Opinion: Education’s competition problem

Competition exists in our everyday lives–in sports, academic teams, and classes. For today, let’s establish how a typical competition works–say, something like a speech competition. There will be participants in the speech. There will also be judges. One by one, the participants go up and present, and based on whatever rubric the judges have, each participant will earn a score. Through the score, the competitors are ranked first, second, and so on.

Now let’s take a second competition. It’s a competition of the animal kingdom. Our judge will be a human. And the competitors will be the following: a chimpanzee, a goldfish, a giraffe, an elephant, and another human. And what skill will they be competing in? The ability to climb a tree. It is this competition that will supposedly determine the future success rate of these competitors.

Now, we let this glorious competition begin. First, we have the chimpanzee. Wow, he can climb! Alright, he passes. Oh, then we have the goldfish. Nope, he fails. A giraffe–yea he can reach high, but he cannot climb. So much for the elephant. And the human–almost, but not as good as the chimp.

So, the study concludes, the chimpanzee is going to be really successful in his future survival, and all the other organisms can just give up. That is what this competition is saying; that is what our educational system is saying.

And that is the precise problem with our educational system. It is competition-based. It tells who wins and who loses based on only a handful of skills. But is the giraffe, elephant, and human really going to fail in life just because they cannot climb a tree? The giraffe has a high neck to make up for it. The elephant may not be agile, but it definitely has serious strength. And humans? They are the most dominant species on Earth right now. As Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a goldfish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”

The same goes with us students. Our educational system aims to procure the most successful people in the future, and the way the system determines that is via a set standard. Oh, you have a higher SAT score? You have better grades? Alright, go ahead to a good college. You’re not doing so well in school? I’m sorry, you won’t be doing so well in your future. But really? As you can see, that’s definitely not the case. Grades, scores, and the amount of extracurricular activities–all those things colleges look for– they don’t tell anything. Once again, they test only one variety of skills. They miss out on the student’s hidden potential.

Each of us is unique–in the way we think, in the way we act, in the way we write, in the way we talk. There is no set standard, no set rubric, on what defines good or not. Each of us is good in one way or another. To repeat, we are all geniuses. So the aim of the educational system should not be to determine who is better or not based on one scale, but to supply an environment where each and every individual can have his or her genius shine out.

To be honest, I do not have a good solution. But this is a problem that will require more than one mind to solve. It will require a collaborative effort from students, parents, and society.

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