Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rat race - where did it all start?

Leg-pulling, back-stabbing and the rat race is prevalent and persistent in corporate culture. Manipulations and politicking to get ahead never stops. Soon after people enter the work life, they start reminiscing their childhood days in school or college. But my question has always been, "Where did this rat race start in the first place?" I found my answer today.

As I was conducting the 'Life Skills' class encouraging students to compete only with themselves, the coordinator madam entered the class. She picked one student and said, "Alice, you used to come in the 10th position and now you're 11th. Are you going to win next time? Are you going to let anyone overtake you?" Then she picked another one and said, "Alex, are you going to let anyone win you? You're going to be better than everyone else, right?" The kids nodded their head in agreement and I could see how desperate they were to get ahead of others and be better in relation to other classmates just to please the authority figures including the parents and teachers. That's when it struck me. This culture of rat race begins right from the roots of education.

Competition is a good thing as long as it inspires and encourages you to improve and excel than your previous self. But the way of motivating kids or motivating anyone as such has been through making them compete with someone else. A child who learns in his more than 10-15 years of schooling to compete and win others is definitely going to do the same thing when he enters his work life. Kids are simply not taught the value of co-operation and helping one another. It's not enough to teach 'Moral Science' when the basic form of judging the kids is based on their ranking on examination or how well they have performed in comparison to the next kid.

In one of the Toastmasters' meeting, an experienced Toastmaster said, "Toastmaster is not about competing with anybody else but competing with yourself. It is about improving your previous speech and becoming a better speaker yourself. You compete only with yourself." I also remember the lines from the sunscreen song, "Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and at the end it's only with yourself." But when will the educators and administrators learn about this? When will the kids learn about this? And as long as the kids don't understand the importance of competing only with oneself and the worthlessness and irrelevance of competing with others, how can we expect the workplace to be any different? We might enter a workplace and long for the good old days with friends without understanding that what we long for was the very place where the feeling of competition and the desperate urge to win was inculcated in our basic drive and instinct.

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