Foobaww first!


A former Texas public school teacher has sent me some stories from their career there. It’s not pretty. The situation is what I also recollect from my long-ago days in a Yankee high school, though, so I don’t know that we can just blame Texas, but it’s true — the system is often set up to give athletes (including cheerleaders) academic privileges that other students don’t get. Student athletes were expected to always pass their classes to maintain eligibility, no matter how poorly they did, and teachers were chastised if they compromised athletic eligibility.

Here’s a letter that was sent out to all teachers at a Texas high school, gently reminding them of what they must do — either pass students or give them an incomplete — so that the football team doesn’t suffer.

Teachers, please remember that we have over 1500 students involved in extracurricular activities who work very hard to have academic success as well as compete or stay connected to the school through their commitment to their organization or team. These students strive to do the right things and have adult coaches or sponsors who support you by working with any student who is not meeting your standards for conduct or academic success. The eligibility status of these students is very important to them, their parents, and to this campus. Please review six weeks grades of 68 and 69 to ensure that those grades accurately reflect student effort, test/assignment reliability and accuracy, and objectivity that can be explained. Please also remember that any student who you are going to allow to make up work or do additional work should be given an “I” instead of an assigned numerical grade.

From the UIL Side By Side
Rules:

Q: Can a student’s grade be changed for eligibility?

After a failing grade has been recorded, the situations in which a student’s grade may be changed to passing and eligibility status restored are only as follows:
(a) an examination of course graded issued by a classroom teacher is final and may not be changed unless the grade is arbitrary, erroneous, or not consistent with school district grading policy as determined by the board of trustees. The board’s decision may not be appealed. (This is also known as teacher or calculation error.)
(b) Extra credit work or work (including re-test) turned in after the grading period or evaluation has ended may not be considered when determining a student’s eligibility for extracurricular activities except in the case of an “incomplete” grade.

Thank you for your support.

Why are they telling the teachers that they have students active in sports? We all know this. We shouldn’t care. The job of a teacher is to make sure the students understand the material, and if their afternoon head-butting practice interferes with learning, students shouldn’t expect special exemptions. Why are they telling the teachers to make sure that “grades accurately reflect student effort, test/assignment reliability and accuracy”? We all do that, too, and not just for the student athletes. An accurate assessment of a student who doesn’t do the classwork should be FAIL.

I love how the administration blithely informs teachers that they should give incompletes to students so they can make up the work they should have done during the term later. That is not right. That is expecting teachers to put in extra work beyond the grading period, to help out the boneheads with extra time and instruction…but I suspect there is no talk of extra pay for teachers who do that.

Hey, I have this brilliant, amazing, completely non-intuitive idea: how about if our schools emphasized academics, not sports, and that extra-curricular activities were regarded as an optional side-issue, completely orthogonal to the goals of the school?

(Also on Sb)

Comments

  1. HNS_Lasagna says

    Funny thing is the same policy applied at my school, just not for band… apparently music/ band isn’t an extracurricular activity.

  2. daveau says

    Just saw a news story this morning that only 25% of Illinois HS students are academically prepared for college. I don’t think that we have 75% athletes. I’m pretty sure that we’re doing better than Texas is, though.

  3. Freerefill says

    Extra-curricular. Outside of the curriculum. Not interfering with the curriculum.

    Get these people a dictionary.

  4. LRA says

    I totally agree that the focus should be academics, and for students participating in UIL activities to get extra favors is pretty sh*tty.

    However, I see the tone of this letter as saying that when kids are able to do their favorite extra-curriculars, they *want* to remain in school (as opposed to, say, dropping out).

    I’m a certified teacher in the state of Texas. I taught at a high school in Dallas where dropping out was a problem. I no longer teach in Texas public schools because (1) I get no compensation for the extra time I spend there (2) the pay is sh*tty to begin with (garbage collectors in Texas make more than I did) (3) the administration gave me no power to hold kids after school and make them do their work (4) there are more reasons, but I would be taking up lots of space to write them all out. It was a lose-lose situation.

