There must be some circles, perhaps academic, in which this problem has been long studied and either a consensus or a clear demarcation of opposed views awaits my reading. But I don't hear enough about it in media or blogosphere so here goes.
Compete! It is the one-word bible that pervasively informs so many aspects of life in America...work or play.
This is odd. Most of our conventional bibles, so far as I know, are mostly silent about us beating the competition and leave it to the deity to do that. I do know those bibles speak louder when the say "Cooperate". It is easier to enlist Darwin in this debate than any of the prophets but instead he is drafted and abused by those who have grown up with the lesson that you must get the other guy before he gets you. Even people who are uncomfortable with evolution like to think they are the "fittest". But they misunderstand that word to mean they are more dangerous and self reliant than others.
Only if you are completely blind to the many ways in which all persons and all life on earth are connected and interdependent, do you see the need to outrun out punch or outsmart the other guy as a, no, as THE self evident good.
If you note even some of the connections [ most of us are selectively blind to at least some and neither science nor art have yet found them all] then you begin to see that cooperation is also a sensible thing to have evolved in nature and to be confirmed by being repeatedly discovered in the insights about "brotherhood" and "thy neighbor as thyself" and "the stranger within your gates" and "all sentient beings" that human spiritual leaders have set down for us. Being the first post-evolutionary species, i.e. the first in which cultural [non genetic] behaviors with all their freedom from logic, are as important as any instinct or reflex, we have to be so very careful to see that the same common sense and mathematical balancing of interests that nature must obey is obeyed in our ethics and codes of behavior.
If, on both a personal and cultural level, the need for cooperation were accorded the same heartfelt allegiance the need for competition gets, would family income still be the largest determinant of whether children got all the practical education they could use and got it before it was too late to be absorbed? Would treating employment as a fixed pie, from which one should cut the largest possible slice, still be the de facto operating principle of job markets? Would we let the untrained just rot? Ignoring the pro and con of his assessment of the impact of technology, if you follow what Thomas Friedman sees at the sorry state of US competitiveness you might be prepared to consider that ultimately competitiveness is 90% cooperating and 10% competing.
"But its a dog-eat-dog world" you say? Who made it so? Chicken and egg questions only point to a cycle that needs breaking. Any culture focused on consumption dwells on eating the fruits of education. Help all to a good education or you are forgetting to plant the seeds and cultivate. Break the cycle or the harvests will peter out.