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The Hominids

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Competition is to self-esteem as sugar is to teeth,” writes Alfie Kohn on his website in an article for Working Mother from September 1987, the research published in his 1986 book No Contest: The Case Against Competition:

Most people lose in most competitive encounters, and it’s obvious why that causes self-doubt. But even winning doesn’t build character; it just lets a child gloat temporarily. Studies have shown that feelings of self-worth become dependent on external sources of evaluation as a result of competition: Your value is defined by what you’ve done. Worse – you’re a good person in proportion to the number of people you’ve beaten.

In a competitive culture, a child is told that it isn’t enough to be good – he must triumph over others. Success comes to be defined as victory, even though these are really two very different things. Even when the child manages to win, the whole affair, psychologically speaking, becomes a vicious circle: The more he competes, the more he needs to compete to feel good about himself.…

This is not to say that children shouldn’t learn discipline and tenacity, that they shouldn’t be encouraged to succeed or even have a nodding acquaintance with failure. But none of these requires winning and losing – that is, having to beat other children and worry about being beaten. When classrooms and playing fields are based on cooperation rather than competition, children feel better about themselves. They work with others instead of against them, and their self-esteem doesn’t depend on winning a spelling bee or a Little League game.…

Children succeed in spite of competition, not because of it.… There is good evidence that productivity in the workplace suffers as a result of competition. The research is even more compelling in classroom settings.… One after another, researchers across the country have concluded that children do not learn better when education is transformed into a competitive struggle. Why? First, competition often makes kids anxious and that interferes with concentration. Second, competition doesn’t permit them to share their talents and resources as cooperation does, so they can’t learn from one another. Finally, trying to be Number One distracts them from what they’re supposed to be learning. It may seem paradoxical, but when a student concentrates on the reward (an A or a gold star or a trophy), she becomes less interested in what she’s doing. The result: Performance declines.…

Competition is a recipe for hostility. By definition, not everyone can win a contest. If one child wins, another cannot. This means that each child comes to regard others as obstacles to his or her own success.… Competition leads children to envy winners, to dismiss losers (there’s no nastier epithet in our language than “Loser!”), and to be suspicious of just about everyone. Competition makes it difficult to regard others as potential friends or collaborators; even if you’re not my rival today, you could be tomorrow.…

Cooperation, on the other hand, is marvelously successful at helping children to communicate effectively, to trust in others and to accept those who are different from themselves. Competition interferes with these goals and often results in outright antisocial behavior. The choice is ours: We can blame the individual children who cheat, turn violent, or withdraw, or we can face the fact that competition itself is responsible for such ugliness.…Children can be taught about competition, prepared for the destructive forces they’ll encounter, without being groomed to take part in it uncritically. They can be exposed to the case against competition just as they are taught the harms of drug abuse or reckless driving.


The Hominids (Saturday Night Live)

Oakna…..Bill Murray
Weena…..Laraine Newman
Hominid #2…..Al Franken
Hominid #3…..Garrett Morris
Hominid #4…..Brian Doyle-Murray
Strange One…..Steve Martin
Mother Hominid…..Gilda Radner


Announcer: A million years ago, May 17, 998020 B.C., man’s remote ancestors, the Hominids, roamed the Savannahs of Africa. Of course, it would be easy to make fun of these precursors of modern man for their brutish appearance and sloppy eating habits, but we should remember that someday we too will have descendents much more advanced than ourselves. What will they think of today’s hamburger “joints” and “mod” Carnaby Street clothes? It is with this sense of humility that we present tonight’s docu-historama on: THE HOMINIDS.

Oakna: It has been a good day.

Mother Hominid: A good day! A good day!

Hominid #2: It sure has been a good day..

Hominid #3: Boy, I am full!

Hominid #4: I hope we eat this much tomorrow!

Mother Hominid: With Oakna as our Father Hunter, we will all have full bellies!

Strange One: [ eating banana ] Uh, say.. not to take anything away from Oakna, but, you know, we were lucky to scare off that lion and take its prey.

Oakna: [ interceding angrily ] The lion knew Oakna, and fled in fright. I am swift, and I am strong.

Strange One: Okay, okay, okay, okay..

Oakna: Now.. it is time to howl at the moon!

Hominid #2: Yes. We howl at moon.

Hominid #3: Yes.

