Competition... good or evil?

Where and when I grew up it appeared that competition was everywhere. Not everyone earned a prize and we learned to accept that. And yet over the years as and educator I have been in environments that have looked at both sides of this debate.

My early years at Town I was told that boys loved competition and I often put them in scenarios of which they competed in the classroom.  That was until I walked into a conference of which the message stated that the only students that liked competition were the ones that felt they had the ability to win. Immediately I switched a few things up in my classroom, as I didn't want to force the students who struggled in math at times to participate in mathematical competitions of which they likely had no chance of winning.  It felt unfair.  

After running my first marathon, I ran an article that spoke to me and that I felt related well to competition in relationship to growth mindset.  The article pointed out that every year in Hopkinton, Massachusetts over 30,000 runners show up to run/compete in the Boston Marathon understanding that only about 10 of them have a chance of winning the race.  Immediately I switched my thinking again. How can we drive students in ways in our classroom so that they practice and participate in the activities that guide them to assessment/performance day the same way recreational marathoners train and participate in race day? How do we make them competitors of their own game? 

So while sitting at my first middle school chapel the other day, I was a little worried when I heard that competition plays a big role at Cathedral School for Boys.  However, the director asked the boys why I was impressed with their answer. The boys said that competition plays a positive role in the community when it is used to make all the participants better. I hope this is true... let's watch and see!