So I tweeted the following about a week ago:
“I’m tired of hearing we need to prepare students for a competitive workforce, we need to prepare them for a collaborative one.”
Jon Becker immediately replied:
Which I thought was brillant, but then I was challenged with the following from Daylynn (Read from bottom tweet up).
First, I truly value the pushback because she is making me think hard about what I wrote. Frankly, however, I’m still quite torn about all of this. It bothers me to think that we are in the business of preparing students to compete against the Chinese.
Competition in education can be fun, motivating and invoke passion on a small scale, but I can’t help but wonder whether it is good on the large scale. Let’ look at two other sports as examples. Major League Baseball (MLB) does not have revenue sharing (other than a luxury tax) so each team is responsible for generating its own revenue. This leaves teams in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Toronto at a considerable disadvantage to the New Yorks, Bostons and Philadelphias of the world. We know today, that New York, Boston and Philly will be competitive and yes, we may have a Tampa Bay-like team make a run with a bunch of young, inexpensive players, but they can’t sustain ability to stay competitive for a long time. The National Football League (NFL) has full revenue sharing however, which, along with a bottom and top salary cap, has created a much more sustainable, competitive model. This was based on a decision Wellington Mara, long time owner of the NY Giants made to share revenue with all teams in the league. This allows teams from Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and New Orleans to compete with the New York, Boston and Chicago teams. Because the NFL established a structure in which all teams benefit from the success of one, they league is much healthier. In MLB, however, the success of Boston or New York has no impact on the Minnesota Twins.
Yet, the one thing they have in common is that both are structured around competition, the games that their teams play. Yet, the competition is healthier and the teams are financially healthier in the NFL because of their willingness to collaborate with all other teams.
If it wasn’t for the collaborative umbrella under which the competitions take place, the Green Bay Packers would not be owned by the citizens of Green Bay. (How does the L.A. Packers sound?)
So, I’m wondering… if our schools created a culture of collaboration with small scale competitions still taking place (within classrooms for example), would more students benefit, much like all the teams in the NFL do? There would be no place in this culture for class rank, leveling, or tracking. Instead I envision teamwork, mentors, and communities of practice forming to help raise the level of all students. I could even see “special education” being nothing other than a recognition that all students are “atypical” learners and that their academic well-being is the responsibility of the entire school community.
While I’m still developing my thoughts here, I can say that they are coming from a real visceral place deep within me, one that sees no place for cultures of competition in our schools.