Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why I don't like the Edublog Awards

Because I believe learning should always be framed as a collaborative activity and never a competitive one, I am critical of the Edublog awards.

Before you run off hating me, I would ask that you suspend judgment long enough to at least hear me out -- then you can run off hating me.

I realize this isn't going to win me many fans, and I'm likely to lose followers on Twitter and subscribers to my blog, but I guess that would be my point. How many people have jumped on the Edublog Award bandwagon and think it's a good idea? Is anyone out there giving pause long enough to think about whether educational leaders should be "recognizing excellence" in a way that pits us against each other as we vie for artificially scarce awards?

That I can count on one hand the number of people who publicly speak their doubts about these awards, leads me to believe that many have resigned themselves to groupthink or simply don't feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. Either way, this is can't be okay.

There are many responses to my criticism for the Edublog Awards. Here are a couple followed by my rebuttal:

Competition might be bad for kids, but we are adults.

  • Even if this were true, there is an award for "The Best Student Blog". This year, five children who attend K-12 schools somewhere in the world named Jaden, Miriam, Jake, Jarrod and Gemma were pit against each other so adults could vote for their favorite. Would this be an appropriate way to "recognize excellence" in your classroom? If not, then why is this okay? On top of this, scientific research and anecdotal evidence both tell us that collaboration trumps competition. Always. This is true for children and adults alike.
  • It's also important to note that the children are always watching. While we flood Twitter with our support for this competition, we are modelling for our students and colleagues that competition is more important than collaboration, recognition is something you get when you defeat others and success is arbitrarily scarce.
Why do some people feel compelled to rain on others' parade? Can't we recognize excellence?
  • Labelling doubts about Edublog Awards as a personal attack on the winners misrepresents the issue as personal when it is a systemic problem. The issue isn't over who was nominated or who won, rather, the real issue is that anyone is nominated or that anyone wins or loses. I don't disparage the winners anymore than the losers (full disclosure: I was nominated) -- but I do wish that this kind of recognition was not artificially scarce and dispersed to only a select, popular few.
Can't we celebrate excellence? Why are you so against naming names?
  • I'm not arguing that nobody can be named. In fact, I'm all for recognizing excellence and naming lots of names. But I am against the notion that we arbitrarily name only a select few names while arbitrarily excluding others. Recognizing excellence and declaring winners are not the same thing.
So if you're against awards, does this mean you will not accept awards? Does this mean your children will not accept awards?
  • That it is really, really hard for people to say 'no thank you' to being nominated or winning should tell us something about the bullying nature of awards. Someone who turns down a nomination or an award is likely to be seen as ungrateful and someone who does not win or is not nominated and criticizes is likely to be labelled jealous. Either way, the idea that we should compete for artificially scarce recognition remains unscathed. The status quo has remarkable momentum.
  • I have seen with my own eyes how awards can rupture relationships between winners and losers.  I've seen people placed in situations where they were made to win over and conquer their peers and they wanted nothing to do with the situation. This sounds awfully like bullying to me. This is precisely why I helped abolish award ceremonies at one of my previous schools. Chris Wejr has a remarkable list of links on rethinking award ceremonies and has started a movement for Honouring All Students. What's good for the kids is equally good for the adults.
These awards allow us to expand our Professional Learning Networks by introducing us to new blogs.
  • I agree. It's true. These awards can be used to grow your network but I would argue that this is better done through collaboration rather than competition. Do we need the Oscars to tell us which movies to watch or Oprah to decide which books to read? If you want to find a good book, go to a library that has lots of books. If we really cared about expanding our PLNs, why not make the EduBlog Awards like the phone book or a dictionary where all blogs are listed for all to see all year long?
Our belief in the value of competition is built on a great number myths. It takes courage to cultivate a community of learners without resorting to killing it with competition.


  1. I think you raise important questions here--ones worth pondering as opposed to simply reacting to. I wonder if through 'award' shows we don't privilege the status quo. In this case the belief that dichotomies reflect reality: nominees/non-nominees; winners/losers. Are there no other ways to arrange the world? Is our imagination limited to maintaining dualities?

