Grow from competition

I often hear not to compare myself to others. Success isn’t a zero sum game, I’m told; someone else may have a faster mile time, for example, but that faster time doesn’t preclude my improving. That other person’s success is entirely independent of my own.

However, while comparisons are often discouraged because they foster supposedly unhealthy, worrisome competition, sometimes that very spirit of competition can push students to achieve more.

I’ve grown from such healthy competition; my older, smarter and stronger brother often pushed me to perform at my best in just about everything: basketball, video games, chess, gifts for parents and even chores. Every time we did something together, it turned into a friendly competition which boosted the intensity in both of our performances. Simply having a tangible benchmark, someone I was looking to either reach or surpass, guaranteed a mentality of hard work and persistence for me, and I guaranteed a similar mentality for him by challenging his dominance.

This same concept of incentive could be applied to the education process. I know this is rather unrealistic and a far stretch from our current system, but take for example, this hypothetical situation: the school could cap the number of “good grades” each class could receive. Rather than scraping by, only churning out the minimal content necessary for achieving a desired letter grade, each student would need to learn the material more in-depth to compete with his or her peers to obtain the limited amount of A and B grades. Such incentive to learn offers the potential for higher achievement.

Students want good grades because grade point averages affect college admissions, possibly shaping the course of their lives. However, this goal prompts students to worry about receiving teachers who threaten their solid GPA’s, even teachers whose harder classes may be better suited to students who need to be pushed to learn. If every class’s grades were curved to the proportionate amount of As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs handed out based solely on competition, suddenly that fight for the forgiving teacher disappears. This could present a new problem, as now there could potentially be a classroom full of mini geniuses all very deserving of As and vise versa. However, the grade ultimately does not matter in the small case of this one class, as the effort to learn is what resonates with their respectable professional careers.

This idea of effort counts is important because the concept of limited space applies to the workforce. Google, for example, hands out a stingy 1,000 jobs out of the 1 million applicants, evidently only seeking out the most hardworking and efficient workers. When it comes down to it, not everyone is rewarded with that glorious “A” grade. In fact, very few are considered to be at the top of the society when it comes to wealth or success, and it would be a benefit for students to realize that earlier. The term “learning institution” implies the development of real world experience, and could prove quite detrimental if every student believes an “A” equivalates to job security or striking it rich. Inflated GPAs dilute the meaning of solid work, and the lower but more accurate result of competition based grades could offer a better picture of a student’s work.

I realize that this all sounds brutal, but perhaps that’s because we have a limited definition of success. It’s not all that brutal if we adjust our thinking; this hypothetical capping of grades could influence our thinking by encouraging us to think more in terms of growing emotionally and mentally. Perhaps the concept of implementing competition so deeply within our education system is beyond our scope of comfort and practicality, and in fact, I can’t say I would want to duke out my grades with other people in my class. In the grand scheme of things we can pick and choose how this approach is beneficial for our near future.

Competition, while not always workable in every situation, is always looming as a means of development. As mentioned earlier, it is true that someone else may have a faster mile time, and that time may have nothing to do with my improving. That, however, doesn’t mean I can’t look to that person and strive to surpass him.

By Brian Chen, Staff writer