Q & A
Getting There Together
Cooperation, not Competition, Takes Everyone Higher
by Karen Strong
Q: Did you attend the ElevatED Conference in June?
A: Yes, and there were many thought-provoking presentations! One of them
made me reflect on a common challenge
we all face: dealing with traffic.
Driving Together Safely
Recently while driving across the state,
I noticed that many of my fellow drivers
seemed to think we were in a competition.
They sped past me. They cut me off when I
turned on my blinker to change lanes. They
hogged the passing lane. More than once I
worried that we would have an accident.
Now, I must admit that I am not a
perfect driver by any means. I am occasionally distracted. I sometimes get in a
hurry and am frustrated by those who are
driving below the speed limit. (My dad
was of the opinion that the posted speed
limit is the minimum speed you should be
driving!) And I make mistakes in my driving from time to time.
When I make mistakes, I pray that my
fellow drivers are attentive and will make
allowances for me. After all, we all want to
arrive at our destinations safely. It is for the
common good that we watch out for each
other and take action to keep each other
safe. Driving across the state, in reality,
should be more like a cooperative effort
than a competitive one. It’s in our best
interests to make certain that we all arrive
Stuck in Competitive Mode
It seems to me that in recent years we
as a society have lost sight of the idea of
“the common good” in our rush to suc-
ceed. This appears to be true even in situa-
tions where we should recognize that what
is good for all of us is good for each of
us—such as my driving example. But we
as a society seem to be stuck in competi-
tive mode in much of our daily activities.
At the Holdsworth Center’s ElevatED:
Education & the Economy Conference
June 4 in Dallas, I heard Richard Reeves,
a Brookings Institution senior fellow in
Economic Studies, talk about his hypothesis that parents have made two moves:
from seeing education as a common good
to (1) wanting top-quality education for
their own children, and ( 2) wanting their
children to have access to better education
than others to yield a competitive advantage over other children.
Reeves’ book, Dream Hoarders,
describes an example of parents wanting
to keep poor-performing students out of
their own children’s classrooms because it
might lessen their children’s achievement.
(He notes that research doesn’t support the
reasoning behind that notion.)
Creating a Better Community
I wonder if some parents are like those
drivers in competition mode, primarily out
for individual gain when actually the success of all in reaching their goals is what
benefits everyone. Yes, we want our own
children to have the best education we can
provide, but by educating all children our
own children will have a better world in
which to live. The economy will be stronger; prisons will be less full; and, as the
saying goes, all boats will be lifted.
Providing excellent educational opportunities for all children, not just our
own, will pay off in many ways. As I
get older, I want all children to get good
schooling, get meaningful jobs, and pay
into the Social Security system. I want all
children to gain skills so that the caregiv-ers in the hospitals and nursing homes will
be able to take good care of me as I age.
We all really do benefit when we provide
educational opportunities for every child
in our community.
‘Are We in This Together?’
Reeves closed his comments at El-
evatED by asking, “Are we in this together
or not?” To add to his sentiments, I’ll share
a couple of my favorite quotes:
“Alone we can do so little; together we
can do so much.” —Helen Keller
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If
you want to go far, go together.” —African
I hope you have a great back-to-school
Karen Strong is TASB associate executive director
of Communications and Public Relations.
By educating all children our own children
will have a better world in which to live.