    I think Robert Frost said it best:

    "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence."
    (from 'Mending Wall')

    Celebrating definitions (note the plural) of excellence should never be confused with contests where some win and others lose. The distance between is enormous.

  2. Thanks for posting this! I actually commented on someone who was nominated for said award. She was encouraging her readers to vote for her because she wanted to be awarded the "best teacher blogger." I was really turned off by this because I thought...what message is she sending to her students if she did not win said award. I asked if she needed the award as validation AND was having 1,000 followers not enough validation. I don't think she cared too much for my comment, as she mentioned that I was passing judgement on judgement, just curious of why all the self promotion for an award saying that you are the best teacher blogger. No worries...I will remain a follower.

  3. Melissa's experience makes me wonder if these awards are "celebrating excellence" or popularity.

  4. I think these are great comments. Melissa commented on my blog. The reason I wrote my post was because I was nominated in five categories and, to me, I didn't feel I deserved a lifetime achievement award after only 6 years of blogging. So, I said which awards I felt that would mean something and best teacher blog was one of them. I also wanted to thank the who nominated me. It is a pain to nominate for those awards and I should acknowledge that. Enough of that.

    Secondly, all awards are flawed. Especially ones involving online polls. This poll was based on ip address. That means if someone really wanted to and thy had a mifi card, they could turn it off and on again and vote all they wanted. Hopefully no one did that but the fact is that it is easily hackable. The awards were given in most categories with just a couple of hundred votes. Not many.

    Online polls are flawed. Period. See these for what they are. The people who win must mobilize their friends, fans, family and schools to win by ASKING. Period. You will see that behind everyone who won. If you want to win. You ask.

    Don't ask. Don't win. The name of the game. I don't apologize for telling my readers about the awards for this reason. You never know unless you ask.

    But I think it is fine to have these conversations. We should always know that the best value of the eddies or any other award like it that is popularity based is to help us find new voices. Help us see new people. Truthfully, every link to the eddies opens up more conversation.

    It is ok. In life not everyone can get an award and not everyone deserves it. The best awards is always knowing that you helped someone. None of us would ever blog just because of the eddies, that would be silly. But it would also be silly to ignore something that recognizes excellence in what you love. I get up every morning at 5 am to write and set up my tweets for the day. Blogging and Tweeting is very near and dear to my heart.

    Just see these for what they are and it is fine. But to have nothing to recognize rank and file teachers means the only educational writers would be journalists etc and that would be sad.

    None of us will unfollow you for this post. It is well written and has good points. Likewise, Melissa, no blogger worth a flip would take your comment with offense. When you ask like I did it is a risk you run and there are always people to disagree with something in every post. It is the nature of this beautiful wonderful online conversation. Up with edublogging.

  5. Thank you for posting this. Maybe we have been so conditioned by Society to believe that competition -- however "healthy" -- inspires us to work harder? Have we ourselves been, in Alphie Kohn's words, "punished by rewards" far too long to realize that intrinsic motivation even exists? I believe that it does exist but is not nurtured. Is it harder to nurture because there are no external measures for it? Or because it takes longer to cultivate within an individual? I don't propose to have the answers to these questions. Maybe we should nurture internal motivation more and reward less? Maybe that will lead to more individuals who think out of the box without concern as to whether others may or may not agree or whether they will win an award for their efforts. Who knows?

  6. I agree with many ideas you raise, especially about recognizing excellence instead of arbitrarilly limiting recognition to a set number of winners.

    However, I don't think that necessarily should lead to making awards into a phone book of blogs. A directory isn't a bad idea, but I feel there is still a place for recognizing blogs that excell and produce a consistent high quality of content.

    I personally find that students can see through the "everyone is a winner" phisolophy and aren't impressed with this kind of recognition. I'm not saying there have to be winners and losers, but students feel patronized if they are given praise they don't think they earned. Instead of simply saying "everybody wins" or "everyone is great", we should actually be working to help students improve.

    Going into a library with lots of books doesn't necessarily help you find a good one. I can browse through thousands of eBooks with my eReader but that's of limited use since I don't have time to download and read the first chapters of dozens of them before finally finding one that's interesting to me. Here, rankings and recommendations help connect me with quality content.

  7. Thanks Joe, it is all about keeping the air moving....


  8. I nominated two home educators blogs to widen the discourse (Parents at the Helm and the Unplugged Mom). I hope home educators step up next year. Several other of my nominations were "short-listed" and fall in the category of outside the box thinking. I think it's valuable to remind the world of these "thinkers"... this event is just one way. Then I created my own awards attached to my blog Grumpy Educators..and announced The Grumpy Award. Those nominated were honored!

  9. I nominated two home educators blogs to widen the discourse (Parents at the Helm and the Unplugged Mom). I hope home educators step up next year. Several other of my nominations were "short-listed" and fall in the category of outside the box thinking. I think it's valuable to remind the world of these "thinkers"... this event is just one way. Then I created my own awards attached to my blog Grumpy Educators..and announced The Grumpy Award. Those nominated were honored!

  10. "See me, hear me, love me"... I think this is what the edublog awards, and other blog recognition awards, are about for some (most?) recipients. The real problem is that many, many really good bits of blog writing will go unnoticed as the spotlight is placed on the nominations and winners. (For Pete's sake we even display nominations as victories.)

    I'm not opposed to awards when they are criterion referenced and available to all who meet the criteria... providing a badge of recognition to ALL (not just those who are nominated) who meet the criteria is something that can be done to illuminate the effort it takes to create a good blog... (and by "good" I of course mean as defined in the context and purpose that would be pre-defined in the criteria.)

    I would like to see the widget that indicated "I receieved an edublog award nomination, but turned it down because I was too busy thinking about what i was going to write next."


  11. I agree completely and will now remove all vestiges of awards from my blog (I only get nominations, I never win).

  12. If you hadn't mentioned it, most readers would never have known these exist. I guess it wasn't an honour just to be nominated.

  13. Actually Joe there were more than 40 nominations in the Best Student Category and four of the students came from my class this year. The problem I have with this whole issue of awards and recognition is that my four students made the final because they showed initiative and nominated each other. Were they the best four bloggers from my class? Possibly but not necessarily? Did any of them win or even make the final five? No, because as students they lacked the networking power to garner support via other blog posts and twitter as well as the fact that we are now on school holidays here in Australia, so we couldn't, if we had wanted to, push the awards through our school networks either. I do have to admit I blogged myself about them as I was proud that they took it upon themselves to get nominated.
    While the fact none of them came close to winning does not bother me at all and I hope it does not bother them, I was surprised to see however, that the actual winner had so few votes. Is his blog the best student blog in this group? Perhaps, but until these kind of awards are judged on merit, one has to assume he won because he or his teacher used their networks to gain votes. Will I encourage my students to enter next year? Since I neither encouraged nor discouraged them this year, I will have to wait and see if any of them take it upon themselves to enter the fray!

  14. Hi Joe

    All good food for thought! This is the first year I have used a class blog ... my students have had an exciting ride interacting with the world outside of our classroom for the short 4 months-ish we have been online. Our blog was nominated and the buzz that went round our school simply because 'someone in the real world who we didn't know thought our blog was worth it' was amazing. That recognition was actually enough to cause a small revolution which will see more classes take on blogs next year.

    We did promote the voting system on our school website but we (my class and I) completely understood that this was a popularity poll. We had no expectation of winning and, you are right, winning actually had no value to us ... we had already had our recognition. We did display the nomination badge ... however, again, it wasn't the fact it was edublogs (no-one else in my school had any idea what that was until I told them) ... it was the fact that someone else valued what my students had written enough to nominate them.

    So, maybe being nominated for a directory would still have the same effect for us ... my students' simply felt valued by someone other than me!


  15. Joe, if a post makes me think...I mean deep, meaningful contemplation here...then I find it valuable. This post has done just that. Really forcing me to evaluation my own position on the topic.

    Time for some full disclosure...
    I blogged a list of nominees. They were people I admire and I wanted not necessarily for them to win, but I wanted to give their work exposure, which I think the eddies does. Also, rather ironically, my nomination for best individual blog was (wait for it)...this one. I want everyone who reads my blog to know about your blog because "for the love of learning" (and all the other folks I nominated) inspire me. I thought of the nominations as a way of citing my sources, if you will. And I think your blog is awesome. Cause it is.

