This morning I found out that ‘Human’ came second in the “Best New Blog” category at the 2008 Edublogs Awards. The quick, competitive part of me went “oh bugger, a handful of votes and I’d have won it” but then the wiser part of me thanked again, firstly the thousands (!) of people who have taken their time to read and engage with my blog since May this year, secondly a number of people around the world who nominated ‘Human’ for 2008 Eddie and thirdly, the people who clicked next to my blog’s name on the voting card. It really is an honour.
Is this starting to sound like “show-me-a-good-loser-and-I’ll-show-you-a-loser” script right now? Someone bitter to have come second going all phoney philosophical? Not quite I’d say…
I have competed many times and at the highest level as a water polo player (and other sports and roles). There the competition was necessary, prepared and called for. The whole point was to win that game, cup, league, championship etc. In each case, the prize was scarce, reserved for the winner, not for the trail of losers. There was adrenaline, we pushed hard and did as best as we could. Sometimes competition is truly wonderful and exhilarating. And I have always loved winning, you bet! This is where this morning’s immediate “oh bugger” comes from – but it didn’t last long.
I quickly refused to worship the ‘false God’ of competition this morning and feel like ‘the first loser’. Why? Because I have not written a single word in my blog with the intention of winning a(ny) prizes or awards. I am owed absolutely nothing, yet I have gained so much by writing ‘Human’. In fact, to be nominated by peers was probably a bigger thrill than voting and (not) winning and/or coming second (to Angela who has done a great job). But there is another part of me that has sat uncomfortably with the idea of competition.
Every day I see the havoc the ‘false God’ of competition wreaks in the game of education many of us are a part of. The zero-sum mentality of winning and losing that pits students, schools, districts, indeed the whole countries is like junk food. Nicely packaged, addictive, brilliantly marketed, quick to consume – but it is bloating, fattening crap that is kinda good sometimes (yes, I do enjoy the odd drive-through burger) but you would not want to live on it. Yet it continues to ruin so many of them, while shortchanging the future and potential of so many brilliant (young) minds.
If you pause and think for a moment – when you set something against ‘the other’, the winning (grades, awards, prizes, scores…), rather than doing well (learning, improving understanding, acting ethically…), becomes the focus. Yet the winning is relative. You can win by actually doing worse than before, as long as others are worse than you. Does that sit comfortably with you? Would you teach like that in your class? Would you tell the maxim “it’s OK as long as there is someone worse than you…” to your grandchildren as a wise old (wo)man one day?
This year I have been irrevocably drawn by some of the wonderful antidotes to unhelpful competition. Blogging, Web 2.0, Moodle, Open Source software, social networking, to mention a few, are not about competition but all about collaboration between real people freely sharing, learning, critiquing (we need more of it in the blogworld!, not to be confused with criticising) each other’s work. In short, they transcend rivalry.
The amount of new insights, collections of resources etc. freely available has certainly enriched breadth and depth of my knowledge and experience in many fields and ways this year. In all of this, I have strongly felt a growing sense of a supportive community instead of the market mentality.
Or as A. Kohn puts it “the bottom line is not victory for some, it is learning for all”.
OK, here come my Christmas “thank you”s…
To all my readers and particularly the contributors/ commentators a massive THANK YOU (honestly, I would mention every one of you and link to your blogs and sites but I DO have to sleep !).
I knew only a handful of you before starting ‘Human’ this year. Seven months later, I feel like we have known each other for years.
I’m (b)logging off for a few weeks to spend more time with my family and enjoy the summer holidays, recharge my batteries, then hopefully make ‘Human’ an even better place to share and learn in 2009.
Best wishes to all !
PS Congrats to Angela Maiers for winning the Best New Blog Eddie 2008! Some great stuff there, go and visit. Well done!