Rich Paxson

Does schadenfreude permeate our thinking? Is it a prime driver of competitive success? Students desire to avoid that place of the loser. Fear of this failure, some teachers believe, motivates their students to achieve.

Ben Carson, American Presidential primary candidate, recently (January 2016) asked his audience at a campaign stop at the Isaac Newton Christian Academy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:

Do you know who’s your “worst student”?

Before Carson could say this was a ‘joke,’ according to Politico http://politi.co/1Si386U, several in his audience began pointing at one fifth-grade boy. Carson went on to say that he had occupied that place of the loser when he was a fifth-grader, and yet he became a world famous neurosurgeon now running for President. After his speech, Carson met with the student encouraging the boy to realize that he could achieve in his life accomplishments similar to Carson’s own.

The media excoriated Carson for his question. I think Carson’s mistake, or ‘unspeakable sin’ in the probable parlance of the Isaac Newton Christian Academy, was uncovering the schadenfreude that drives us all and that each in our own way know we must deny.