Student Competition in Classroom Competes With learning

One expects the rule of survival of the fittest in the African savannah, where lions kill gazelles and zebras, but not in the classrooms of a high school campus. Yet competition makes students just as cutthroat and bloodthirsty as certain dangerous jungle cats.

Competition has become firmly rooted into American classrooms as students compete for higher scores on tests, higher grades in classes, higher GPAs and college admissions. But competition is detrimental to learning and should be removed from the classroom.

Competition can devalue actual learning. Students become focused on the outcome of tests instead of the actual process of learning something new. They do what it takes to win or get the highest grade and lose the joy of gaining new knowledge. There is no more learning just for the sake of learning.

“Competition is good if students are doing it to show how much they learned,” math teacher Stephen Cochran said. “[But] it’s bad if all that matters is the grade.”

For some students, competition can provide a drive to succeed. They work hard in their classes in order to be the best.

But students who focus on grades alone cannot succeed as well in the real world as those people who are self-motivating and care about what they do.

When students’ only goal is to do well on a test, their motivation is based on external rewards. But students who enjoy the process of learning are motivated internally. When competition causes students to stop caring about learning, intrinsic motivation is lost.

Also, competition creates animosity among classmates. Often, teachers curve tests based on the highest score in a class. When one student scores way above the rest, creating a small curve, other students often resent the overachiever who causes lower grades for the rest of the class.

In addition, while working in groups, competition makes relationships suffer. With the emphasis on doing well, dominant members take control of groups without regard to the feelings of their teammates. If the group does poorly, angry members blame each other, ruining personal bonds.

Applying to college has become yet another competition. Students want to beat out their peers for acceptances into Ivy League schools. Students are so focused on getting into what Newsweek considers the “best colleges“ that they forget that there are other colleges out there that might better suit their needs.

Instead of competing with one another, people should cooperate and help each other succeed. Teamwork is more effective and peaceful than competition.

“In a Utopian society we all work together, study together, learn together… and perform the same,” Cochran said.

While competition can be helpful, it is important not to take it too far. People should focus on not just raising the bar for themselves, but on helping to raise the bar for everyone.