    Finally, I just want to thank you for this post because it adds so much to the discourse and it's an example of what I love about blogging and PLNs...but it also illustrates what I don't like--the way things like the awards and Klout scores and ISTE acceptances make us all crave recognition and pats on the back and all that. What I admire about you is that you're obviously in this for one reason...fixing something that's broken. And that's exactly what I want to do, too.

    Thanks so much for all you do.

    --Ben (@engaginged)

  16. I always find it interesting that when we say we should not have awards, we move to "everyone gets an award".... Huh? Why do we have to give ANYONE an award. The best form of feedback is when someone challenges you with a comment and then helps to spread the conversation.

    There does need to be a better way to get newer voices heard... But the blog awards just showcase those that already have a lot of followers.

    If you read a good post, comment and tweet it... Don't give it a silly badge.

  17. Same thing for those who brag about their Klout scores on Twitter.

  18. I have found many great blogs (new to me) via the Edublog Awards voting process so I have found the process valuable in that way.

    I didn't vote because I don't know enough of the blogs to compare them BUT if I did vote, it would not be a personal vote for the person (or a rejection of the other blogger) but a vote to affirm how much I appreciate the blog I voted for.

    I like knowing when a blog resonates with a wide audience of educators and the badge helps me know that. Having said that, I am equally interested in interesting posts without badges. The badge, to me, represents a comment 'This blog is interesting to many people.'

    I think the Edublog Awards raise the profile of many blogs and help us engage in higher level thinking (think of Blooms' evaluation category): What makes a blog good? What criteria do we use to judge a blog? Have I compared enough blogs to make a personal choice as to my favourite? Is it an informed choice?

    I do enjoy this post as it asks the existential question: Should Edublog Awards exist? A good question too.

    @mmeveilleux (Ingrid)

  19. I have been using Twitter for just over a year, but have caught the buzz of the edublogs season twice now. I don't want to offend anyone, but a lot if it seemed silly from the outside looking in. I didn't vote for anybody, but it still left me feeling a bit bad because I was already familiar with the work and commitment of some of the nominees.
    I am very thankful to see this discussion here and the respectful challenge to this whole process. I think it refreshes my outlook in continuing to use Twitter and read blogs.

    Thanks Joe!

  20. I am appreciating this discussion. It seems that many are holding firm to supporting this type of awarding while many are holding firm that there should be a better or different way. I'm learning a lot from reading reading both points of view, but just as I feel uncomfortable at my school awards assemblies and am working towards getting them changed or just plain canceled I felt uncomfortable with these awards so stayed away from it until I began to read discussions like this one.

    The part that I wish would not happen and I'm glad it's being raised here is that discussion and disagreement are so important to learning, growing and changing that we shouldn't be calling each other names. The nominees and winners shouldn't be called extrinsic junkies or whatever they're being called and the naysayers shouldn't be called ungrateful or jealous. Why call anyone anything? Let's disagree and discuss!

  21. Recognizing, honoring, supporting, and applauding educators who are sharing and developing their learning online is a wonderful thing. Declaring that there could possibly be a "best twitter hashtag" is ludicrous.

    I'm not surprised that you're finding your stance to be unpopular, Joe. There is no shortage of appetite for awards out there. Oscars, Grammys, leg lamps.

    My opinion is that it's more worthwhile to skip the superlatives and badges and focus on creating ongoing opportunities to raise awareness of the wonderful work that educators and students are doing worldwide. Come to think of it, this already happens every single day on Twitter.

    Thank you for writing this post, Joe. Kudos for your thoughtfulness and courage.

  22. Though on most points I agree with you, even if I didn't, I wouldn't be upset with you. Why set yourself up with "I realize this isn't going to win me many fans, and I'm likely to lose followers on Twitter and subscribers to my blog... "? Do you think those who agree with these awards are so petty that because you have a differing opinion, they'll hold it against you?

  23. I nominated people but only a couple got through and so I didn't vote because I wasn't happy that some really great people who comments into the triple figures didn't get through.

    Any competition can be easily influenced such as if I got all my 300 students to vote for me then I'd win something.In the end people should be happy to help others and not get competitive.Yes, it may get addictive and help you somehow but that shouldn't be the motivation.

