Competition teaches children the most important lesson of them all: life isn't fair

If children no longer care about winning, then how will they learn to accept defeat?

Share

I’ll never forget the day my mum sat me down and explained that life wasn’t fair, that my sister had trounced me at Snakes and Ladders, and that sometimes it wasn’t just the taking part that counted.

It was a difficult lesson to learn, in part because I attended a school which promoted fairness over competition. Every Rounders game was declared a draw in the interests of equality, rendering the frantic dashes from base to base essentially pointless.

According to a study by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and cricketing charity Chance to Shine, the “prizes for all” culture that has permeated British schools has left a generation of children uninterested in winning on the sports field. Some would rather competition was removed from sport altogether.

Getting rid of competitive sport is a dangerous game, however, as it risks leaving children unprepared for the gritty reality of day-to-day life, which often isn’t fair. When you miss out on a hotly contested job, there’s no prize for second place. When the boy you fancy doesn’t fancy you back, you don’t get a sticker for taking part.

I’m a fierce defender of state education, but this is one area in which the private sector has us beat. As former head teacher and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education Chris McGovern noted, our Olympic squad and cricket team are full of people who were privately educated.

Fee-paying schools wouldn’t dream of letting every pupil have a crack of the whip just to make things fair and instead encourage children to train, practise, or revise to ensure they triumph over their peers.

Yes, the attitude is a little bullish and often instills in students an underlying sense of self-worth not present in their state-educated counterparts, but it also teaches them that adult life is made up of competitions to be won or lost. Is it any wonder these kids populate our top universities, sports teams and high-flying jobs?

However, unlike a state-of-the-art computer lab or a school trip to New York, a healthy dose of rivalry is completely free, making it one element of paid-for education that the state sector can embrace.

Because while it’s all very well letting every child have a bite of the cherry, sooner or later they’ll realise that not all rounders matches end in a draw.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: pours or pores, pulverised, ‘in preference for’ and lists

Guy Keleny
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect