Moving on from Scarcity

A mistake I repeatedly make is believing there is not enough of something to go around. I believe this flawed mindset is easier to see in business settings than in education, but it happens. It’s easy to see how the idea of market share leads to a scarcity mindset, but less obvious how public education can breed scarcity views. 

One way the scarcity mindset showed up for me was in how I wanted to be the teacher kids confided in. I wanted to be the teacher kids came back to visit. I wanted to be their favorite. What I missed was how different kids have different needs. I missed how some of my colleagues were better at meeting certain needs than I was. I missed that I was part of a team. I don’t need to be their favorite teacher, I need to do my best to help students continue to grow. 

My early blogging efforts were also largely informed by scarcity views. I desired more followers, more “likes”, and more retweets. What I’ve found is that if I write what has meaning for me, the likes and followers matter less. A scarcity mindset makes us focus on extrinsic outcomes and turns everything into a competition. Yet, just like teaching is a team effort, I find the community around social media is much better than anything I can accomplish by myself. 

A scarcity mindset also shows up in scholarship efforts. Striving to be the first to make a certain claim or establishing oneself as an authority by attacking others’ work is a hallmark of the scarcity mindset. Indeed, the need to be the first to make claims has led to ridiculously long discussion sections in which authors proclaim grandiose ideas well beyond what their data can support. No wonder the public grows wary of scholars. Clearly, there can be more than one authority in any given area and if we are really scholars, we should be seeking to build our collective understanding and seeking how our work interacts with the work of others rather than trying to establish primacy. 

Chasing accolades is tiresome. While I can’t say that I’ve completely moved on from a scarcity mindset, I know I am a lot happier when scarcity isn’t driving me. 

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11 Responses to Moving on from Scarcity

  1. becky1129 says:

    This is a thought-provoking post (for me, anyway). I think your “Mistaken Monday” fault this week is something I struggle with similarly, although I’d never heard the term scarcity mindset before.

    I agree with (or am still juggling with) most everything you said, except maybe the last part. Competition is good, I think. It motivates people to get things done and do their best. Although it might push some people to throw out unsubstantiated ideas or undermine others, like you said, don’t you also think it can be a good motivator?

    Also, it’s good to hear there’s a part of you that appreciates “likes” and comments because I (almost) always have opinions and questions after reading anyone else’s ideas. It takes effort not to comment on all of your blog posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jerridkruse says:

      Always appreciate comments.

      I think competition is a good motivator for achievement. However, achievement can be attained by dishonest means. I think competition causes people to work hard, but also to cheat. It causes people to work together, but maybe in a quid pro quo fashion.

      Like anything there are trade-offs. Is all competition bad? Probably not, but I’m growing increasingly skeptical that competition belongs in educational settings.

      Like

      • becky1129 says:

        Huh. Now that’s something I didn’t expect! So, are you thinking that it might not belong because it might turn students against each other, instead of working collaboratively and supporting one another?

        I suppose I’m thinking less general than that because I’m thinking of my own experiences at school. School sucked, for lack of a better word. The only time I was remotely interested in school was when there was some sort of competition–any competition, really. The earliest fond memory I have of school was second grade, racing Billy Kackert on our addition facts. I wanted to get mine done first, and it usually came down to a foot race to the teacher’s desk. “Around the World” was another favorite of mine. I even loved class spelling bees, even though I was a terrible speller and never made it very far. Now that I’m thinking about it, I think competition can create a purpose to learning for kids. Sure, maybe in an ideal world, people would be genuine scholars and always want to learn to better themselves, but I don’t think that outlook is very practical (or maybe I’m just being cynical).

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        • jerridkruse says:

          Part of the reason you might be right in your skepticism is because competition is so valued in schools (grades, class rank, etc). We aren’t going to create kids who are genuinely interested in learning for learning sake with competition-based education.

          I don’t think competition will necessarily turn kids against each other, but i don’t think it nurtures a “we are all in this together” mentality that I believe we desperately need right now.

          Liked by 1 person

        • becky1129 says:

          I’m not necessarily thinking of class rank or grades, though. I’m pretty sure I’m on board with standards-based grading. I’m talking about an actual competition, whether it’s a spelling bee in the classroom or a free-throw contest in gym or, as in your post, a scientist trying to be the first to publish research findings or a theory to explain it.

          Like

        • becky1129 says:

          I’m switching gears here and want to ask, what about people who don’t necessarily value learning for learning’s sake? Couldn’t that be seen as a cultural value? Maybe I’m wrong.

          Like

        • becky1129 says:

          Your short response leaves me feeling like I’m way off base here. Maybe I am! Certainly I see the benefit in learning and thinking critically. I hope my comment didn’t suggest otherwise.

          Like

        • jerridkruse says:

          No. I just agree that learning for learning sake is a cultural value, but most things are.

          Like

        • becky1129 says:

          So, if that’s the case, then maybe we can’t expect all of our students to support the idea that school is important in and of itself. Even if that’s a goal we have for our students, it might not be enough in the one semester or year we’re with them. Maybe looking for alternative ways to motivate them is OK (or maybe it detracts from those goals, but I’m not convinced). I don’t know if competitions are necessarily the best alternative, but surely they can be an option to create interest & purpose for some students… as long as we’re also aware of the problems it can cause.

          Some students shy away from competition, but I think a lot of kids love it! Kids always want to know who “won.” I think we might as well use that excitement to our advantage. That’s my tentative opinion right now, anyway.

          Liked by 1 person

        • becky1129 says:

          Sorry, by school, I meant education…

          Like

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