The race to be Number One has been called America's state religion. We've been trained not only to compete frantically, but to believe in the value of beating people -- and to help our children become winners. Research and experience, however, demonstrate that competition is actually destructive to self-esteem, poisonous to relationships, and counterproductive in terms of achievement -- at work and at school. The result is that everyone ultimately loses in the desperate race to win. If we as humanists are committed to the value of collaboration and community, then it's important to question assumptions about the value (or inevitability) of competition that are sometimes taken on faith even by those who prefer to rely on reason.
Alfie Kohn is the author of 14 books about education, parenting, and human behavior. These include Punished by Rewards, The Myth of the Spoiled Child, The Brighter Side of Human Nature, and his first book, No Contest: The Case Against Competition. He has been described as the country's leading critic of competition, although he notes that there isn't much competition for that title. Kohn lectures to researchers, parents, teachers, and managers all over the world. He lives (actually) in Belmont and (virtually) at