Was your child eliminated from the spelling bee and came home in tears? Have you heard of an athlete who took steroids to win? How did you feel when you were chosen last in a game because you were not as “good” as the others?
All of these events reflect our preoccupation with competition. The concept is deeply rooted in our nation’s education, sports, politics, and even in families. Author Alfie Kohn, in his well-researched book No Contest, the Case Against Competition, writes how “we are encouraged to pit ourselves against one another and taught that competition is a prod to productivity, a builder of character, and an unavoidable part of human nature.” Kohn claims “any win/lose structure is psychologically destructive and poisonous to our relationships.”
It’s ironic that we play games to be together yet spend our efforts trying to bankrupt someone, destroy their armies, conquer the world, etc. — all goals which create hostility and separate us.
Success Doesn’t Require Someone Else’s Failure.
Competition was virtually unknown to the Zuni and Iroquois in North America and to the Bathonga in South Africa. The Mixtecans of Mexico regard envy and competitiveness as a minor crime. From kibbutzniks in Israel to farmers in Mexico, cooperation is prized and competition generally avoided.
It doesn’t have to be a “dog eat dog” world. We can unlearn that kind of learned behavior. Why not play “King of the Mountain” where everyone stands at the top? Or where everyone occupies the last chair in “Musical Chairs”? How about family members deciding together who does which household chores? What about businesses sharing information and resources? Just imagine the global benefits of nations working together and negotiating so everyone wins!
Specific Benefits of Cooperation
Cooperative concepts are beneficial in school, work, play, in personal relationships and are easily understood in the context of games. H