cover image Everyone's a Winner: Life in our Congratulatory Culture

Everyone's a Winner: Life in our Congratulatory Culture

Joel Best. Univ. of California, $24.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-520-26716-9

Sociologist Best (The Stupidity Epidemic) takes on the idea of status abundance in contemporary society. "At the newsstand," he explains, "I can find magazines rating the best colleges, hospitals, high schools, employers, places to live..." to such an extent that "Several times each day, I encounter claims that someone has been designated excellent by somebody else." Best (no pun intended) examines the implications of "status inflation" from several perspectives, including in the proliferation of the "hero" designation, the U.S. News college ranking system, and in K-12 education, there discussing the different approaches most of us take when considering our often failing school systems: "opportunity" advocates (concerned with racial/economic divides), and the more staunch "mastery tradition." The former argue for more recognition to boost self-esteem; the latter are concerned that rewarding sub-par students creates unrealistic expectations. Best presents both sides with clarity and vigor and is clever but never condescending. "Status affluence suggests that contemporary society has found more ways to assure more people that their lives have value and meaning," he notes, and despite the inherent humor to be found in this, Best finds something profound in our willingness to treat our world as meaningful. (Mar.)