Saturday, June 12, 2010

TV notes – The Nine Test High School Education

I get more and more soured on sports, especially the so-called “student athlete.” There are some really fine athletes who do take their education seriously. I know this because many have graced my classes, working very hard both on the field, and and treating every morsel of knowledge like gold, happy for the privilege to learn. But the truth is that most athletes in college are like a group I have run into in my own job: spoiled children who are genuinely surprised when a teacher has the audacity to fail them in courses they did no work in and rarely, if ever attended. (I once had a baseball player who came so infrequently to his class, I did not know what he looked like.  He only turned in one assignment, which he failed, and asked me how to get an A just before the final exam, which he actually took expecting to pass the course.)
There are some who would blame a culture of entitlement, an attitude seemingly ramped up with athletes (usually male, by the way – most female athletes I’ve encountered take a more realistic approach to college) as if on steroids. Others will blame bad parenting. Others blame the professionals for providing role models only in terms of selfishness and aggrandizement.
I’m sure each of these has some influence on the never was a scholar athlete. But I believe the real culprit is that sports has been made a god and its male participants have become little deities commanding worship. I used to see it in the pros. Then I became a college instructor and realized that it has always been there too. When I became a parent who took his kids to soccer and basketball practices, I saw that many of these little gods had been formed (and their educations dropped like a new convert runs from the devil) long before they hit high school.
Let us take the case of one Tony Mitchell and young man who missed over a hundred days of class and yet managed to rise from being a freshman to a senior in less than two days. Here is Brett Shipp’s first report on the case, reported on WFAA in Dallas on June 1.

Now take a look at Shipp's follow up report on the investigation:

Today I caught the following commentary from anchor John McCaa:

Where have we gotten to as a society when people attach a man for reporting the misdeeds? What are we to say of ourselves when the potential of a gifted athlete, not for what he can use his talents to provide for himself (remember the word “education”?), but what he can bring to a college program, namely fame and money, is all that people are concerned about? We haven’t gotten to any place. We are in the same place we always were: worshipping the sport and the athlete so much, that we become blind to the abuse done not only to education, but also to this young man and those like him and, dare I say, to real values of sports. A handful of us will applaud what Mr. Shipp has done in reporting this story and what Mr. McCaa has said in support of that story. But what does it say about the world we live in when this small minority of us are looked as if we  are the religious zealots, not those who see a misguided and poorly led 17 year old as a savior.

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