Off with their poster contest!

In this month's American School Board Journal, Susan Black describes her tenure as director of curriculum and instruction for a Midwestern city school district. Like a French Revolutionary lopping off the heads of the ancien regime, once appointed she decides to root out competition in schools, especially such inhumane exercises as poster and essay contests, charity pledge drives, and other horrors. She even witnessed one first-grade teacher give a child a star for scissoring straight and was horrified that the school's principal didn't intervene. Surveying this scene of psychic disaster and emotional carnage, she "knew it was time to put on the brakes," since we all know that competition "seldom leads to meaningful learning" and "dulls the spirits" of kids. And what evidence did she cite? What else but the goofball works of old progressive, anti-testing warhorses like Alfie Kohn and Marvin Marshall! Under their tutelage, Black calls for positive interdependence, face-to-face interaction, social skills, and group processing. Have we heard this before? Old habits die hard, but nothing dies harder than worn-out education fads.

"And the winner is," by Susan Black, American School Board Journal, July 2005

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