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Alfie Kohn. No Contest: The Case Against Competition. Revised Edition. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1992. 324 pp.

This book was awarded the American Psychological Association’s 1987 National Psychology Award for Excellence in the Media.

Kohn examines America’s unquestioning belief in the virtues of competition. He explains how results from relevant research in psychology and education research consistently and repeatedly fail to confirm the beneficial effects of competition and in fact show the effects to be negative. (My acquaitances in the field of education research assure me that Kohn has a deep and accurate understanding of the research literature.) He then proposes explanations of why competition actually does not provide the benefits expected within American cultural ideology.

In conclusion, Kohn rejects the commonly accepted idea that competition is inherent to human character and encourages us to do our best. He argues that competition harms self-esteem and relationships, and that the term healthy competition is a contradiction in terms.

In the revised edition, Kohn suggests classroom alternatives to competition (Kohn’s primary field of application is education).