  24. The fact that Vicki Davis had to take 8 paragraphs to explain herself regarding a comment made on her blog continues to prove why the edublog awards bring out the worst in some people. Time to get over yourself, Coolcat.

    The edublogs are nothing more than a link back to the edublog website, mixed in with a bit of bringing attention to some bloggers, tweeters, and such.

    The removal of the word award and replace it with an acknowledgement to all for their appreciated hard work would be more than adequate and also helpful to all.


  25. I would have written a shorter comment but I didn't have the time! :-) I guess it was a pretty verbose answer.

    Transparancy means full disclosure. We say who we are. We try to be as honest as we can.

    All social media has an element of self promotion. The author of this post has tweeted out that he wrote this post multiple times. If social media had a humility contest, I doubt anyone would deserve to win. All we can do is do our best and treat each other with respect. We are all busy people and I think most edubloggers have good hearts and are just trying to do their best.

  26. "we are modelling for our students"

    "Before you run off hating me"

    "Time to get over yourself, Coolcat"

    Just plucking out my standouts from this conversation!

  27. Thanks for writing this post, Joe. I've been thinking a lot about the entire Twitter, blogging, and #edtech "PLN" and promotion, and I feel like the critical perspective is the minority and marginalized group.

    Tyson asks about your disclaimer at the beginning. I can see what you'd want to write them. You mention "groupthink" and this is a key implication here. I found it also with #pencilchat. There are K-12 edtech trends, values, practices, and even particular practitioners that gain popularity. I sit in front of my laptop, asking "WHY, WHY WHY!?" Are people thinking about who/what they are promoting? What is the purpose & what are the implications of such things like Edublog Awards? Sure, one may claim we are recognizing key educators and classrooms sharing and collaborating. What about the blogs that are only read by a select few? What about those teachers who don't blog at all but do collaborative and transparent learning themselves and/or with their students? What about those who don't even know about all of this...?

    I see a large number of educators celebrating each other here on Twitter and through these Edublog awards, but I think it takes away from the heart of the matter. Why is blogging - or more specifically, the sharing, reflection, and collaboration of learning - important? Are we working to help other recognize these affordances or are we too busy voting away? The work often needs to be done off-line...

  28. Good to hear this. I always feel a bit uncomfortable about these awards and try to keep my head down and focus on why I started blogging in the first place.

    Thanks for this


    Nik Peachey

  29. Joe,
    Thanks for posting this. As you know, most of your quotes here came from me, as it was mostly you and I engaged that evening and I'm sure this post resulted from the frustration of not being able to fully express yourself in 140 characters. I completely understand. I think we can agree to disagree. Here is my full response: (To those of you who are commenting anonymously, yet bashing those who are very giving people, like Vicki: shame on you.)

  30. Lee, I read your post.

    We both agree in recognition, but do we agree that recognition does not need to be done via competition?

  31. Joe - you did not mention that at the most basic level, this is not about recognition for educators, but promotion for a vendor. How many links go back to Edublogs, which yes, does offer some free and valuable services, but at the end of the day, this is all just free advertising for them.

    Good for them for recognizing that educators will promote their company for free. Too bad, as you point out, "awards" like this bring out jealousy and pride for something not really warranted.

  32. Joe,

    I completely agree with your concerns regarding competition and rewards.

    However, it seems that you're making a high-brow argument where none is necessary.

    Social media IS junior high school. It's all about counting followers, "friends," retweets and the number of comments. It's only a matter of time when films like "Heathers" and "Young Adult" are made about the "most-popular-blogger-in-the-land" and how cool it is that he/she was nominated for a zillion blogging awards and has the most followers, only to get their comeuppance.

    Like everything else in popular culture, the most simplistic "acts" will get all of the attention. Education magazines have been filled with dazzling bulletin board decorating ideas for decades. Many edublogs are the digital equivalent. With the exception of handful of thoughtful blogs, like yours, most "edublogs" merely reinforce the educational status quo. Even if the blogger proclaims herself a reformer, often she is in the words of another social media star, merely "putting lipstick on a pig."

