Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Everyone is Special

A few weeks ago, I was at a popular yeshiva day school in the tri-state area. While I was there, the school was holding a “parade” to celebrate the boys’ hockey team recent victory in their league’s championship. The whole school came out to cheer the team on, as the boys were loaded onto the back of the pick-up truck. The truck was then preceded by a police officer on a motorcycle, and the team waved gleefully as “We Are The Champions” played on the loud speakers.
I completely understand the benefits of such a parade. The parade, very clearly, promoted an amazing amount of school spirit that both the team and the spectators could partake in. It was almost palpable. Winning first place is a huge triumph and the school should be proud. I can only imagine was the 3-year-olds were thinking as their own boys hockey team was paraded around by a police officer. I’m sure it made them feel proud for going to such a day school, especially at such a young age.
However, as someone who is merely sensitive to minorities within the orthodox community – what about the boys who don’t like sports? And perhaps get bullied for it? What about the few gay children who go to this school? Who might not like sports and are uncomfortable with that?
By putting the hockey boys on a pedestal, the school and community are automatically making hockey, and sports in general, elitist. Which is fine! Sports are an important facet of our society, especially within the orthodox community.
But if the model UN team won the “championship” – would they get a parade, too? If a talented, artistic student won an award for their “Best 8th Grade Painting,” would he or she be recognized as much as the hockey team was? This, of course, is just hypothetical rhetoric.
I have absolutely no problem – and in fact, I support – the hockey team’s parade. They worked hard, and the school and team deserve to bask in their pride and glory. School spirit is an important thing, and this definitely creates that feeling.
The only thing that is troublesome to me is the message this parade sends, school spirit aside. Is hockey really the only thing you can be good at to get a parade? Are sports the most elite thing you can be successful at within the orthodox community?
I recently saw the movie "Bully," which is a moving documentary currently in theaters that depicts bullying in American schools. If a child does not like sports and is uninterested in involving him/herself in them, what if he/she wants to become a thespian? Or an artist? Or the team’s manager? Not only will their successes (seemingly) not be as recognized as much as other students’ success in hockey or sports in general, but also: they are more at risk at getting bullied.
I have no proof of correlation between the parade, bullying, and un-sporty children. I only have my observations and thoughts. I’m just nervous for the future, unpopular kids; I’m nervous their achievements won’t be as recognized as those students who are recognized for their athletic talent, and I am nervous that this could, potentially, perpetuate harassment, depression, and in extreme cases (as mentioned in the film and in the media recently) – suicide.
Maybe some school administrators, one day, can think about these things, too, and help to make everyone at school feel comfortable, safe, and special – regardless of what their interests and talents are.