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Chapter Nine: Adolescence and Education

Section 3: Teamwork


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As in middle childhood, competition offers standards of excellence and opportunities for psychological success in adolescence. Because the adolescent can think in terms of large systems, it is desirable to offer access to intermural competition. The social sanctions applied to transgressions will be less direct, but the adolescent will compensate by being more sensitive to them.



If competition in middle childhood allowed plenty of opportunities for psychological success, the adolescent should be ready for more direct assessment of where one stands in comparison to others. After all, the adolescent is becoming concerned with career-type commitments and is in greater need of clear feedback on what one does and does not do well. This justifies the distinction between varsity and junior varsity intermural sports and intramural sports for the "less serious." Still, a large enough variety of competitive areas should be provided so that diverse talents all get recognized.



As we have said, in middle childhood the challenge is to be aggressive within bounds. The adolescent takes this challenge to a new level of sophistication. One competes with potential teammates for positions on the team and on the starting line-up. One must optimally cooperate with these competitors in order to emerge victorious in the test against another such group. This precarious balance between competition and cooperation typifies much of the high-powered business and political world.



Another subtlety that probably cannot be grasped until adolescence is the difference between rules and "rules". Rules are explicitly agreed upon or imposed regulations, often written, which purport to govern a competition or other social process. However, it is often the case that the advantages of breaking the rules outweigh the risk of sanctions that might be applied. In the extreme, this leads to a criminal mentality. Short of that, successful people are expected to transgress within bounds. Athletes might slug one another during the course of play, not necessarily out of anger, but simply to enrage the opponent who might be caught retaliating. Corporations might bribe to get an edge on the competition.



However, just as a speeder might ignore the 55-mph limit but stay below 70 mph, most rule-breakers recognize, at least vaguely, some limits or "rules." Too severe transgressions within any arena might require the breakdown of the entire game. So the successful competitor must play within the "rules" while giving lip service to the rules.



The tensions between competition and teamwork, aggression and rules, and rules and "rules" help explain the ulcers, high blood pressure, and heart attacks of the high-powered set. (The over application of skills in balancing these conflicts results in obsessions with sexual conquests and intolerance of weakness which sometimes interferes with an adult relating to one1s own child.) Thus, it is important to consider how such abilities can be acquired without overly taxing the emotional and physical limits of the adolescent and adult. This will be considered later in this chapter.







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