Monday, August 24, 2009

It's not that I have anything against competition. It's just that I think it is natural for young people to be competitive: they don't need to be required to be that way.

I have seen young people compete like crazy with their peers only to find that it leads only to confusion. Re-orienting to legitimate learning goals can be hard for such people, though it is a worthy struggle.

One nine-year-old threw a mighty tantrum when she realized that she couldn't compete with her arch rival in school beyond mastering one piano piece that the other girl played. "I hate taking lessons! I want to stop!"

Turned out that what she wanted to stop was the pressure she had assumed for herself. As soon as it became clear that it was all in her own head she calmed down and began to learn for her own pleasure. Now, at fifteen, she is really into it.

There are kids who just can't stop and they shouldn't be stopped. They play for hours on end. I have had students like that, as well. It's a matter of personal