Competition and Cholesterol – Measuring the Good and the Bad

published in the , December 22, 2005

There are many good programs that address the violence of our youth, but I think we also need to address the environmental issues.

There are two less frequently cited theories of why our youth are so violent; our children's prolonged adolescence and dependence on authority, and our nation's obsession with competition.

A hundred years ago, people between the age of twelve and twenty were responsible adults who were required by circumstances to solve their own problems. They worked in mines, got married, and had children.

Self-reliance and mediating minor altercations without involving central authority were the norm.

Today a longer learning curve is required for our youth to be adequately prepared for life in a more complex world. The result is the creation of a whole, relatively new, segment of society–teenagers. Teenagers are people who are caught in kind of a limbo, between being adults, who have all the freedoms and responsibilities of citizens, and being dependent kids, whose primary tasks are to study their lessons and follow the rules.

Many think adults in charge should be accountable for the protection of students. Instead of being encouraged and empowered to act on their own behalf, students are being told to rely on authorities to protect them.

Teenagers, not quite adults, not quite kids, and not quite jaded by the reality that life is not quite fair, might have an important edge for keeping minor altercations from escalating into violence. Given the skills, the encouragement to be self-reliant, a safe environment within which to practice those skills, and a culture that promotes and nurtures cooperation, they may be able to break the bully/victim cycle, at least in the simple context within which they live their everyday lives.

Another, perhaps more insidious contributor to youth violence is our nation's, and our school's obsession with competition and violence.

We give our kids a double message when we promote sports like football, boxing, and wrestling, within which violence is essential for winning. When winning is too important and violence is the means through which winning must be achieved we have a recipe for disaster.

Competition is like cholesterol. There's the good stuff and the bad stuff. Competition laced with violence is the bad stuff.

 —M. LaCourt

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Marilyn LaCourt

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