Learning Is About Self-Improvement. Not Competition.

“What did you get on the test?” We’ve all heard that question before, and not just for tests. Every time I get a grade back on a project, quiz, discussion, or particularly tricky homework assignment, the first thing that my peers want to know is my grade. As a sophomore here at RHS, I’m guilty of it too – always trying to beat out my neighbor in a ceaseless academic battle.

Let’s take a specific scenario.

Say you have an upcoming test, and you know it’s going to be graded on a curve – the smartest student will get the highest grade, and everyone else’s score will depend on that. Suddenly, the focus of your studying goes from how to perform the best you can to how to surpass the efforts of others in your class. Learning should be about constantly striving to improve personal knowledge, not about competing with others. By eliminating peer to peer competition, students can focus on self-improvement on a personal scale, rather than just being considered the “best” in a class. However, even with an answer that simple, we still can’t seem to stop comparing ourselves to one another.

Jennifer Cocchiere, a sophomore at RHS, feels the same way about this issue. “There is a pressure [at Ridgewood High School] to be as good as or better than the people you surround yourself with,” Cocchiere says. By existing in such an academic environment, peer to peer competition is almost inevitable.

Not all hope is lost, though. Over the past couple of years, RHS has been trying to minimize this very prevalent sense of academic competition, and it has not gone unnoticed. As students, we know that our grades are our own business and that we don’t need to share them with anyone else if we don’t want to. Our Skyward accounts are password-protected and intended to be looked at exclusively by us and our parents or guardians. “RHS helps to lessen this idea of [academic] competition in the sense that we are taught to focus on our own grades and worry about ourselves,” comments Haley Klein, another RHS sophomore. Teachers ask us not to share our grades and emphasize the ‘learn from your mistakes’ aspect of test-taking rather than the ‘study just to get an A’ mindset.

Ridgewood is and always will be a competitive school. With such high-caliber academics, it’s only natural. Even though our teachers and administrators try to ease our stress in regards to our schoolwork, there will always be some sense of competition. Ultimately, we create it for ourselves. That’s what makes us Ridgewood High School students. We strive to be the best, in turn carrying on with our Tradition of Excellence.

Ellie Tsapatsaris
staff writer

Swathi Kella

4 thoughts on “Learning Is About Self-Improvement. Not Competition.

  1. Competition is the best for motivation. In real life there are no participation medals. Either you get the job done or you get fired, simple as that. The competitive nature of the kids in RHS is exactly why is consistently sends kids to good schools and creates successful adults.

    1. I completely disagree. The competition in RHS (and other competitive schools alike) trains kids to get the A and score perfect scores on standardized tests; to train their brains to think of simply memorizing data and theorems with a 4.0 as a goal. Betty Edwards says in her book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, that, “we are not teaching them how to see and understand the deep meaning of what they learn, or to perceive the connectedness of information about the world…our education system bent on eliminating every last bit of creative perceptual training”. We have taken out the sole purpose of schools, for the student to mature, develop intellectually, and ‘self-improve’, and replaced it with “How to Get a 100 on Your Anatomy Test But Not Actually Ingest the Information”. You are right, there are no participation medals, but those who are successful are not always those who are competitive. It’s often those who didn’t get straight A’s in school and who acknowledged that in order to understand the information that teachers teach, you must make connections through creative processes that competitive schools like RHS do not support.

  2. Thanks for Self Improvement article. I have not read such beautiful article in a long time. Exploring rest articles. Thanks The best part about this article, the narrative. Very helpful.

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