    Blogging is at its best, writing. How many teachers or "award-winning" bloggers would be eligible for a best writing award? In most cases it is quite trivial writing on a wall or yelling down a well. It's brevity, lack of editing and the illusion of audience is a large part of its appeal.

    Blogging for a few years might as well qualify you for a lifetime achievement award since blogging is such an immature medium. Months may be a blogging lifetime. Then again, how many of these posts will endure or make a contribution to knowledge.

    I suppose I should start issuing Stager Certified Educator Certificates again. It appears that a great many educators need affirmation.

    Perhaps, I will just attach a "Teachers are Special" button to my festive holiday sweater and take to the mall.

  33. Art is rarely awarded. Pop culture is.

    This whole debate about edublogging awards reminds me of a concert I attended last evening. It was Stevie Wonder's annual Christmas benefit concert in which he features a dozen or young or popular entertainers before using whatever time is left over for Stevie, a true artist, to demonstrate what talent and the results of artistic longevity looks/sounds like.

    So, a children's choir, precocious 13 year-old Mariah Carey wannabes and one-hit wonders preceded Justin Bieber and Drake. The mention of Justin Bieber attracted more screams and audience hysteria than when he actually performed. We are supposed to scream for Justin Bieber and Drake. They do not have to earn our applause and adoration.

    The most astonishing moment of the very long concert was the performance by Little Anthony and the Imperials. (I didn't know they were still alive) This was no nostalgia act. They came out and burned the house down with ferocious renditions of "Tears on My Pillow" and "Goin' Out of My Head." There were no demands to "Get up! Get up!" or "Now SCR-E-AM!" They didn't complain about the amount of reverb in their monitors like The Biebs did. There was no posing, time wasting or mindless banter. They just came out and schooled the assembled crowd in what excellence looks like after fifty years of work. This was not lip-synching or karaoke. The music sounded fresh and made you want to scream with joy.

    Little Anthony and the Imperials waited 23 years after eligibility to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, longer than any other group. Somehow, I doubt that Justin Bieber, Drake, Faith Evans of any of the "popular" performers on last night's program stuck around to LISTEN TO and LEARN FROM Stevie Wonder, The Imperials, Michael McDonald or gifted young jazz pianist, Gerald Clayton. In fact, I'd be willing to bet all of my future Edublog awards that they couldn't be bothered.

    What's to learn? They're popular.

  34. I was wondering if Lee would be so kind as to define "bashing" for us?

  35. I hereby proclaim the world's greatest edublogger ever!

    They should retire all edublogger awards with this long-overdue recognition.

  36. What is hurtful is not the edublog awards. What is hurtful is how some of you have treated me in this post. If you disagree with me, fine. Disagree with me, but to be unkind (anonymously no less) is something I won't allow in my students or on my own blog.

    I was working on a response on my blog, but then I realized that this conversation was totally getting me off track from what we should all be doing: 1) enjoying our family and holidays and 2) doing good with the platforms we have.

    So, I challenge each of you to set aside the pettiness over this topic and to speak out for the truly helpless this holiday season. Human slavery is a horrible thing and over 12 million people are in slavery right now as we speak. #endslavery

    If we all tweet and blog and give our support to the organization of our choice we can use social media for some good while we are on our holidays and the students are out.

    Maybe we can teach with our actions and demonstrate that we are noble as educators.

    But when we behave in less than noble ways, people will think poorly of us. We must learn to disagree without being disagreeable.

    People think less of edubloggers when they see the kind of conversations that this post has generated.

    When we tear each other apart we leave less for doing good things in this world. IF you hate me, that is fine. IF you think I'm arrogant, then so what. These are but small trivial issues in a world with much bigger problems than such silliness as this.

    I wish no one any ill here, and am forgiving those of you who have been making fun of me both here and on Twitter. You don't know me and if that is how you choose to use your time then I feel sorry for you.

    There are more important things to do in this world than to be angry and unkind.

    Although I thought Gary was a bit unkind in his post as well, at least he had the guts to sign his name. Gary has never made it a secret that he doesn't respect me so there are no surprises there. I respect him, however, and think he has written some great pieces in magazines.

    Many of us are going to be in this profession for a mighty long time. We will see each other face to face. Respect should underlie what we do as educators because that is what we want for the world.

