Blue Ribbon Winner

So I am watching this week’s episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. No, this is not going to be a post about this TV show. But only because I already wrote about it last semester. You can read that post here.

What I want to talk about is competition. I think competition is healthy. I think it teaches us to strive to greater things and push us past our limits. Having someone (or something) as a goal for comparison, to not only reach but also to surpass, gives us a sense of accomplishment, which I don’t think enough of us are able to achieve often enough.

This is the season for competition. Super Bowl XLIV is coming up in just one week.

[Are these not the corniest pics ever? I felt like I hit the jackpot on this google search!]

And this weekend is the Miss America Pageant.

[yes. Equally as corny a pic. If not cornier. LOVES it!]

And registration for the SAT is due in only two weeks. You remember what chaos that caused in your life those last years of high school, doncha?

I am not sure that competing without an actual base of comparison can be defined as competition. For example, you might remember this incident from the 2002 Winter Olympics:

Bradbury won this race. I don’t mean to totally negate this athlete’s ability and all his years of training—I mean, he made it to the Olympics fer cryin’ out loud. But c’mon. He won the gold medal because everyone else wiped out. So is this a true competition? The reality of it is that he was the last in the pack and would have had the slowest time had the fools in front of him not crashed into each other.

It makes me think about how competition among children today has changed so that each child receives either a trophy or ribbon of some sort just for participation. I am not certain what this teaches children. Because the reality of it is that in life, there are winners and losers.

This also makes me think about the student that thinks they deserve “at east a C” because they at least “did do the project.” But that’s a completely different argument. Right?

I offer the topic of competition for discussion since, well. You know what begins on February 12.

Just getting you all prepped and ready.


13 thoughts on “Blue Ribbon Winner

  1. Ashley Yang says:

    Mmm, I’m not sure I agree with the idea that kids should be taught from an early age that there are winners and losers and “participating’ doesn’t really count for jack in the real world. Speaking as a kid who had very very fragile self-esteem, those little “participation” awards meant the world to me. I have a little binder of all of my awards at home, from 2nd through 12th grade, and every single field day ribbon and “you completed xth grade!” certificate has a place right alongside my national honor society awards. If anything, I disagree with the idea of “participation” awards for a different idea entirely–it promotes a sense of extrinsic, rather than intrisic, rewards. It makes kids think if they didn’t get a ribbon, or some external recognition, then they’ve failed. Well, at least, it made me think that, but then again I’ve got a whoooole complex of issues around achievement so maybe I’m not the best model. And what kind of message does THAT send?

  2. Ashley Yang says:

    And PS: How f’d up was that Toddlers & Tiaras episode? My personal favorite was the 4-year-old who was just rarin’ to skin a deer…

  3. Katie Levenstein says:

    I completely agree, we need competition to reach our potential. When I used to swim in high school, I was always looking to the swimmers alongside me to push myself to swim faster. If I had been swimming alone, I’m sure I would not have been swimming as fast. People are driven by the desire to “beat” the people surrounding them. I absolutely can’t wait for the winter olympics to begin because the whole event is a competition, each competitor performing better than their best because they are driven by the desire to beat another. Without competition, there would be no “Guinness Book of World Records,” and that would be very sad.

  4. sth2391 says:

    I completely agree that competition is essential to most people’s success, but I can’t say I agree with the part about a lot of the kids receiving trophies or just ribbons for participation. When I was younger, I participated in so many different sports some including golf, tennis, and swim team. Even if I didn’t win the races, we received some form of award, and I feel as though these awards always gave me an incentive to push harder and keep trying. I think if I hadn’t been given something to compensate for my hard work, I would’ve given up completely. That might sound kind of sad and pathetic, but I was young and that’s how I felt. As I grow older, I realize that not everyone can succeed in everything they do because then everything would just be chaotic. It’s nice to see people stand out and be unique in their own way. However in any case, competition is so important. It makes people stronger and reach for their goals. It always feels amazing when all of your hard work finally pays off.

  5. Tom Michaud says:

    I played various sports throughout my life and I had an older sister to compete with in the school aspect of my life. I think competition is essential to growing up. The ribbons and bonus awards people get for sucking is complete bullshit. I know that when I lost the state lacrosse championship and got that second best medal i just wanted to chuck it in the ocean. I was pissed. But that made me work harder. I wanted that trophy, i wanted the title of being the best. Thats what its all about.

    My sister always got a’s and b’s in school. I struggled to keep up with her. I mostly got a’s and b’s too but hers were on the higher end. Then she got accepted to Harvard. Holy shit! how can I compete with that?! I still try to get the best grades for me, but it was always nice to be better than her at somethings. Its not that i was trying to impress anyone, i just wanted my best to be better than everyone else. I think I turned out alright. I don’t compete as much anymore, but i really try to do my best when it comes time to step on the sports field.

    I mean lets face it. Winning is more fun than losing. No one tries to ever lose a game to feel good. You try your best and if you don’t win, you keep trying or try harder. Competition is what life is about. Survival of the fittest. Competition at its core.

  6. Kat Copeland says:

    I think competition is good, but it just depends on how much competition and what type we are talking about. I think competition in sports and contests are great because it gives you incentive and motivation to do the best you possibly can. However, when it comes to competition in school, I think there should be a fine line drawn for it. For all the standardized tests that are out there, the competition just makes people crazy and not act to the best of their abilities. If all you are thinking about is ‘oh, in order to get into here I need to have this score or my brother/best friend/sister got this score, I need to do better’ things tend to get a little bit ridiculous. There are kids who spend the majority of their high school career getting themselves ready for standardized tests and base their future lives around it. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is good to be able to set high standards for yourself and see how well you can do, but when it becomes like a battle ground, nothing good is going to come out of it. I think that if people stopped focusing so much on the competition of who does better in school and who goes where, and actually focused on themselves as being a better person, we’d build a stronger society who’d be better off.

  7. Sara Hollingshead says:

    Competition is an innate human characteristic and for different people, the level and/or type of competition are different. Teaching kids at a young age that there are winners and losers in the world is important, because it teaches them that they cannot be perfect at everything-nobody is. I also agree with what Ashley was saying about the importance of the participation awards. It is through these small, yet significant participation awards that young children, teens, and adults are encouraged to try something new. That small award, even if it is just for participating, pushes you further, making you realize “Hey, I did something.”
    Going with the upcoming Olympics, I think the Olympics present a good concept/reality understanding of competition. The Olympics show us that not everybody can win, but you can push yourself to greater limits than expected and learn more about yourself. (And I think that all Olympic athletes receive Olympic gear (?) or something to say/show they went to the Olympics-which is kind of like their “participation award.” So even the Olympics give world-class athletes with participation awards).
    As a college athlete, I’ve realized that I love competition. Any kind of competition-whether it’s in sports, academics or anything else, I’m always up for a good challenge. My teammates make me faster and stronger each and every day as I push my limits. My classmates and peers force me to question my own intelligence and push myself to learn new concepts, understandings and ideas so I don’t fall behind. Without competition, where would the world be? Without Apple and Microsoft competing for the better computer software would we still be operating on an old computer? And without TV ratings, would we only have one late night TV show? Competition lures people in and attracts audiences- it’s something that is necessary as human beings.

  8. cs5647 says:

    I totally agree about the importance of competition. Come on, life would be boring without it. In my high school career, I played three sports and I could definitely see the change in sports in regards to the fact that it became more about politics instead of the athletes competing for a spot on the team and the better athletes playing in the games for the longer amount of time. In my three years of varsity sports, parents became too involved in the sports. They would go to coaches and yell at them because their child was not getting enough playing time or enough attention on the team. Well have you ever thought that your child is just not good? There probably is a reason why your kid is not getting as much time as you want them too. Let the athletes play and duke it out for a spot on the team and a place on the court of field.

    In the softball program at my high school, there were huge issues over who should be starting and what order should people be batting, all of these issues created by annoying parents who think there child is the best and should get all of the awards. But it reality, I think we need to take take a look at what goes on in practices and who performs in games in order to see who plays. The parents are trying to take away the competition of the game because they cannot stand to see their child sit the bench. Instead of wining about how much your child does not play, why not take them to a batting cage or have them go to a clinic to make themselves better at the game.

    Through competition, people are influenced to work harder and become better at whatever activity their are participating in. Instead of being upset about playing time, make yourself a better athlete and compete for a slot in the game. Through this competition, it will be shown who is more qualified and ready to play in the game. This competition is an essential element of athletics and our society as a whole.

  9. king4648 says:

    I agree to the fact that “competition teaches us to strive to greater things”. I really also agree that “having someone (or something) as a goal for comparison, to not only reach but also to surpass, give us a sense of accomplishment.” To me, competition is part of life. Not only human compete, animals also do. Animals compete for food, water, settlement, and even mates. When I was young, I used to serve our dogs food (my family had two male dogs). Each time I gave them their food, one would hurry and finish up his food so he could go and fight the other one for his food. As this went on for a while, they both used to hurry and eat their food quickly because they both realized that whoever finishes first will go to other for more food. Moreover, male dogs in my neighborhood used to compete in order to mate with a bitches because the number of male dogs outnumbered the bitches. Only the strong would survive and get the chance to mate with the female dog.

    For we human beings, competition is part of our lives too. I reminisce when my older brother was smarter than me. Each time we got our school report card, he had A’s and B+’s while I was hitting C+’s and B’s. my parents will always buy something to reward him while they would tell me to work hard in order to get a reward. This made me try to work really hard. I set my brother as “a goal for comparison, to not only reach but also to surpass him” so as to get reward from my parents too.

