Sunday, 12 July 2015

Celebration In Your Head

At a primary school assembly I was a bit taken aback when, in his preamble to announcing the team with the most house points for the week, the headmaster gently advised winning pupils to celebrate in their heads, rather than letting out an almighty cheer. I’m still not clear about the reasoning, but I guess it hinged on an intention to show respect for the runners-up. Fair enough, but whole school team efforts against other schools, are vigorously applauded. Even when the school team effort fails to make the top three, participants are told they were the best, the other schools just got lucky. There’s humour in the delivery, and I think most of the kids get that, but there’s also, potentially, a mixed message about the value of competition.

Let’s leave the Too Much, Too Soon Campaign – one of my hobby horses - aside for a while, and while we’re at it, let’s put pushy parents on hold, too. So much has already been said about them. Instead, shouldn't we be placing children on centre-stage, and fostering ideas around collaboration rather than competition? I read a really interesting piece recently, by the young writer, Chibundu Onuzo. She observes, “I am not yet halfway through my twenties, and already I am fatigued by the way the world is determined to frame my life. Someone always has more money, a better job, more vibrant social life, more attractive postcode. I am forever to be in competition with this ever elusive someone who is always a stride ahead, their shadow darkening my progress.” It saddens me to think that this is what's in store for my three grandchildren.

And it’s worth remembering that not only children suffer here. I see and hear evidence all the time confirming that many parents have already been sucked into the vying vortex. The problem is, so many of them confuse aggressive competiveness with keen aspiration. They are two different things, entirely. We all want to see our children and grandchildren realise and fulfil their potential, but surely not by viewing everyone as a deadly rival, and overlooking the possibility of a perfect working partnership.

I recall someone saying to me once, “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.” Please don't tell me they were wrong.

6 comments:

  1. That headteacher was misguided in trying to suppress the natural desire for feedback reward, especially for kids of that age. I could bang on at length about that, but not in a blog comment.
    The Too Much Too Soon campaign looks brilliant, btw - thanks for the link.

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    1. Tim, I suspect we share the same hobby horse. Yes, the Too Much Too Soon is a brilliant campaign, and becoming more and more relevant as the government insists on increasing testing for four-year olds.

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  2. It is all a bit depressing - I'm all for everyone enjoying their individual 'race' and not worrying about what others think about you or your progress! Cheering in your head is a bit weird though hahaha ��

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    1. Dead right, Gabrielle. I've tried cheering in my head, and it's very difficult.

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  3. I couldn't agree more. The "vying vortex" is an excellent way of putting it. I believe it was the genius comedian Lily Tomlin who said that about the rat race. So very, very true. And obviously, even those who "make it to the top" - even people who seem to have so much to live for (Robin Williams for one) - don't always find that winning the race is enough. Happiness lies elsewhere...

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    1. Yes, Christine, sadly you are absolutely right. We have people hereabouts who live in fantastic homes, in to-die-for locations. They drive big flashy cars, take two or three exotic holidays each year, yet you rarely get a smile from any of them. Something missing there, definitely.

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