Always-unschooled Favorite Daughter marched in her first-ever graduation ceremony last night, seated up front with the perfect GPA president’s list row of students, covered in gold medals and honors sashes as her proud family beamed down, photos to come! But competing against her fellow college students to win academic honors is NOT the subject of this post — quite the opposite.
What is the hardest lesson of win-lose competition? Losing? — so a child learns through misery, to do anything necessary to inflict that misery on the other guy instead?? COD and his commenters had wise words about kids and sports winning-losing, but today I have some new words of my own too.
Training for everything with the goal of making other people into losers so you can triumph, isn’t my idea of family values to teach kids, much less my idea of world-class education to serve our national security interests, with the future of the entire human race and our planet as the ultimate grand prize at stake.
Remember the Matthew Broderick movie, “War Games” — brilliant whiz kid trains himself for the highest possible level of gaming competition, matches minds with the very best human scientists and then dramatically beats the most advanced top-secret national defense computer in the world, by teaching it (and himself) the most important human lesson of all: the only way to win is not to play the game.
The win-or-lose game.
JJ Ross has left a new comment at Mrs C’s blog, on the post with a heartbreaking picture of her seven-year-old son burying his head in defeat at his first chess tournament, sitting right next to the winner and her crowing, competitive and way-overly involved (imo) dad, which she headlined as “The Hardest Lesson”:
“Her dad said that she bombed her first tournament and that it’s just like playing an instrument. It’s training, just like a marathon or anything else.”
Talk about competitive, wow. And I don’t mean the child. [shudder]
Just for some different perspective —
When Young Son was barely four, he was something of a chess whiz and a real Russian chess mistress living on campus here with her doctoral student husband, took a big interest in him, wanted to put him in tournaments because she said he had unusual raw talent etc.
His stunned but proud dad actually started researching ivy league chess scholarships (we were both overachieving firstborns in school and infused with the win-or-lose world view . . .)
The problem was, he couldn’t physically write a lick! To enter tournaments of the kind she wanted him in, you have to write down your moves in chess notation. He learned the notation mentally very quickly but the actual graphic production with pencil and paper, no way. Fine motor skills stood between him and chess glory! 🙂
But it was all for the best that his writing was delayed as it turned out, because by the time he COULD (theoretically — we’re radical unschoolers so we never tested this) write neatly under time pressure, his chess tutoring had ended and with it the focus on competition for ranking rather than each game for its own sake, all the little interlocking puzzles within it that so fascinated him. He’s 13 now and the clock still means almost nothing to him, he runs on Young Son Time, grin — so tournament time pressure on each move probably would have ruined chess as he enjoys it.
Marathons and music are the same (not) training and (not) competition for him. He takes long solitary walks most days but only because he chooses to and enjoys it in his own way, not for speed, fitness, training for competition, imposed virtue or because I throw him out of the house the way adults threw us outside when I was a kid!
Sorry to be long-winded but just to finish up, now he plays a musical instrument that can be played in competition solo or in a band and he practices his head off, absolutely loves it but not because he wants to enter or win any competition, or get better than other pipers. . . he loves the music and loves making it, period.
It’s really a whole different perspective from how I was brought up and schooled, so I haven’t taught it to my kids at all; they’ve taught me.
You can’t know when they are four or seven, what life lessons THEY will teach YOU if you’re still able to learn. Seems to me great home education parenting is not a competitive sport, ideally combining the best of chess and music, as a marathon we finish triumphantly despite not training for it!
Some other snooking around that connects:
and from the physical sports training angle, maybe
Colleges Hot to Attract Winter Wonderkind (pun intended):
My kids are deeply into the arts and entertainment rather than athletics, but it all seems like the same power of story to me and shares the same happy ending, if we can keep our own focus on what counts.
Public success isn’t decided by the diplomas and deeds [or tournament trophies] you have on file, any more than success at home is having the right marriage and birth certificates on file, or money in the bank.
I blogged Wimbledon at Culture Kitchen as proving a case against standardized, mechanized talent development, in kids and other human creatures. Oh, and there’s “Does the Church Play Tennis, Can Prayer Save School and Are You My Mother?”