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Ranking Fever

Last night I entered a pub quiz with some friends and thoroughly enjoyed myself – it was part of Penryn Week Celebrations. On Friday 22nd July I\’ll be doing my own event for Penryn Week – a literary evening about The Poetry of Food at which I\’ll be reading poems from my new book \”The Poetry Diet.\”
It was the quiz that really interested me. Here\’s a question for everyone. When I was young (back in the late Cretaceous period), competition was quickly going out of fashion. We went from being ranked in classrooms (first, second, last) to not even being officially streamed. Sports day became a points exercise with no overall winners – although everyone knew who was best. Even prize day turned into something else – just as long and boring but with no prizes.
This was because the fashionable socialism of the day held that anything elitist was wrong and wicked and all must be equal no matter what. Also that children were easily traumatised by coming last in a class and if no one could be allowed to come last, it followed that no one should come first either.
The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail ran regular snorticles* about how banning competition in school would lead to woe, destruction and the end of Life As We Know It.
Since then a couple of decades… er…. some time has passed. The end of the world has not come, I notice. However it seems that there is now an absolute obsession about competition and ranking and who\’s best and celebrity. The effect of banning elitism and competition in school has been horrors like the X Factor and a huge quiz-show industry. So another predictable own-goal there.
And I think pub quizzes are part of that ranking fever, in a small way. The Arts Alive Penryn team came third. No, that\’s fine. It\’s OK. The better team won. Only 6 points in it, mind you, but…

* A Snorticle. Any opinion article in which the writer can almost be heard to snort. Also known as a \”why-oh-why\” piece [Finney Lexical Expansion Service]


  1. The thing about rankings and competitions was all bound up in the concept that damaging a child’s self-esteem was the uber-crime of parents and teachers alike. But we are now dealing with the fallout of a generation who have had their self-esteem so falsely nurtured that when they enter the workplace some can be pretty clueless about basic behaviour such as understanding that you start at the bottom of the pile in the grottiest office and work your way up and that being required to perform the occasional menial task is not a personal affront. It should be stressed that in my teaching experience, most students are pretty willing to muck in and get their hands dirty, so this perception may be of the snorticle variety.

    Apparently now though, the key quality we parents and teachers should seek to foster is not self-esteem but resilience especially in the face of adversity….plus ca change and all that.

    1. Patricia says:

      Resilience has got to be an improvement on self-esteem. And yes, the fact that so many youngsters are clue-free is not really their fault – so many of them have never been given the honour of the consequences of their actions.


    1. Patricia says:

      Relax – no competition here!

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