  37. This is exactly why every student in college has heard the term " now in the real world." This is exactly why there is the saying in our culture that "those who can do and those who can't teach." This anti-competition view is so out of step with reality that it can only exist in the world of hypothetical ideas. Based on this view, I guess we should get rid of all competition in academics -- no more spelling bees or honor societies -- and we should start accepting applicants to Ivy league schools on a first-come- first-served basis. We should also get rid of all school sports as well. My God! Pitting school teams against each other.... how barbaric and insensitive! Cheerleaders have to go, too, unless they are willing to cheer with equal enthusiasm for both the home and visiting team.

    Of course, to set the right example for kids in this idyllic new world, all pro sports must go as well. Bye-bye, Patriots, Cowboys and Raiders! We should also cancel all future Olympics, baseball, NASCAR, the Masters golf tournament, surfing competitions, Miss America, and of course American Idol. Chess, checkers and Monopoly boards should all be collected and burned. Tic Tac Toe has got to go! Bowling leagues should be reformed or outlawed. Church bingo nights would be eradicated, but Vegas would be allowed to exist because most people there are losers, have collaborated to accept that fact and the kids will never be impacted anyway, because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

    Hmmmm... in fact , as I think deeper about this...looks like we're going to have to restructure our whole political system. The notion of presidential races, senate races, gubernatorial and mayoral races is so Neanderthal. No citizen should be subjected to the indignity of having to pander for votes. Each American should simply get an automatic term in office. You would start out as head of a committee on your local PTA and would be automatically promoted until you became President of the United States. The term of all offices would last as long as it takes to play the national anthem. When the music stops, everyone would get a promotion.

    If any of this sounds absurd or silly…well, that's how absurd and silly this discussion sounds to me.

    I submit that this Alfie-Kohnsian view is simply misguided . He creates a false choice: compete or collaborate. He overlooks the fact that both collaboration and competition can coexist and are both necessary. Indeed, what are team sports but competition and collaboration in action? Moreover, despite the powerful competitive forces in American society, we are still compassionate, charitable and regularly collaborate with each other on everything from dealing with natural disasters to feeding the homeless.

    Are there abuses of competition in academia and in our world at large? Sure! But the notion that the solution is to eliminate competition is a prescription for raising children who are ill-equipped for the real world.

    One of the most prolific and honored historians of our time, Will Durant, wrote that "competition is the first lesson of history." An equally regarded visionary and social ecologist, Peter Drucker, wrote that we are moving into an era of "hyper- competition" as we shift to a global economy. Any American educator who thinks they are doing their children a service by discouraging competition while China, India, Brazil and others are preparing their children to compete is very misguided.

    The bottom line: Competition does not preclude collaboration. This is the first myth that must be shattered. Secondly, all of us will lose many times in our lives. Teaching kids how to handle losses in stride is critical to building real-world resilience.

    I close with an admission: We were nominated for an Edublog award and didn't win. News flash: We didn't die, we’re still willing to collaborate with other educators and, as far as I can tell, we have not been scarred for life!

  38. Dear Errol,

    I completely agreed with you on the following statements...

    "Based on this view, I guess we should get rid of all competition in academics -- no more spelling bees or honor societies -- and we should start accepting applicants to Ivy league schools on a first-come- first-served basis."

    As for the rest of your comment, you're wrong.



    PS: Go Jets!

  39. Vicki,

    I am shocked to be accused of being unkind or disrespectful towards you. I re-read my criticism of edublogging and edublogging awards and found no mention of you.

    Honest critique elevates the profession.

  40. A perfect example of why we have the Edublog awards and the discussion that followed lies below. It's how we are taught to reason and react after the fact. This is not an excuse but rather an acknowledgement of the cause so we can decide if we want to be predictable. Good for you Joe for bringing this topic to the forefront.
    1. People choose.
    2. People’s choices involve costs.
    3. People respond to incentives in predictable ways.
    4. People create economic systems that influence individual choices and incentives.
    5. People gain when they trade voluntarily.
    6. People’s choices have consequences that lie in the future.
    From the Guide to Economic Reasoning

  41. I know this post may have run its course but I found this post I wrote about a year and a half ago. It pretty much sums up my thoughts.


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