For my second English article, I have decided to translate an interesting article that I wrote in French in November.
While I was reading Peter Thiel’s masterpiece From Zero to One, I found an outstanding passage where he lambasts the common ideology of competition. In the second part of this article, I attached some very inspiring lines from the Ideology of Competition chapter that are in tune with my vision of education.
Competition versus Monopoly
This chapter sheds light upon the opposition between competition and monopoly. First, Peter Thiel reiterates the Neoclassical Economics arguments so as to level criticism at the competition.
- In the long term, competition is tantamount to absence of profit for all.
- In the long term, competition is tantamount to significant differentiation.
- In the long term, competition is tantamount to struggle for life.
On the other hand, sustainable start-up companies generally have 4 common characteristics:
- An exclusive technologie
- Network effects
- Economies of scale
- A brand image
Without neither profit nor significant differentiation a start-up cannot survive. Thus, evolving in a competitive environment is harder for a start-up. Therefore, a start-up needs to look for a monopoly.
Now let’s apply this criticism to the grade competition in school.
Plea against the grade competition
This is a simple truth, but we’ve all been trained to ignore it. Our educational system both drives and reflects our obsession with competition. Grades themselves allow precise measurement of each student’s competitiveness; pupils with the highest marks receive status and credentials. We teach every young person the same subjects in mostly the same ways, irrespective of individual talents and preferences. Students who don’t learn best by sitting still at a desk are made to feel somehow inferior, while children who excel on conventional measures like tests and assignments end up defining their identities in terms of this weirdly contrived academic parallel reality.
And it gets worse as students ascend to higher levels of the tournament. Elite students climb confidently until they reach a level of competition sufficiently intense to beat their dreams out of them. Higher education is the place where people who had big plans in high school get stuck in fierce rivalries with equally smart peers over conventional careers like management consulting and investment banking. For the privilege of being turned into conformists, students (or their families) pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in skyrocketing tuition that continues to outpace inflation.
Why are we doing this to ourselves?
Peter Thiel, From Zero to One