I do not like school competitions. I never have and never will. I see no sense in a panel of judges comparing children’s work and declaring one of them to be the best. As far as I am concerned, there is no “best” in school, there are several “greats” or “goods.”
However, my dislike for competitions did not save me from getting entangled in the competition web. I spent several long hours preparing you for various competitions and even longer hours discussing rules, criteria, and results with the parent population. As a result, we have a collection of certificates you don’t even look at.
You were the first to put your foot down and say no to competitions. I came to my senses much later, after forcing you to take part in two more and watching the smile disappear from your face completely.
Our education system is literally saturated with competitions—singing, dancing, poster making, cooking without fire, science models, clay modeling, storytelling, debate, collage making, poster making—you name it and you have it. Even national holidays are not spared and are celebrated with competitions. To make matters worse, third-party companies partner with schools to organize more competitions and Olympiads. A majority of these competitions are not related in any way to the concept the child is trying to grasp at the time. And to make matters worse, the parent population is more involved in these competitions than the children. They are expected to be as it is believed to make the children happy.
So, why did I make you participate in all those competitions?
- I thought that the prizes, certificates, and applause would boost your self-esteem.
- I thought that the experience would be educational and would teach you skills even it did not result in a prize, certificate, or applause.
- I thought that you will never have stage fear if you take part in competitions.
- I thought that it would make you happy.
I no longer think so, and here are my reasons.
The prize, the applause, and the certificate—these are sugar coated pills that one can easily get addicted to. Worse still, one could end up thinking that one’s work is no good if it does not receive the applause of others. When the applause stops, one wouldn’t know what to do with oneself—like all the forgotten stars.
If you are incapable of judging, analyzing, criticizing, and applauding your own work, you must not take part in any competition.
Unless used as teaching tools, competitions hardly teach you anything. Skills are developed over a period of several years, and you need to practice long and hard, learning as you go, to hone them. A few hours of practice for a competition that gives you three minutes to perform cannot be expected to teach any skills.
Taking part in competitions does not boost your self-esteem. In fact, if you don’t already have enough self-esteem, losing a competition will give you temporary depression while winning it will make you feel as if you have achieved it all and have nothing else to learn.
Self-esteem is an inexhaustible fountain that springs from deep within, a quiet understanding of who you are and a total acceptance of yourself as a wonderful human being.
Competitions do little to help people get rid of their stage fright.
Stage fear plagues even seasoned speakers and celebrities and the only way to overcome it is to speak in public—everyday and if possible, several times per day. I would suggest Toastmasters to people who want to chuck their stage fright.
I do not deny that some children feel happy when their parents prepare them for competitions or participate in competitions with them. But competition is not every child’s cup of tea.
If participating in competitions really makes you happy, I don’t think you would have said no to them. You are happier when we are out jogging or cycling together or playing Candy Crush Saga together or feeding the chooks or gardening together or even reading together. Why, there are dozens of things that make you happy, and right now, competitions are not in the list.
It is high time I stop making decisions for you, especially as you are capable of making them on your own. I will be very interested to see if you will take part in any of your school competitions next year.
Having said all that, I feel it is time for the big disclaimer.
I am not shouting “Down with Competitions.” I do understand the importance of competition, especially in the business and sports worlds. Competition laws exist so that consumers can get the best products and services; and as for sports, it is all about competing, winning, and losing. This post is just a mild protest against the saturation of the education system with competition as I feel it defeats one of the major purposes of going to school—learning.