On educational problems of competition

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Linna building, Väinö Linna auditorium, address: Kalevantie 5.

Jani Pulkki

Doctoral defence of M.A. (Educ.) Jani Pulkki

Kilpailun kasvatuksellisista ongelmista : Hyveitä 2000-luvulle (On educational problems of competition : Virtues to twentieth first century)

The field of science of the dissertation is Education.

The opponent is docent Rauno Huttunen (University of Turku). Professor Veli-Matti Värri acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is Finnish.

On educational problems of competition. Virtues to twentieth first century

Jani Pulkki’s dissertation on the educational problems of competition asks what competition is and how did it originate. All education and child rearing require understanding of human social interaction, competition included. Without a philosophically justifiable view of competition hegemony of today, educator is at risk of becoming a mere agent of socialization without an adequate understanding of competition and what it does to human beings. Common slogan of competitiveness includes social pressures, which can result in educators abandoning their pedagogic convictions in favor of economistic ideology of competition. This study offers conceptual tools for understanding competition for educators and it aims to prevent the harsh effects of competitive education.

The first main task of this research is thus to enable understanding competition and the history of this idea. The second main task is to contrast modern competitive thought to perennial and eco social virtues. This way it is possible to demonstrate the fundamental educational problems of competition in a clear and distinct way. The research is limited to analyzing the problems of competition as the benefits are widely acknowledged and generally exaggerated.

The first main result of this study is to demonstrate how competition is not as universal and inevitable feature of human society as commonly assumed. Instead, it prevents human growth to eco socially conducive directions. Conceptual analysis presents the definition of competition as circular reasoning of culturally inclined concepts. The current appreciation and self-evident status of competitions is intimately linked to modern western worldview and its cultural history with its assumptions and ideologies. Competition is defined using such ideologically inclined concepts as scarcity, freedom, resources, insatiable wants and needs, markets, and human nature, which are thought universal. Ideas of competitive human nature, economy, and society have emerged via liberal philosophy, economics, and theory of evolution. The assumption of the inevitable nature and all-around desirability of competition ignores, for example, that people can be educated to other forms of social interaction, such as collaboration and sharing.

The second main result of this study is to show contradictions of competitive values and perennial virtues. The virtue-ethical analysis contend that competition hinders benevolent and balanced character building very much needed for addressing the current eco social plight of humanity. Competition makes us hard and callous for we need to aspire outdoing other people regardless of our conscience which might call otherwise. Competition creates habits of self-centeredness, instrumental valuation, greed, and other traditional vices. Indifference to the welfare of others is learned in competition, in which losing is one’s own fault, threaten to destroy the life supporting systems of this earth. The aggressive pursuit of trying to outdo others lacks sense of proportion, empathy, and benevolence, and other perennial virtues.

This study conducts a critical study of competition, but it also aspires inspiring hope by showing the value of perennial virtues in the twentieth first century. Good education and child rearing requires a horizon of hope for seeing the future in a positive light. The eco crisis of today can be addressed by fostering eco social and perennial virtues via good education to enlightened moral subjectivity. But first, we need to emancipate our imaginations from the binds of competitive thought and see beyond. Helpfulness, benevolence, magnanimity, and generosity towards human beings and other living creatures are necessary now and in the future. Educational science starts from the premise devoid of fatalism: human beings are educatable. Moving beyond aggressive and competitive mentality to more benevolent directions is possible and needed so that human beings and the life supporting systems of this earth can flourish. But first, we need to see competition as a choice of values.


The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2332, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2017. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1837, Tampere University Press 2017.

The dissertation can be ordered at: Juvenes e-bookstore or by e-mail: verkkokauppa@juvenesprint.fi.

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