I think people enjoyed the company of boys who were smart and working hard ...as a group... to succeed. I think people respond to that sense of camaraderie... I think most people would love to be part of a group that is achieving.
Also, I think the comparison between Hector's old fashion way of teaching and goal of learning versus Irwin's way and goal was absorbing.
Hector's way was more "follow your interests" and all knowledge was worth gaining. His goal was to make the well-rounded person, one who could appreciate life.
Irwin's way was a strategic game. Play to succeed. Winning was the goal. Success was the goal. What kind of person you turned out to be wasn't the point.
Both Hector and Irwin were gay. Irwin was afraid of his gayness because it was a threat to his acheiving success...his sole goal. But Hector wasnt afraid of his gayness because living life to succeed in Irwin's sense wasn't his priority. His goal and standard for success was to be himself as a human being. He wasnt harming the boys. They werent forced. They werent children. I'm not sure why the writers made him that way tho. Unless gay was the only character trait they could use to show the difference between Hector and Irwin in personal matters.