Cam Newton may be the most recent to suggest that “there’s no such thing as a good loser–only a loser,” but he certainly did not invent the concept. Racecar driver, Dale Earnhardt said, “Second place is just the first place for losers.” A hundred years ago, Knute Rockne said “Show me a good and gracious loser and I’ll show you a failure.” Outspoken baseball manager, Leo Durocher was even more direct: “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you an idiot.”
Did any of these luminaries have children? If so, aren’t you glad your parents are somebody else?
Elite boarding schools also imply that they only interact with winners: “Ninety seven percent of our students go on to college.” “A disproportionately large percentage of our graduates matriculate at ‘top’ universities.” Endless snarky bragging.
Not that there’s anything wrong with these long-standing boarding institutions. To the contrary, the buildings typically have polished wood and the libraries contain many obscure volumes.
But what about the rest of the children? What do exclusive and exclusionary admissions policies communicate about the kids who weren’t admitted to the elite prep school in sixth grade, back when the fevered frenzy of college conversation was only 103 degrees and had not yet become life threatening? What about those few students in our culture who were having childhoods rather than polishing resumes? What about those children who didn’t score in the 99th percentile on their admissions exams?
I heard about a man once who went to big name boarding school and went on to be an immoral snot working on Wall Street stealing money from any and every misguided trusting soul who fell for his silver tongued pitch. Before you tell me that you know someone who went to North Cornstalk State Boarding School who also went on to be an immoral snot working on Wall Street stealing money from any and every misguided trusting soul who fell for his silver tongued pitch, let’s agree that moral ineptitude is not limited to select institutions.
More than colleges, boarding schools do have the opportunity to craft a culture of ethics, compassion and integrity. Whereas a college student has to crash a car, sleep with the dean’s wife, and have a gpa of 0.0 before getting booted*, many boarding schools have a policy of “one and done.” An infraction involving the words “oxy” and “sales” can result in expulsion faster than you can say “but we always admired his entrepreneurial spirit.”
(Read with snooty accent:) “But Barrister and Thiseldown admits only students from families of the highest character. B &T hasn’t expelled a student in the over 150 years it has been in existence. Whereas Slackenheimer Academy routinely ferrets out students who abuse the drug and alcohol policy. Therefore Barrister and Thiseldown does not have students who get schnockered on the weekends but Slackenheimer does.”
Given the information above, the naive reader may favor Barrister and Thiseldown. But a second pass at the data would suggest that to the contrary, Slackenheimer Academy does not have kids with substance abuse issues. Cause they toss ’em. Mortgage the farm: Barrister and Thiseldown does have kids making life threatening bad choices. The administration is just pretending otherwise.
Winners and losers maybe the appropriate paradigm for Super Bowl quarterbacks although, I am told, there are more quarterbacks in this country than there are those who have a Super Bowl ring. Winners and losers is unquestionably a pathetic way to judge our children. Integrity and excellence do not have to be mutually exclusive. There are top schools that address moral as well as intellectual development. In your family, let your children know that winners are defined as those who know right from wrong and act accordingly. Regardless of where they go to school or their pecuniary acquisitions subsequently.
* I may have conflated Otter who slept with Mrs. Wormer with John Belushi who had a zero point zero g.p.a. but the point remains.