Of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing identified by Ries and Trout in 1993, the first, "The Law of Leadership" states "It is better to be first than it is to be better." No one knows who Bert Hinkler is, because Charles Lindbergh soloed the Atlantic before him. The second law, "The Law of Catagory" states, "If you're not Number 1 in a catagory, create a new catagory in which you are Number 1."
Fifty-six years before the publication of this book on market positioning, an English teacher named Lyle Farrell started a tutorial program at Proctor.
This was not the product of a marketing analysis, or a trustee retreat. It was not the result of lofty educational theory. It was the product of a school in financial desperation at the height of economic depression. But it made Proctor the first college prep school to offer formal academic support services, and it made this school Number 1 in that new category.
Few programs have been more studied and imitated by other schools. Hundreds of support programs are offered today at schools around the world. Yet by being first (and also evolving services to be better,) Proctor's Learning Skills program still enjoys its reputation as Number 1 in its class.
It is interesting that--having established this unique market position--the school did not remain otherwise traditional. Instead, the spirit of innovation spilled over into curricula. A "hands to work" approach forged (out of economic necessity) in the '30s and '40s evolved into prototypic experiential programs.
Proctor became Number 1 in another category: college prep schools that favor experiential modes of teaching and learning.
And when demand for experiential programs shifted over decades, the school responded by allowing continued evolution and adaptation to new realities.
But we're not done! Over the years, a social culture born out of the school's heritage of universalism imbued the community with a balance between structure and informality. A preference for non-adversarial relationships fostered an atmosphere in which teenagers feel comfortable being themselves.
Ries and Trout wrote The 22 Laws so that managers could make conscious decisions resulting in a unique market position. It is interesting that--to a large degree--Proctor established a healthy position within American education through a balance between calculated decisions and evolutionary change.
Lyle Farrell looking over the shoulder of Headmaster J. Halsey Gulick in the late 1930s.
Structured support then.
Today's Mountain Classroom features expanded study of water resource management and border issues.