Three years ago my kids’ school system adopted a motivational philosophy known as “E + R = O.” It stands for “Events + Response = Outcomes.” It’s designed, essentially, to be a personal responsibility tool which says “we can control how things go based on our responses to external events.” The action item based on this equation is to “own your R” with the promise that, if you respond responsibly to what life throws at you, you will have good outcomes in life. The schools here are plastered with posters and banners extolling this idea. The kids are even required to carry their student IDs in lanyards which have “E + R = O” on the strap.
“E + R = O” was created by “Chicken Soup for the Soul” author Jack Canfield, but had been more recently championed by then-Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, who wrote a quickie cash-in management book with that as its central concept. Given how Ohio State football coaches are Gods around here, New Albany schools almost certainly adopted the philosophy because it was associated with Urban Meyer.
I took, and continue to take great issue with with that philosophy. I wrote the school board about why I took issue with it and I wrote about that at length here. The short version, though, was that not all “Es” are created equal, not everyone starts with the same advantages in life, and that in many cases one’s life circumstances, not “owning one’s R,” are what determine outcomes. When taken to its logical conclusion, “E + R = O” gives its adherents license to say that anything good which happens to them is a function of their own actions, even when that’s not true, and everything bad that happens to others is because they were not responsible enough, even if that’s not true. That’s a pretty damn toxic thing to teach to kids in mostly white, mostly well-off place like New Albany, Ohio.
I also took issue with E + R = O because, as a sports writer, I can tell you that one should never — EVER — look to sports figures for personal philosophies and life lessons. This is especially true of college football coaches who are given dictatorial-like power over powerless and unpaid people and who are, for the most part, totally immunized from any responsibility or scrutiny for almost anything as long as they win. And even if guys like Meyer don’t turn out to be bad role models, we can and should always aim higher than their wisdom and example when it comes to teaching our children.
You will not be surprised to learn that the school board dismissed my complaints about E + R = O and, to this day, continues to push the concept like crazy.
In related news, last night Urban Meyer went viral after video of him bumping and grinding in a bar with a woman young enough to be his daughter — and who was certainly not his wife — was released online.
I hope this morning at least some of those people who ignored me when I told them that basing an entire educational and behavioral philosophy on what a goddamn football coach spewed in a ghostwritten book was stupid are having second thoughts. And I hope that, in light of last night’s events, Urban “owns his R” as he likes to say.
UPDATE: Meyer did not, alas, Own his R.
Here’s Meyer’s apology/explanation:
“I just apologized to the team and the staff for being a distraction. Just stupid. So I explained everything that happened and owned it. Just stupid. I should not have myself in that kind of position.
“I stayed to see the grandkids, and we all went to dinner that night at the restaurant. There was a big group next to our restaurant and they wanted me to come over and take pictures, and I did. They were trying to pull me out on the dance floor, screwing around and I should have left.”
Meyer also (a) used his quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, as cover, citing the fact that, actually, he once had a wild bachelor party in Vegas, which is pretty damn beside the point. More specifically, the story he offered in his apology was . . . not true.
As local sources have pointed out, Meyer was not out with his grandkids or family at all that evening. They were at home with his wife, who posted photos of herself with her grandkids while Meyer had a “night out” with a local restauranteur/business partner and his entourage. Those are the people he was with when he hit the dance floor. It was not some group next to his lovely family who wickedly tempted him to get his groove on. The video that prompted the apology — and another one that came out after his apology which clearly showed him rubbing his hands all over the woman in question’s rear end — suggest that his bad judgment was not simply a matter of hanging out too long around people who wanted him to dance.
Whatever. Not my life and, if not for the fact that my kids’ school has decided to adopt this man’s philosophies regarding personal responsibility as its primary mission statement, it would not be my problem. But since they have done that I feel like it’s OK for me to say that that’s a bullshit, get-out-of-trouble-as-fast-as-I-can explanation and falls far short of his famous “Own It” rebop.