    Teacher turnover is high just about every where because we aren’t treated as the white-collar professionals that we are. You can’t expect to maintain a workforce of good teachers if you aren’t willing to help them live at least a middle class lifestyle. Why go to college to be poor?

    Many teachers see teaching as a stepping stone to something else. That’s what it was for me. As long as I can get better jobs elsewhere, I will not go back to teaching. It’s a pity, because I’m actually a very good teacher and consistently receive high performance ratings.

  5. AddiePray says

    To be fair, it doesn’t say football or athletics specifically. They probably mean things like speech and debate and the mathletes. I’m sure that’s what they had in mind.

  6. Abelard says

    I have an idea. Pay football coaches 30k a year and tell them if they lose a game they’ll be fired.

  7. Pris says

    Am I ever glad that we don’t bother with this nonsense in Germany. Over here, Sports and Music are done by clubs that have nothing at all to do with the school. Clubs and groups may apply to use rooms in the school after hours.

    There is some extra curricular activity after school, like bands, orchestras, several arts, extra languages, extra sciences, some sport. It is truly extra curricular as it is only after classes are finished for the day and students are asked to leave if their course work is slipping.

    There is no athletic or academic competition between schools. At all.

    This has the added bonus that there are no additional social strains added through popular athletes.

    And there are no funds wasted on building ever bigger sports facilities. The way things were at the schools I attended you were lucky if the equipment was functional and not broken and the building was sound.

  8. unbound says

    Yeah, this is the way it worked when I was in high school as well.

    LRA – I disagree with your assessment. The letter was specifically addressed to extracurricular activities. No mention of students that also work part-time jobs (I was one of those). No mention of students that may have family related issues such as having to take care of the lame.

    Futhermore, the letter specifically states concerns about eligibility status (for the bulk of the notice). Eligibility status for most schools (to my knowledge) is for sports programs only. Extracurricular activities such as drama, band, school journalism, etc is rarely ever looked at from an “eligibility” perspective (and I am drawing a distinction between written policy and actual policing).

    Sorry, but this is the sports programs continuing to dominate the schools. And it shows itself in other ways even today at my local high school (the field specifically designated for Marching Band practice was taken for another sport, and a dangerous field provided in its place…long story around getting donations to fix that field…with the principal only ever really concerned about making sure the sports program got the best of everything).

  9. Glynnis says

    So depressing. I’m in the middle of pursuing a degree to teach… in Texas. It seems like every day I learn something new that makes me think that teaching in a public school would drive me to madness.

    I’m reevaluating my options, and thinking maybe teaching in the prison system or at the college level might be a better option.

  10. kennypo65 says

    This sort of thing is why the sports page reads like the police blotter. No one ever says “No.” to these student athletes. Consequently, they never really grow up. They are handed everything they want and when they go out in the real world they are unprepared. When someone does say no to them they take what they want anyway. This is why they get busted for assault, or even rape. They’ve been told all during their developing years that they are privileged; that the rules don’t apply to them, and they start to believe it. Don’t get me wrong, I think that sports can be a great extra-curricular activity, but academics MUST come first. This is school after all.

  11. edsel says

    This is totally unsurprising to me, having grown up in Texas in the 70’s and 80’s. My old high school’s district just barely voted down building an indoor air-conditioned field for the football team to practice on last fall. I achieved escape velocity from Texas as soon as I could.

  12. What a Maroon says

    I’m glad my daughter will be going to a high school where the teams suck and no one seems to mind (and the flipside of that is that on most of the teams anyone who wants to can play).

  13. LRA says

    I’m sorry, #10, but you are incorrect. UIL covers a great many kinds of activities, including academic decathalon.

    http://www.uiltexas.org/

    In the state of Texas, all students must maintain satisfactory grades to compete in UIL activities.

    I want to re-state that football players getting special treatment is sh*tty and is wrong.

  14. Dhorvath, OM says

    Well I think it’s a great idea. Lets extend it a bit though. I think that everyone who is maintaining adequate grades should be included in any acivity they want to participate in. Lets make the school team into a school team, no more tryouts and cuts. I mean, if all that matters for academics is performance in extra curricular activities, why not run it the other way too.