    At the beginning of 6th grade, I started to accomplish my goal. I stopped lollygagging; I spent all my time doing homework and reading my notes. The first semester of my 6th grade was good. I was hitting B+’s. However, I was still angry for not getting A’s. Fortunately, I started getting A’s and A+’s. I started getting rewards from my parents. I was very happy. My brother was happy for me too, but I knew that deep inside him, he was thinking about holding on tight to studying hard so that I don’t surpass him.

  10. Isaias says:

    Honestly, I think that competition is what makes the world go around right next to money. Life is the biggest competition we will ever face. Being taught how to compete and coming up with strategies in order to surpass your opponent at a young age would be ideal. it is a dog eat dog world, teaching children would only benefit them.

    i know for myself, I try to win everything that i go after. at a young age of abut 7 I was in a karate tournament. I whooped a lot of ass but, i came in 2nd place. I was like damn, 2nd place is just as good as first loser. I wanted that gold! everyone tried to cheer me up but, nothing helped unless i had that gold trophy in my hand.

    From there that point on, I have always put 103% into everything i do. later, a song by nelly came out i forgot the name of it but the chorus is “I am number 1, 2 is not a winner, and 3 nobody remembers” I used that song as motivation.

  11. Mac says:

    I think that competition is an extremely important lesson for kids to learn a a young age. I grew up in a house with three brothers and two parents who were both college athletes; competition was a basis for many of the things I did growing up, even just between family members. I wouldn’t necessarily say that competition is 100% great for some kids, but for many, if not most, competition gives them a sense of accomplishment when they succeed. As far as breaking a kid’s self-esteem with failure, I have to disagree. Failure is absolutely necessary in order to improve anything you do. People like Thomas Edison and Michael Jordan are famous for the credit they give to failure in their lives for the way it made them better at what they did.

    What should not be confused with competition amongst kids is how their parents behave. I grew up playing a lot of ice hockey and hockey parents are notoriously bad at controlling their anger while their children are competing. Many of them do no understand the sport, or for others the players and puck just move too fast to follow. Many parents believe their kids are the best players and should have the most playing time, which leads to a lot of tension among the parents and coaches, or parents and other parents. Stupid adults are more the problem with youth sports than the players themselves.

  12. Sara McMenimen says:

    While I agree with competition being a part of our society, I more so agree with self-competition. As a child I was always encouraged to do MY best. I didn’t matter whether I was the fastest or smartest; my parents more focused on what was my best, not comparing me to other kids my age. This was also even more possible because I do not have any siblings. There were no other kids in our household who I had to get better grades then or who were better at soccer than I was. At the same time though, my parents made sure not to offer unnecessary praise. I only got rewarded for doing my best when it was truly deserved ie. straight A’s on a report card.

    Toddlers in Tiaras is an unrealistic version of how parents encourage competition in their children. While many of the mothers defend themselves in saying that their daughter was the one to suggest entering into pageants, 4 year olds don’t come up with these ideas on their own. Whether it is their mother or some other adult in their life or the media, someone has put this idea in their heads. Athletic competition is much more natural. I know plenty of people who a sport comes naturally to and they want to continuously improve their skills. In last summer’s Olympic Games, my babysitter won a bronze medal for women’s long-distance running. Even though I was very young when she babysat for me, I have memories of her talking to my parents and telling them how she was always training for up and coming meets.

    Athletes typically seem happy with what they are doing. Very rarely do you see them cry because they don’t want to play in a game or show up to a meet. This seems to be quite the opposite for these young beauty queens. They throw tantrums and seem to always be displeased about competing. And god forbid they don’t win. Disaster. If athletes don’t win, they are often discouraged, but don’t seem on the brink of a meltdown. Instead they fuel off a hard loss and dissect ways in which they can improve their game or harness their skills. There is a much more happy-go-lucky attitude.

  13. Competition is definitely essential. I agree that without it no one would strive to be any better than mediocre. However, I don’t think participating in an event warrants a prize. As a child, I loved getting rewards even when I didn’t do my best. But looking back on it now I feel like this sent me the wrong message. Receiving an award even when I could have tried harder doesn’t really promote success or make me work harder. It convinces me that I don’t need to do anything differently because even though i performed poorly, I don’t ned to try any harder. I believe that kids need to be taught at an early age that life isn’t fair. You have to work hard for what you won’t. It won’t just be handed to you.
    Whether in sports or in academics, working hard is essential if you want to get places in life. I don’t believe anyone “deserves” a C just for attempting an assignment. You have to earn your grades. The effort you put in directly affects the grade you’ll get on it. I also believe in self competition. When it comes to competition in the academic world you can’t always compete with your peers. I find it much more successful to compete with myself. If I challenge myself to get a better grade then I did on the last test, I’ll feel much more successful when I accomplish that goal. Self competition always seems to be more rewarding.

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