Lessons in Ungodly Rivalry

16 12 2006

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power,

the world will know peace.” — Jimi Hendrix

What if Americans were so polarized that some of us became downright warlike to elect individual darlings from our own tribe, cabal or congregation, the better to claim election results are the will of all the people (or of God) and as such, show something true and powerful for everyone?

You’d get standardized test score rankings, student government and teacher union elections, primary beauty pageants, religious wars and the BCS polls —

And you might get the Wizbang Blog Award race for Best Education Blog of 2006, which ended at midnight as a tight race between a conservative Christian homeschooling mom of six, and two irreverent liberal university blogs.

So what was this blog-election really about?

Was it right versus left wing, or everyday folk versus elitist intellectuals, or homeschoolers versus other education advocates, sacred versus secular, faith versus reason, irony versus piety?

I said I wasn’t going to pander for votes, but we’ve gotten the top two contenders attention. The Professor wants to “crush the homeschoolers” and it is clear from other comments that the educational “elites” don’t like “every day” folks invading their terrain. I guess what’s true in education, is also true in the blogosphere. This isn’t a win for me, but all homeschooling.

Just “rabid acolytes adept at getting out the vote” versus “alums of the same hockey team” (but we’re not bitter, no not us!?)


But is that take on the competition understandable, facing this?

“. . . you’ve created a true place of fellowship here at Spunkyhomeschool. We all seem to feel a personal victory in this right along with you…bearing your burden, rejoicing in your victory, which is for the Glory of our Savior!”

I couldn’t choose a side in such fights; it’s all wrong to me. But don’t mind me — I just think fraught “contests” are as destructive in politics, justice, and the economy as fraught “tests” are in education, for pretty much the same reasons.

Why the Best Thinking Citizens secular or sacred would call contests of beauty, style, popularity or gladiatorial will, might and money the best way to define and disseminate what’s “The Best” is beyond my powers of love OR reasoning.



7 responses

17 12 2006

I always thought there was something wrong with me for not liking competition, until I read Alfie Kohn’s “No Contest: The Case Against Competition.” Now I am comfortable with my belief that there never really are winners in any competition. Acceptance and cooperation are what will ultimately bring out “the best” on both “sides”.

17 12 2006

Glad you brought up Kohn’s No Contest. He was in my mind as I wrote this yesterday.
Although I read Kohn back in the 80s, I think of him often and relate his ideas to what’s going on in our culture now. When I read about collective wisdom, I noticed that the way it works is NOT to put the people or ideas into competition, or to try to get consensus and compromise between them by socializing the people into one level playing field or with one standardized treatment, teaching or testing, etc. Collective wisdom needs true untainted diversity of thought, all sorts of original ideas (unjudged and unspoiled by competition!) and each individual’s “best” thinking, in order for it to work out as actual “wisdom” for everybody in the end.

I could tell the story of when my elementary-aged daughter was recommended for a tv special titled, “The Smartest Kid in America” – what an eye-opener – Nance remembers that, I’ll bet! 🙂

18 12 2006
18 12 2006

“The Professor.”
Strange to see this educational term of ultimate respect used as a pejorative by an award-nominated “education” blogger.

I think this is a symptom of another problem besides competition run amok. I’ve long observed that we all agree education is a Good Thing but can’t agree what it IS.

Few of us are clear about what education “is” even within our own minds, and as a culture we don’t agree on one common definition of education, or how to get it or know when we’ve got it, or what to do with it if we ever do get it — we don’t agree even from family to family and town to town, much less state to state.

So School has co-opted the concept of education and set out to define and delimit it for all of us, in one standardized set of system requirements in tiny print on each factory box, specifying software guaranteed to work with each FTE unit (unless the human chip or “mother-bored” of that unit is somehow defective) to get whatever results the technical designers are marketing for superior performance this year.

That’s not Education. That is Programming. Funny that we literally call them school “programs” yet seldom stop to think what THAT means. The Professor at issue here, for example, champions the AAUP’s “academic freedom for a free society” –the one thing you’d expect home-educating families to unite behind rather than quarreling over — and his field or discipline is “literature and cultural studies.”

Now that’s Education. 🙂

18 12 2006

Maybe this comment sums it up “best” of all:
“I asked my parish priest, and he told me that God doesn’t care who wins the blog award.

19 12 2006

I have a tennis analogy for this topic of hack competition:

Do you know what words of advice inspire the greatest players in the world as they enter Centre Court for Wimbledon, to show what they know and can do?

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same”-
Rudyard Kipling.

IF we inscribed this on every standardized test booklet for every child. . . IF we took it to heart ourselves, then we still might not win ’em all but maybe we could stop feeling like such losers?
I’ve long called test score mania (in both triumph and disaster) the two-edged sword, but “two-edged imposter” could work even better, might at least shut up the most rigid standard skunks — clever fellow Kipling. . .

Full blog-essay “Wimbledon Widget Woes” and comments at Liza’a Culture Kitchen.

20 12 2006

The final post mortem of the final Winner is here.

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