For those about to be assessed, Harry Cleaver helps cut throught he must…

To those doing assignments, be it single or collective projects, here’s a reminder to resist the stress and do it for your own reasons. This is another condensed Cleaver passage (one of many where he crams commonsense into a comprehensive takedown of the systems in which we are caught):

‘In school, students are prodded from a very early age to compete against each other for grades and honors. In the short run, it is a means of control; in the long run, they are being conditioned to compete in the waged workplace. Such competition in the class room is complemented and reinforced by competition in sports, whether between individuals or teams. In the case of teams, the enflaming of “animal spirits” is central to the realization of the powers of “cooperation” – to the point of encouraging animosity, scorn and hatred against other teams. At the level of the school system, interscholastic competition is institutionally encouraged not only in sports, but also in music, in debate and in science fairs. Along the dark path to popularity and social status, competition is also fostered between boys and girls, and among boys vis-à-vis girls and among girls vis-à-vis boys. In many places, it is also fostered between castes, ethnicities and races. From secondary school through the university, “school spirit” is roused with marshal band music and pep rallies pitting students against students, often with violent language and mob antagonism. Beyond the shop floor, the family and the school, capitalists have fostered competition throughout society, from professional sports through music, film, fashion, beauty and cooking contests to soap operas, electoral politics and the judicial system. Even where it organizes collaboration-from collective school projects through corporate ones to sports teams-it carefully structures it within a wider framework of competition’ (Cleaver 2019, 288)

One thought on “For those about to be assessed, Harry Cleaver helps cut throught he must…

  1. This is a well chosen quote. As the son of college, university, and high school coach , I grew up in this world besides having it in my own schooling. It raises the question of can we have sports (and the other contests mentioned) without the negative aspects of competition. Is socialist competition possible at all or is it just a concession to a mostly capitalist world and a use of nationalism to gain social control over the people? I have wondered about these questions for over 60 years. I am now 73.


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