Is Competition in School Helpful or Harmful to the Students – Harmful

The competitive spirit; a concept meant to bring out the best in us and our abilities. You often hear the story of the athlete, who years after his prime gears up every night because he enjoys the competition. Humans, by nature, strive to excel at what they do, and the thought of fame and recognition pushes individuals to their limits, making them passionate in the pursuit of excellence, and allowing for them to grow as humans.

While this type of mindset may be beneficial to activities such as sports or ones normal job, it should not interfere in something as vital as ones pursuit of knowledge. My experience has taught me that the academically competitive environment that most high schools encourage is actually more of a deconstruction than an incentive to learn. This is because many students get the wrong idea that something such as rank is the end all be all of their intelligence. The effects are detrimental at best.

First, one is forced to question his intelligence when he is compared to his other classmates in a competitive environment. When students are ranked according to their GPA, an individual can be overcome with feelings of disappointment that he did not meet his expectations. However, it is the feelings of self doubt brought about by ranking that have a more serious personal effect.

This self-doubt crossed my mind several times over the course of my high school experience, as I occasionally got the feeling that I am under my peers. “I just must not be as smart as X. Look at how much higher he is than I am.” In this way, I felt outside of myself because I was letting a sheet of paper posted to a wall be the ultimate insight to my level of intelligence. The ranking system arbitrarily inflicted this upon me, giving me an undeserved harm of self doubt by conveying the message that I was just not up to snuff with my peers.

The opposite end of this spectrum is the sense of elitism and hierarchy that a numbers based system brings about. Those who do tend to find themselves on top often feel superior to their peers and occasionally show it in their mannerisms and the way they speak to others. I once witnessed a group of students at my school acknowledging each other by their rank rather than their names. While this may be in good fun and amongst a circle of friends, an outsider or an individual who is even slightly lower ranked than those in the group can easily feel inferior to his friend, number Thirty-Three.

I sometimes felt belittled, if only sub-consciously, when I engaged in casual conversation with someone who was at the top of my graduating class. While outside of school we are just normal teenagers trying to get the most out of life, the walls of the school act as a sort of social filter in which the hierarchy entrenches itself.

Rank forces everyone within the school to see education as a numbers game, rater than a concept whose goal is to attain as much knowledge as possible.

The philosopher John Dewey once wrote “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” We seem to forget this when we believe education is about finishing in first place. Because overall quality of education is hindered by a competitive mind frame, I strongly fell that competition in the classroom is not only a bad idea, but an antithesis to what an education truly is.