What’s Fredonia for?

This came from a conversation with a student:

“What is it you think we’re doing here?”

“Trying to become better athletes.”

“Why should we want that?”

“So that we can win.”

“For what?”

“So that we can be the best.”

“For what?”

“Well, if we’re the best, then more people will hear about us, and if more people hear about us then more people will want to come to school here.”

“Is that good?”



“Because then we’ll have more money.”

“Then what?”

“Then we can build better facilities, and attract better athletes.”

“Then what?”

“Then we can be the best.”

“Then what?”

“Then we can win.”

I did not mention the logical fallacy at play here, and I did not mention that winning and suffering go hand-in-hand. John Wooden frequently said that the worst years of his life were when his UCLA teams were winning national championships. If one seeks to win, then one must be clear that she is willing to suffer for it. No pain, no gain.

There’s an alternative model, though it’s been buried by modern culture. It was well-articulated by the Puritans when they founded Harvard College:

“After God has carried us safe to New England, and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the civil government: One of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and to perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”