As for emulation, a very potent means of exciting and holding the attention of children, it is often objected that a desire to excel, to do better than others, implies an unloving temper, which the educator should rather repress than cultivate. Good marks of some kind are usually the rewards of those who do best, and it is urged that these good marks are often the cause of ungenerous rivalry. Now, the fact is, the children are being trained to live in the world, and in the world we all do get good marks of one kind or another, prize, or praise, or both, according as we excel others, whether in football or tennis, or in picture painting or poem-making. There are envyings and heart burnings amongst those who come in second best; so it has been from beginning, and doubtless will be to the end. If the child is go out into an emulous world, why, it may be possibly be well that he should brought up in an emulous school. But here is where the mother’s work comes in. She can teach her child to be first without vanity, and to be last without bitterness; that is, she can bring him up in such a hearty outgoing of love and sympathy that joy in his brother’s success takes the sting out of his own failure, and regret for his brother’s failure leaves no room for self glorification. Again, if a system of marks be used as a stimulus to attention and effort, the good marks should be given for conduct rather than for cleverness – that is, they should be within everybody’s reach: every child may get his mark for punctuality, order, attention, diligence, obedience, gentleness; and therefore, marks of this kind may be given without danger of leaving a rankling sense of injustice in the breast of the child who fails. Emulation becomes suicidal when it is used as the incentive to intellectual effort, because the desire for knowledge subsides in proportion as the desire to excel becomes active. As a matter of fact, marks of any sort, even for conduct, distract the attention of children from their proper work, which is in itself interesting enough to secure good behaviour as well as attention.
~ Charlotte Mason, Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, Vol.1