Monday, July 10, 2017

When You Can't Lose, You Can't Win

You may be aware that primary schools in the United Kingdom, or at least some of them, are banning competition in their athletic activities.  They will play games and sports of some kind, whatever they do in the UK, but they will not keep score or have a "winning team" or winning individual.

To which I say "Yuk ... stupid and shortsighted."

I realize that it is not just in the USA that the left has so infiltrated the teaching profession in both the K-12 arena and, of course, in the colleges and universities.  The teachers' unions are incredibly far left, and they press this whole utopian notion that play is all rainbows and unicorns, and that competition is an ugly notion that appeals to the testosteronized male, which is, by definition, bad.

Yes, it is stupid and shortsighted.  No one likes to lose, let's face it.  I certainly don't like to lose in any aspect of life, and I'm an expert on it.  I'd been declined for dates way back when; I never got elected to a school office I ran for.  I've sung in groups that finished last in competitions.  I was a competitive golfer in high school and college, and lost as often as I won, I think.  And I remember the losses more.

Professionally, I have been turned down for jobs more times than I can count.  I write proposals for a living, and God knows how often those have lost, and that is never pleasant, especially when you have poured months into preparing them.  And I was a Red Sox fan for 50 years before they finally won a World Series in 2004.

But here's the thing.  You learn from all of that.  When you lose, you may cry for a bit, particularly (but not exclusively) when you're very young.  And if you have a parent or two who knows how to raise children, well, here is what they do.  They stop you in your tracks, comfort you and then explain that losing is a way to let you know how and where you can improve.  They might also explain that losing happens, and here is how you should respond -- by getting better, by understanding luck, by working harder.

There is no doubt about it.  Losing hurts, but losing is necessary.  Taking the option of "losing" away, by removing competition, takes away the lesson -- and the recovery.

My best girl saw the same little clip about the UK primary schools and made a fascinating analogy.  Plants, she said, that get nothing but sunshine burn up and die.  They need the things that aren't the most pleasant things for us -- like getting rained on and getting, um, pooped on.  They're not pleasant, yes, but they are the equivalent of losing, in plant world.  We all love the sunshine, but there is more to growing than unending sunshine; you need to get watered and fertilized.

And so do we.

I'm not advocating throwing our primary school students out in the rain and pooping on them.  OK, some of the ones behind me on airplanes, yeah, I wouldn't mind if they got a little rain and poop.

But I am advocating a breadth of experiences for growing children.  Let them know losing and winning, success and failures, if only so they don't grow up expecting a Utopia that does not exist.  More importantly, so they learn the biggest lesson -- to respond to failure by turning to a regimen of self-improvement.

Would that not make for a better world?  Well, at least it would make for a better set of UK primary schools.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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