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Playing to Win

Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture

HILARY LEVEY FRIEDMAN
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt7zw31j
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  • Book Info
    Playing to Win
    Book Description:

    Playing to Win:Raising Children in a Competitive Culturefollows the path of elementary school-age children involved in competitive dance, youth travel soccer, and scholastic chess.Why do American children participate in so many adult-run activities outside of the home, especially when family time is so scarce? By analyzing the roots of these competitive afterschool activities and their contemporary effects,Playing to Wincontextualizes elementary school-age children's activities, and suggests they have become proving grounds for success in the tournament of life-especially when it comes to coveted admission to elite universities, and beyond.In offering a behind-the-scenes look at how "Tiger Moms" evolve,Playing to Winintroduces concepts like competitive kid capital, the carving up of honor, and pink warrior girls. Perfect for those interested in childhood and family, education, gender, and inequality,Playing to Windetails the structures shaping American children's lives as they learn how to play to win.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95669-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface: ENTER TO GROW IN WISDOM
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Introduction: PLAY TO WIN
    (pp. 1-23)

    Itʹs just after lunchtime on a Saturday in June. In the basement cafeteria of a public elementary school the smell of Doritos, doughnuts, pizza, and McDonaldʹs fries hangs in the air. Although there is a chess tournament in progress in the gym, less than fifty feet away, the atmosphere in the cafeteria is boisterous. Some children are entertaining themselves by running between the tables. Others, almost all boys, are engaged in rambunctious games of team chess, known as ʺbughouse.ʺ¹ A few kids sit apart, absorbed in playing their Game Boys. The youngest of the children are huddled at the back...

  5. ONE Outside Class: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN CHILDREN’S COMPETITIVE ACTIVITIES
    (pp. 24-49)

    Middle-class childrenʹs lives are filled with adult-organized activities, while working-class and poor children fill their days with free play and television watching.¹ This is one of the central observations of Annette Lareauʹs ethnographic study of families raising third-grade children around Philadelphia.² Lareauʹs findings about the way children from middle-class families use their time is consistent with popular conceptions of overscheduled American kids who are chauffeured and schlepped from activity to activity on a daily basis.³

    Of course the overscheduled children of the middle class not only participate in myriad after-school activities; they also compete. These elementary school–age kids try...

  6. TWO More than Playing Around: STUDYING COMPETITIVE CHILDHOODS
    (pp. 50-80)

    ʺDo you want to play?ʺ

    I always dreaded that question. Not because I didnʹt want to play, but because I didnʹt really know how. I am a chess neophyte and a failed soccer player. There was simply no way I could keep up with the pintsize players I was studying—even though I tried, much to their delight.

    During six to nine months of intensive observation of chess, then soccer, and finally dance, I learned how these activities and their competitions are organized, who is in charge, and why they are ordered the way that they are in the present...

  7. THREE Cultivating Competitive Kid Capital: GENERALIST AND SPECIALIST PARENTS SPEAK
    (pp. 81-120)

    ʺDid you interview the chess lady?ʺ

    Lois, aka the ʺchess lady,ʺ is well-known throughout the Metro chess community. But Lois isnʹt really a chess lady. She barely even knows how to play chess. Through her organizational prowess, battle-ax attitude, and devotion to her daughterʹs competitive success, she is appreciated by some and reviled by others—especially after she had a chess coach fired from her daughterʹs school based on his legal status in this country when she thought her daughter wasnʹt getting enough individualized attention from him.

    Lois is in her early forties. She is married with two young girls,...

  8. FOUR Pink Girls and Ball Guys? GENDER AND COMPETITIVE CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES
    (pp. 121-152)

    Up to now I have argued that the motivations of the families who inhabit the worlds of competitive chess, dance, and soccer are similar. Yet clearly there are differences, and most families choose just one of these competitive activities and do not simultaneously pursue all of them. Why do some parents select chess for their children instead of dance or soccer? Are these decisions based on the content of the activities themselves, other factors, or both?

    Gender matters a great deal. Conversations with parents of boys and parents of girls in chess, dance, and soccer make it clear that the...

  9. FIVE Carving Up Honor: ORGANIZING AND PROFITING FROM THE CREATION OF COMPETITIVE KID CAPITAL
    (pp. 153-179)

    For the teachers and coaches affiliated with Metro and West County Chess, Metro Soccer Co-op and Westfield Soccer Club, Metroville Elite Dance Academy and Westbrook Letʹs Dance Studio, and many other programs, competitive kidsʹ activities are a source of financial stability. They make a living by creating an environment to create Competitive Kid Capital and by creating and sustaining a base of families who believe that Competitive Kid Capital is essential to future success. Behind the culturally celebrated veil of competition is an elaborate infrastructure and industry that organizes, supports, and promotes organized childrenʹs activities while shaping the daily lives...

  10. SIX Trophies, Triumphs, and Tears: COMPETITIVE KIDS IN ACTION
    (pp. 180-213)

    Outside the streets are covered in dirty slush, flecked with bits of the fresh, white snow that continues to fall on this cold March day.¹ Inside the office is warm, but the sound of car horns intruding on our conversation reminds us of the snowstorm clogging traffic twelve floors below. I am sitting this Friday afternoon talking about the career of the person sitting behind the large, wooden desk.

    Max is white, Jewish, and nine years old, a fourth-grade student in the Talented and Gifted program at a public school in Metro. He is telling me about the evolution of...

  11. Conclusion: THE ROAD AHEAD FOR MY COMPETITIVE KIDS
    (pp. 214-228)

    When people find out that I study competitive after-school activities, they want to know what my own children do. I have always been able to dodge the question, replying that I donʹt have children. But I canʹt avoid an answer any longer. As I was finishingPlaying to WinI had a baby boy. Will I teach him chess in the hopes that heʹll compete at the 2018 National Championships? Get him on a travel soccer team by age eight? Enroll him in dance classes so he can appear on a series likeDance Moms? Or decide to forgo all...

  12. APPENDIX: Questioning Kids: EXPERIENCES FROM FIELDWORK AND INTERVIEWS
    (pp. 229-244)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 245-264)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 265-282)
  15. Index
    (pp. 283-288)