You don’t know what you don’t know. Truer words cannot be said. One morning, I was asked to accompany a father to a middle school where they would be discussing a new program the school might be adopting. This program would level the playing field in STEM for all students. Sounds great right? Great. But it had to be voted on and many parents were not happy with the program. Why? Because this program would in effect, do away with classifying students into curriculum for “advanced learners” or “regular” learners. Those in advanced classes get higher quality instruction and learning. Parents were concerned that their “advanced learners” would be held back in a class of all students at all learning stages. They demanded that “advanced learning” classes continue.

This whole meeting changed yet another one of my perspectives on education and the failures of us depending too heavily on systematic things. I thought back to my childhood. I was one of those “advanced learner” students. I took tests and was placed into upper level classes. It was mostly in high school. Looking back now, I do see that this was its own kind of segregation. Most of the students in advanced learning were from more affluent backgrounds when compared to overall students. As a student I was not so much concerned with this.

As an adult, this made me want to know what drove us here? As parents, what makes it okay to segregate your children? I think I knew what it was. Socially programmed competition. Adults program their children this way from birth. They give them the lay of the land that life is a huge competition and there are only a limited number of winners and the resources are finite. If you want to win, you have to beat the others. You have to fiercely compete. how do they program children like this? By trying their best to maintain advanced learner programs and urging their kids to push harder for higher grades….for the purpose of having higher grades than peers. By underlining comparisons for the purpose of competition. By awarding when their kid competes and wins. By pushing competition over collaboration. And also, they live it by example when they go to work each day in the spirit of competition and reward. Life just becomes a  competition. And somewhere along the way, our morals and ethics are tested. We become to believe that its okay to cheat as long as we win and dont get caught. But even if we do get caught, it wont be so bad as long as we win. competing and winning is everything.

That’s how the world works because thats how people work. But it does not have to be this way it seems. I was groomed in the other direction. Less focus was paid to competition. I was pushed to do my best and respect others. When I was an expert in an area it wasnt to quarantine myself and keep the secret watching others struggle just so I could maintain the upper hand. No, I enjoyed learning so much, I liked to help others who struggled around me. The flip side to this lifestyle….you def don’t get rich fast this way. When I look around at my life, it seems so slow and full. I am content. I don’t chase money. I am satisfied with life as it is. Money comes into my life. Money goes out of my life. all things in balance. all things flowing. I enjoy working part-time making enough money to support myself and enjoy a good life. Others think I am silly for not taking all of my time and talent competing for more money money, more accolades.

Life is what you make and perceive of it. Competition is not the only way to allocate goods and services. A little collaboration can go a long way. Let’s start embracing it.

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