School Spirit Insults My Intelligence

I did my undergraduate work in an honors program at a large public university and I can’t complain about the experience.  However, the school’s culture emphasized its sports teams.  I’ve never been much of a sports fan but the great thing about a huge college is that it accommodates a wide variety of people.  Of course, that wide variety of people is supposed to spend its money on football tickets (and college-branded t-shirts and hoodies and caps and vanity license plates and flags and giant spongy pointing hands and umbrellas and oversize insulated mugs and shotglasses) and then fill the generously sized stadium.

The insulated mugs are for coffee, of course.  It helps you stay awake through the entire football game.  However, some of us didn’t center our college experience around a beverage of choice and the university had to cater to us too.

Maryland Terrapins beat Wake Forest - College ...

(Photo credit: Mrs. Gemstone)

And so the university offered over a dozen summer orientation sessions and I attended the one for honors students.  And in addition to the academic information and campus tour, the program included an introduction to school spirit.  The orientation leaders, as part of an evening performance, gathered on stage to mock our school’s athletic rivals one by one and they eventually came to the highly selective school with strong engineering programs.  So one orientation leader stepped forward and, pretending to be a student from that school, started squawking “physics, math, and chemistry!  I got 3000 on the SAT.”  Again and again and again.

Let’s see how many things we can find wrong with that:

1-  They were making fun of smart people at an orientation program directed at smart people.  Of course, the audience’s school spirit skyrocketed as a result.

2- They were implicitly denigrating the quality of education our college offers, which is significant because their audience didn’t choose the college because of its football team.  (Before you get angry about that comment, research has shown that a football team’s successful season correlates with an increase in applications for enrollment the following year.)

3- They were implying that athletes and sports fans are stupid.  That’s not a very nice thing to say about athletes.  (I already established in point 2 that at least some sports fans lack intelligence.)

And, as though to demonstrate against the stereotype of smart people possessing fewer social skills than “normal” people, we did not boo our orientation leaders off the stage, throw food at them, or otherwise mock them for their cluelessness.

At least not to their faces.

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4 thoughts on “School Spirit Insults My Intelligence

  1. My high school had a decades-old feud with the other high school across the street (long story) and on one weekend all the netball, hockey (field) and rugby (football without body armour) teams from the two schools competed for the honour of being the top school in town (an honour that went to the school whose first rugby team won, even if all the other teams lost).

    The week preceding that we had these school spirit sessions (what you’d call pep-rallies) where we had to gather in the hall and shout slogans while this lady (a former student from long ago – all her children were also former students) would yell at us if we didn’t shout loud enough. All this so we could shout louder than the other school when the first rugby team ran onto the field.

    As I never attended the matches (except in my senior year – there was a ceremony in which we all had to take part before the match) I didn’t see why I had to suffer through these sessions. I’d rather have gone to math (I don’t particularly love math, but it would have been better than these sessions (which happened to take place in class time)).

    What’s the point of this long, rambling comment? Elevating sports above academics seem to be the global norm in schools. Now isn’t that ironic.

    • Yeah… and there’s one more irony I left out of my post.

      In the U.S., successful football season results in an increased number of applications for admission. That, in turn, lowers the school’s acceptance rate (even if the students being accepted are no better than before). And that, in turn, increases a school’s presumed academic rating according to the most influential college ranking publication in the country (US News).

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