Hominid #4: I will like that.

[ they all walk off, including Oakna, who dumbly steps into the fire and howls in pain ]

Strange One: Hey, Mom.. can I talk to you a second..?

[ the other Hominids can be heard offscreen howling at the moon ]

Mother Hominid: What is it, my Strange One?

Strange One: I don’t know, Mom.. it’s Oakna, he’s driving me crazy..

Mother Hominid: But he is our Father Hunter! He is swift and strong!

Strange One: I know. But he’s so stupid, and he lies constantly.

Mother Hominid: It is dangerous to talk that way about Oakna. I will not listen!

Strange One: Alright, alright.. I’ll draw a little bit. [ draws on rock as Weena pops out of cave ] Oh, hi, Weena, glad to see you!

Weena: You make me wet!

Strange One: Ah, well.. it’s very nice of you to say that. Listen.. I want to show you something.. [ draws the image of a bison on the rock ] How do you like this bison? Look at that!

Weena: [ frightened ] What bison?!

Strange One: Right here. Right here on the wall. You see, it’s got little eyes, and the legs here, and the tail..

Weena: [ screaming ] Oh, no! A bison! A bison!

Strange One: No, no! It’s just the image of a bison.

Weena: Ohhh.. it was scary! You were brave! [ giggles ]
Weena want you! [ walks by the fire and shakes her tail for the
Strange One ]

Strange One: Well.. okay, I’ll take a little of that! That would be nice..

[ Oakna stomps in, angry, and pulls Weena aside ]

Oakna: You do not get this!

Strange One: Hey, hey, hey! I didn’t do anything!

Oakna: The woman is mine! I am the Father
Hunter! I am swift! I am strong!

Strange One: Hey, no one is questioning your swiftness or your
strength here..

[ the Hominids return and sit in front of the fire ]

Hominid #2: Mmm.. Oakna, the fire is good!

Hominid #4: I like fire!

Oakna: Thank you. Tomorrow, the men will hunt! Perhaps the bison will die for us.

Strange One: Uh, Oakna.. since we’re on that subject again, I have a couple of ideas about the bison hunt I’d kind of like to share them with you. Now, I know you’re the leader, but I want you to hear me out on this, okay? Now, have you ever noticed how we’re always chasing the bison? The fact is, the bison is swifter than we are. Swifter even – and I say this with all due respect – swifter even than Oakna.

Oakna: [ interested ] Ye-e-es?

Strange One: So, come over here and look at this.. [ jumps to the ground to grab some rocks, as Oakna dumbly steps into the fire again and howls ] Let’s say that we represent the rocks – these rocks are us. Now, we’ll put them around in a circle, like this, and this.. [ holds up large rock ] ..will be the bison, alright? Now, whichever way the bison runs, he’ll run into one of us!

Oakna: [ pause ] We are not rocks.

Strange One: [ aghast ] Oh, you’re missing the point! This is
so simple!

Hominid #3: Wa-ait.. do you mean that we make a circle around the bison?

Strange One: Yes!

Hominid #3: Oh.. so if the bison runs away from me, he will run to you?

Strange One: Yes!

Hominid #4: That is smart!

Oakna: You are smart. But I am swift. And I am..

Strange One: [ finishing his thought ] Strong.

Oakna: Yes. I am strong, and I am swift!

Strange One: Okay, you are swift and strong, and I am smart.. and, together, we can improve our lives. Perhaps, we can even stop wandering, and build permanent dwellings and domesticate animals. Why, we could then have leisure time to develop a system of symbols, and to record events and communicate ideas, creating a civilization beyond our wildest imagination.

Oakna: You are smart. But it is late, and we must sleep, so tomorrow we can begin on this work.

Good. We must sleep. Yes, let’s hit the dirt. We did good.

Strange One: Yes.

[ everyone spreads out on the ground and falls asleep ]

Oakna: [ sits and watches the Strange One fall asleep behind a rock, then picks up a bigger rock and holds it over the Strange One ] I am strong! [ pounds the Strange One with rock, killing him ] And now, I am smart [ smiles happily, and dumbly steps into the fire once more, burning his foot ]


The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!

“You think I’m nuts? You think, you think my sensibilities left me as a result of working hard on the campaign trail, Gregory? Yeah, I was.”
— George W. Bush, 8 November 2006

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