contest in hopes of winning stuffed animals. That afternoon, I watched third-graders hop around a gym as part of a national charity’s pledge drive. The kids who hopped the longest won crayons and coloring books.
When I counted up the number of competitive activities in classrooms — more than 200 in one school year — I knew it was time to put on the brakes. It wasn’t easy, but with the school board’s support and principals’ cooperation, we reclaimed the instructional program. Competitive activities were still allowed, but they were held after school for students who wanted to sign up.

Via Joanne Jacobs and Gadfly. I wonder if students in India, China, Japan, Finland and elsewhere have curriculum planners with this point of view? This thinking seems rather Soviet, where everyone is the same except for those who are not.