The mayor of Jacksonville is not known for his graciousness towards his foes. His personal motto: Prepare. Compete. Win. Next. When a challenge arises, he likes to state, “I win.”

He has. He is known as a bully mayor, but not in a Teddy Roosevelt sense.

It is remarkable that the clip is not about participation trophies; it is about suspending a coach for running up the score. The clip offers an alternative blow-out rule, one which Florida high school sports have, that would stop a game if the margin of victory exceeds a threshold level.

Lenny Curry is not known for his sportsmanship and his tweet is very revealing. “Raw competition makes the whole better and stronger.”

Never mind the price paid by those who lose, the tweet makes it seem that following the rules is for losers. Even before state athletic associations adopted blow-out rules, there existed a long-standing tradition that teams would not seek to run up a score when the victory is in hand. Coaches who violated this norm received sanction through social pressure of media commentary and public opinion.

When did empathy and compassion for the weak stop being American values?

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) wonders if that is why the murder problem is not an upfront and compelling priority for the mayor. Does he look at the victims as having lost a raw (Darwinian) competition and that the “whole,” that is, the city, is better and stronger without them?

Furthermore, the mayor has confused handing out participation trophies with an “everyone wins” mentality. The latter is stupid and no one is fooled by it, not even children.

GOT remembers a summer where he volunteered to be an adult supervisor at a church’s camp. One day, there was a competition. His team was told they won, but the children overheard another team being told they had won. When they questioned it, a camp counselor said that everyone wins at the camp.

That answer satisfied no one. But that is not what’s behind the practice of participation trophies. These trophies recognize the work and effort of competitors over a period of time. They are a memento of the experience, not a false award of victory that did not happen.

The Olympics awards silver and bronze medals as well as gold. Wimbledon gives the defeated finalists an inscribed silver plate. Other sports do so as well.

Vince Lombardi is quoted as having said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

Lenny Curry would approve. Raw competition, baby, prepare, compete, and win.

But Lombardi also said this: “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” (Emphasis by GOT.)

One senses that Lombardi would approve of participation trophies.

In the education world, we have toned down the sense of competition in favor of cooperation.

Industrialists, think tank foundations, policy makers, and more have said that the key to success in the 21st century economy is not the ability of an individual to outcompete all others. It is the ability to work in teams, cooperatively, contributing to the group goals. The credit for a ‘win’ goes not to one, but to all.

That’s why classrooms have children working in cooperative groups. That’s why their work is evaluated against an objective standard, not against each other.

That’s why perseverance is a key quality to success in school. The ability to shake off a failure, investigate what went wrong, and try again and again and again until success is found is crucial to acquiring an education.

That’s why GOT gives his students second chances. Failure is a part of learning and that’s as true in all life as it is in school.

That’s why failing is not seen as losing, but as an opportunity to grow.

That’s why empathy, compassion, and help are modeled for students and inculcated in the children. These are key themes in the mental health lessons we are doing once a month (a key initiative of Casey DeSantis, the governor’s wife.)

Image result for sauron
One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.

This idea of raw competition does not belong in school. Competing and winning are parts of the American character, but so is compassion for others. Good sportsmanship is as important to winning as the winning itself. When he was a youth, did the mayor decline to participate in the post game ritual of shaking hands with the other team? Did he do so as an opportunity to gloat (Prepared. Competed. Won. NEXT!) Does he have the attitude of Sauron to crush all his enemies and subject everyone under his rule? Will we see this next above the St. James Building in Jacksonville?

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