  15. Cartomancer says

    Here in England it is generally nothing like that – for which I am eternally thankful, having spent my schooldays working hard on the actual class work and nothing else. At my school extracurricular activities (well, football in the winter, cricket in the summer and the school play, we didn’t have anything beyond that here in sleepy rural Somerset) were just something on the side after hours. The sporty kids or drama-loving kids did them for fun. We had friendly local inter-school football competitions, but that was it. There was no formal coaching or team practise or anything like that, and certainly no paid members of staff specifically there to oversee it. As far as I could tell it was supervised voluntarily by geography teachers, and the drama teacher did the play. That was it.

    On the other hand I went to a state school. There is a somewhat different culture in the public schools and the other private schools that emulate them. There a good deal of emphasis is placed on the idea that “extracurricular” activities are a vital and integral part of the schooling experience, and participation is mandatory for both pupils and staff. This is why I refuse to teach at such a school – the ethos that academic success is only a part of the story, and that these other things like running round with funny-shaped balls and sawing rhythmically at a musical instrument are somehow just as important. Even though the pay is generally much, much better than what I can expect in the state sector.

  16. Charles says

    @daveau From http://www.insidevandy.com/drupal/node/17083:

    “For the 2008-2009 school year — the most recent data available — the numbers grew in all fields, to 27.3 percent black, 32.8 percent Hispanic and 48.84 percent white students, and an overall average of 39.42 percent.”

    Yeehaw, y’all!

    @AddiePray I got a pass on repeat tardiness by agreeing to participate in a city Physics tournament. It’s not just about foobaw. In this case, it was about my Physics teacher’s need to have a viable list of “extra duties” he could use to justify some sort of stipend. He made that clear, and I made it clear that if it worked to both of our advantages, I was cool with it. But, yes, the “overlooking” was concentrated heavily on the football, baseball and basketball teams.

    @unbound there are definitely eligibility requirements around drama/band/choir/etc. as pertains to non-classtime activities. Miss eligibility and you can’t perform at football games, compete in choral competition, etc.

    @kennypo65 nonsense. Just about everyone I knew in HS was in some sort of sport or extracurricular activity for which eligibility rules applied. Most of them are college graduates, some college professors, pharmacists, engineers, etc. There are a few losers out of the bunch, but they were that way before any sorts of high school sports.

  17. Nom de Plume says

    we have over 1500 students involved in extracurricular activities who work very hard to have academic success

    What the hell is so hard about passing Creationism class?

  18. Mitchell R says

    My school is dumping money into a brand new turfed football stadium, just two years after a big music program cut and readjustment. THEN the board tried to rush through a program to improve the high school. How about school first, sports later?
    It’s stupid and unfair. Of course, I advocate the arts over sports, but if it came to focusing more on academics and less on ALL extracurriculars, I think I could handle it. I’d rather be in a non-school-sponsored band or choir where everyone is there voluntarily than a school band that people take to get a study hall.

  19. says

    Tragedy struck the athletic program at my school when the most enthusiastic sports fan retired from the math department. Suddenly the coaches and athletics counselors could no longer refer their less academically-gifted jocks to “Professor Easy.” The remaining math profs got a suddenly escalated education in the principles of the jock-entitlement culture as Professor Easy’s minions were dispersed among us:

    “I can’t attend Friday classes because of practice.”

    “Then why did you sign up for a MWF class? Enroll in TuTh.”

    “Professor Easy always let us skip Fridays.”

    “You can’t miss one-third of our class sessions and expect to pass.”

    “All I need is a C.”

    “You still need to earn it.”

    “Yeah, okay. I’ll do the extra-credit assignments to bring my grade up to a C.”

    “I don’t give extra credit.”

    “Professor Easy always gave extra credit.”

    Then midterm grades would show the student pulling a D or an F, whereupon the phone calls and e-mail messages would begin. A typical sequel would involve the jock’s team counselor making office-hour appointments on the student’s behalf for additional help, although the student would not show up for them. If the student was missing every Friday and half of the Mondays, why would anyone expect them to show up for special office hours? But as one angry parent informed one of my colleagues, “It’s your fault my son is losing his athletic scholarship!” Please ignore the word “scholar” in the phrase “athletic scholarship.”

