Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rah, Rah Team

Football season has started, and the media have hyped the fans to their annual fall frenzy. It would be wonderful if they could support performance in the classroom to the same extent as they do for performance on the athletic field. It seems odd that so much emphasis is placed on things that many animals can do much better than humans ― they can run faster, jump higher, copulate more often, perform greater feats of strength, etc. ― and so little on the process at which humans excel: think. We celebrate what we do from the neck down, and merely tolerate what we do from the neck up.
I do not believe that education necessarily can be improved by throwing more money at it, but it would help if some of the same spirit could be thrown at it.
However, on the subject of money, I realize that athletics is a money-making activity; it is probably the only education-related activity that is self-supporting, and it is my understanding that income from athletic endeavors goes strictly for the furtherance of more athletic endeavors. I do not see any reason why some of the income from sports should not be diverted to classroom necessities. School boards are having a tough time budgeting during the present recession. Everyone wants more results with less money, and here is readily available cash.
I know this is not going to happen, so perhaps another solution would be a change in attitude. Some schools have already done so.
In my area there are two high schools within five miles of each other. One has an outstanding sports program, and the athletes receive overwhelming support from the local fans. Their football team, for example, is almost always in the running for the state championship in its class.
The other school concentrates on classroom results, and although their athletic teams also receive local support, they do not turn out state champions; not many of their athletes receive full athletic scholarships.
At the last area science fair, the second school had 29 students who won awards for their achievements. The first school had no students entered. I believe a difference in emphasis, perhaps by one teacher, made the difference.
I do not mean to imply that the first school turns out only moronic jocks – I realize that there are many good students coming out every year. But with the emphasis of both the school administration and the community concentrated on sports, and scholarships going to more athletes than bright students, even the good students must wonder if it is all worth it. Which school is more likely to turn out the well-rounded citizens which our society needs to compete with China, India and other rising nations in the 21st century? Will it be the brainiacs, or the brawniacs?
As always, time will tell. I’m betting on the brainiacs.

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