Something more about the Competitions
It follows from the outline just
given with respect to the ends proposed in these public Contests, the way they are
conducted, the subjects introduced into them, and the abuses to which they have given
rise, as we have clearly demonstrated,
1) That the sum of the inconveniences they cause is far greater than any advantages that can be credited to them;
2) That they bring a certain prejudice against the students who are not selected to compete for the prizes, and, consequently, their mutterings, discontent, and complaints are only too well founded; therefore, it is for the greatest benefit of our teaching that they be suppressed;
3) That they are likely, in general, to cause the poor and those who lack a naturally happy and outgoing disposition to distance themselves from our schools;
4) That they cause disorder, upset, and restlessness in our communities;
5) That the Contests degenerate into purely pompous ceremonies, more showy and noisy than solid; that they demonstrate only a superficial kind of teaching, which is not our own and brings no advantages either to the Teachers or to the students;
6) That they cause disorganization among the students, bitter enmities, scorn, and other attitudes contrary to the mutual friendship that they should always maintain among themselves;
7) That the small number of students chosen to compete does not prove that our schools are generally well served or that the students are well taught;
8) That there is another way of ensuring whether students are well or badly taught and whether they profit from all aspects of our teaching in a way commensurate with their ability and with other circumstances that are more or less advantageous;
9) That this other method is simple and easy, without inconveniences, is capable on the contrary of producing good effects, and is thus to be preferred to the Contests;
10) That we have been led to see as well that the Contests expose the Brothers to the contagious air of vanity and to the danger of being drawn away from the simplicity required by their state;
11) That the Contests can be a source of discouragement for Brothers and the occasion of a vicious competitiveness among them, contrary to both humility and charity;
12) That they bring about frequent changes (always harmful to the good of a school) by the disgust they arouse among the Brothers who have an aversion for these kinds of glossy Competitions and for the communities where they are in force;
13) That they expose the Brothers to a multitude of distractions, to a kind of restlessness harmful equally to their soul and to the spiritual aspect of their task, because someone with a restless soul who has lost the taste for piety and acquired the habit of skipping the community spiritual exercises, which have been set up to support and inspire him, is hardly likely to inspire others;
14) That they bring about an infinity of transgressions of the rules and a loss of time and of the moments set aside for class preparation;
15) That they constitute for the young Brothers a temptation against their vocation;
16) Finally, that the just reasons advanced by the Brothers opposed to the Contests, joined to those deduced from the various propositions we have set out, leave no doubt in proving the need to suppress these pompous events known as Contests.
On more than one occasion, my very dear Brothers, we have complained that these public Competitions were being augmented annually, that these successive increases have made them more and more intolerable in the Institute and at the same time insupportable because of the burden of embarrassment that they bring with them. Our warnings and complaints have not been able to stop this itching desire to distinguish oneself. Things have only worsened. That is why we have believed it our duty to make known that the consequences have become so worthy of condemnation that they speak more efficaciously than all our reprimands.
When we were established in the different places where we now have schools, neither the founders nor the towns required us to form young people to the graces of eloquence or to teach them useless things. Thus the most critical people have always considered that if we would be introducing in the Society of the Brothers of the Christian Schools any public Competitions of such a nature as those we are opposing, we would at the same time be introducing a spirit of carelessness and of pride and, as a result, relaxation and all kinds of disorders. This is how the Institute has always been thought of, and experience has proved that the suppositions formed about this topic were not without foundation.
We have grounds for hoping that everyone following the outline we have just given will find it quite appropriate that we condemn public Contests, declamations, recitations, and graceful compliments, that by these present considerations we forbid our Brothers so to prepare their students, and that we advise the Brothers to limit themselves to the commitments laid down by our Rules and Constitutions and by The Conduct of the Christian Schools, with respect both to the different sections which comprise it and to the method of presenting them.
Since we are proposing by the suppression of public Competitions a very important good and have shown that it will be so, we have reason to believe that everyone who takes a true interest in the instruction given in schools will wish to second our efforts in this regard.
After all we have said, some will ask how the prize distribution will take place where there are foundations and how we are to come to recognize the students who have so merited.
As it would not be possible to carry out simultaneously the distribution of prizes and the choice of the students as candidates, it is necessary, some days before the ceremony, to choose the most deserving from each section of our teaching. Having already stated enough about the way of examining them, we are satisfied to repeat here that for calculation, arrange dictation to see how they use the rules of arithmetic that are within their grasp; for spelling, dictate a letter or something else to them; for writing, select some pages from the paper on which they are currently working. These three examples will be signed by them and presented to the judges of the competition. In the same way, after all the students have read, a list of names will be made out of those competing in reading. During the competition, they will read from the beginning in a book that they have not been accustomed to read. As for catechism and grammar, they will reply to the questions asked of them. The best answers will be concise repetitions of what the students have learned.
Since good behavior, true piety, promptitude, and noticeable application deserve to be included in the competition, care should be taken that these qualities are not overlooked. It is for the students themselves to discern, by vote, those who best deserve these awards. The competitors on this occasion need not be designated until the very day of the competition.