Jesuit grads across the country are beaming with pride. Jordan Spieth, an alum of Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, has just won the 115th United States Open, his second consecutive major golf tournament win. This is all the more remarkable given that, at age 22, most of his high school classmates are barely a month removed from college graduations. The last professional golfer to accomplish this feat at such a young age was Gene Sarazen in 1922.
But our pride in Spieth goes far beyond his incredible golfing accomplishments. He carries himself with humility and grace. He refers to adults as “sir” and “m’am.” He handwrote this thank you note to the benefactors that helped provide for his education.
Spieth strikes us as the embodiment of a “person for others,” a hallmark of Jesuit secondary education. Upon seeing his success both on and off the course , it is easy for me to think, “Nobody does education like the Jesuits do.”
Another recent news story frustrates this narrative, however. Three months ago, this video depicting a fraternity participating in a racist chant was released:
The leader of this chant was also a graduate of Dallas Jesuit, only three years after Spieth. Holding these two stories together gives us good reason to reexamine the narrative of Jesuit school exceptionalism. What are the fruits of our Jesuit education? What gives us real reason to be proud? When does our education cause us to feel superior, or lead us to look down on others? How do racism, sexism, and homophobia seep into the walls of our institutions?
We have good reason to be proud of Jordan Spieth and the many graduates of Jesuit schools who strive to be men and women for others. However, it seems to me that the narrative of Jesuit exceptionalism ought to be dismissed, and that we become more comfortable with understanding ourselves (and our institutions) as a mixed bag.
Cover Image: Chambers Bay Golf Course, courtesy Flickr User Atomic Taco, Flickr Creative Commons, available here.