What can a small, private girls boarding school teach the two national political parties about character?

What can a small, private girls boarding school teach the two national political parties?

Going into super Tuesday, and then just afterward, both major parties had demonstrated their weaknesses, and shown signs of their representative illegitimacy. The DNC’s vice chairman had quit, over a procedural disagreement. The RNC was going after its own leading candidate for the presidency. He’s leading, but they don’t like him; So they’re not going to support him. And they are pulling out Mitt Romney to give a well delivered speech to denigrate him. (At least they know not to bring out W.)

Only the more intelligent pundits have pointed out the cognitive dissonance of these, and other related events.

On Wednesday night I attended an alumni get together for a private girls school. This is the school that wonderful Teddy attended, and loves to this day for what it did for her and for her daughter Charlotte. We were very happy to have been invited to remain for a dinner with the new head of school, a super intelligent and kind leader and educator.

Still new to the school herself, one of her primary missions is to preserve the school’s traditions.

It occurred to me that the contrast between these two events illustrates another level of cognitive dissonance, between tradition and change. It’s interesting to point out that the public entities are having the most difficulty with tradition. The private entity, in open conversation, regularly discusses the balance between tradition and change.

Change in a girls boarding school pertains to things like cell phone use. In this case, the school encourages a qualitative cell phone use through an Instagram page. The page was created and is maintained by the students. It is all photographs of things the girls love the school. This is an interesting metaphor for the balance of tradition and change.

The parties and the school operate on two grossly different world views. The private entity’s mission is about improving the community with a long view. But, the public entities taunt ego and power. There would be a revolt if the values changed in the girls school. But the party leadership changes the rules to maintain control.

Control does not mean victory. Victory comes when the players all work together for the common good. Victory over Germany and Japan, or the 1980 US Hockey team beating the Soviet Union. It was called the Miracle on Ice. These made Americans all feel exceptional — that is part of the American dream, that feeling. It builds national character.

So what’s the point? We can’t all go (back) to girls boarding school, can we? And, not all of us want to be involved with the national parties.

Each of us can and should embody the best. That means our personal and our national best. This goal is the magnet that has made the country truly great, despite many deep and painful divides.

What made the country strong, and the lesson from the girls boarding school, is about maintaining an admirable sense of community and a longer view of time and responsibility.

By removing our own selfish whims, in favor of what is good for the country long after we are gone, we will ALL do better.

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