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Writing Opp: Friendly Competition? (deadline extended to Feb 25)

Fast Facts:

Friends Journal is looking to devote our May issue to competition. It‚Äôs a fascinating topic that doesn‚Äôt always get talked about. Old versions of our books of Faith and Practice have cautions that indirectly relate to competition: our aversion to gambling and games of chance; a commitment to equality and the valuing of a kind of personal humility that keeps individuals from standing out.

If you look back through Friends Journal archives, you‚Äôll find warnings against competitive behavior. In 1955 Bess B. Lane of Swarthmore (Pa.) Meeting wrote that schools should ‚ÄúPlace emphasis on cooperation, sharing, rather than on competition‚ÄĚ and wondered if ‚Äúcompetition is being overstressed in our schools.‚ÄĚ

In 1972, Christopher H. Anderson, then a senior at Wilmington College, had stronger words. He contrasted his Quaker education with public schools, which he said ‚Äúbreed a social conformity, an intellectual blandness and a repugnant spirit of competition.‚ÄĚ

By the mid‚Äź1970s you see a comprehensive Quaker vision coming out of the antiwar movement. It tied seemingly disparate issues such school bullying, military recruitment, war toys, and domestic violence against women. One of the most popular tools were collections of cooperative games for kids. These books ended up on the shelves of most meetinghouses libraries and were brought out for innumerable Quaker gatherings.

I no longer hear as much talk about the potential dangers of competition. FGC kids have been playing the game Wink forever (it‚Äôs said to be adapted from a nineteenth‚Äźcentury parlor game and has survived various attempts to squash it). Various role‚Äźplaying games are quite popular among younger Friends. Most Quaker schools have sports teams, debate clubs, etc. Many Quakers participate in competitive sports and even more follow professional sports. Much of our lives are a careful balancing act between competition and cooperation. Is non‚Äźcompetition still a strong Quaker value?

The May issue will also include our annual Student Voices Project, a chance to hear from middle‚Äź and high‚Äźschool students who are Quaker or attend Quaker schools (do you know someone who should write? Learn more at Friendsjournal‚Äč.org/‚Äčs‚Äčt‚Äču‚Äčd‚Äče‚Äčn‚Äčt‚Äčv‚Äčo‚Äči‚Äčc‚Äčes/). Here are some queries we came up for them as they consider competition in their lives. They might be useful for anyone thinking about feature writing for this issue:

  • How does competition fit in with the Quaker testimony of equality?
  • What do you learn about yourself and others when engaging in competition?
  • What does it mean to win or lose?
  • How much does outcome matter in reflecting someone‚Äôs gifts, abilities, or worth?
  • How has competition helped you grow or change?
  • How do you encourage others to compete and challenge each other in ways that build community?

Submit a piece for our issue: Friendly Competition?

Learn more general information at Friendsjournal‚Äč.org/‚Äčs‚Äču‚Äčb‚Äčm‚Äči‚Äčs‚Äčs‚Äči‚Äčons. There you will also find our newly updated list of upcoming issue themes through 2020.

Martin Kelley is senior editor of Friends Journal.

Posted in: From the Editor's Desk

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