  20. Brownian says

    Make-up tests? Extra time to complete assignments?

    I’d have made some snarky comment about “the strong surviving and the weak perishing” or some other such inspirational, “No mercy!”-type coachy slogan, but then I remembered that high school athletes (and coaches, and faculty) are renowned for extending the same courtesies to those students who may be academically gifted but struggle with athletics.

    Thanks, Coach, for giving all the nerds and geeks extra time to finish those laps and push-ups, and making sure they got equal playing time.

  21. Michael Swanson says

    I very clearly remember when we were reading “Death of a Salesman” in my English class in high school back in ’88. We weren’t required to purchase the book, but we only had about 30 copies, so they stayed in the classroom. That’s fine. But as I was rifling through the box of 30-year-old paperbacks for a copy that didn’t have missing pages, our school principal was proudly announcing the completion of the million dollar improvements to our football field.

    Also, the next year they eliminated all music classes, including the award winning marching band, and many art classes, including photography (in which students paid for their film supplies).

    Let’s say it together: sports contribute nothing to education, and every dollar and minute spent on it is energy that could be spent on science, math, history, critical thinking, sex education and art. You know, those things that do make a difference in peoples’ lives.

  22. Marlon says

    In the late ’60s, I attended a large suburban Houston high school in a very upper middle-class neighborhood. Almost all of the students were children of high-achievers, and there was a large overlap of academic seriousness and extra-curricular participation (even sports).

    However, one of my memories is of the (mostly dumb-ass) coaches telling the football team how they were making men out of us and building character and leadership skills, and then taking us out onto the practice field and teaching us how to cheat.

  23. says

    Oh yeah, could I tell you stories of education in Texas. Like LRA, I was a teacher here too.

    I know, for a fact, that my administration changed athlete grades AFTER they were submitted by teachers to keep them eligible.

    I was ‘convinced’ to run an after school program for students to make up absences in a class. The law in Texas states that any student with more than 18 absences in a school year does not get credit for the class. The class I ‘taught’ was for students with more than 60 absences in the school year. They were given after class ‘instruction’ for 3 weeks, 1.5 hours per day in order to ‘make up’ those credits.

    Hell, if we could teach 60 days with of material in 3 weeks, WTF were we wasting all that time for. Make summer last for 7 months instead of 2.

    I had a ‘talking to’ and a letter of complaint from the principle because I made a student (athlete) stay awake and actually do work in class. Since athletes had to get to school at 5:30AM for practice, they were really tired by 7th period (2:30PM) and ‘allowances should be made’.

    I finally told all the coaches that students with no work turned in and all zeros on tests would get the grade they deserved. I would try to help those students that were failing IF they had at least tried to turn in all the assignments and taken all of the tests. Surprisingly, my contract was not renewed for the next year. I later found out that I had been replaced by full-time substitute teacher with only 52 hours of college credit. Nice.

    For the record, my 10th grade students had the best average pass rate on the TAKS of all 6 10th grade science teachers. I had a stunning 33% of my students pass the 10th grade TAKS. Two of the teachers (both also coaches) had single digit pass percentages.

    I’ll stop now, but I could go on like this for hours.

  24. HNS_Lasagna says

    @michael-
    yeah I agree, and most of the educated people in the world know that, but how often do you see million dollar + per year pro athletes go back to their high schools and colleges and give some money to the math/science/history departments.
    it’s all about ROI for the schools and thats totally bass ackwards.

  25. says

    Oh, I forgot the best one.

    In our time of economic slow down, the Austin ISD fired almost 1200 teachers.

    The athletics budget was reduced from $12,000,000 to $11,500,000.

    Hey, I guess every group has to make sacrifices.

  26. says

    Let me premise this by saying I have always been an athlete. During high school I played varsity soccer (football).

    I never expected hand-outs. Everyone that graduated with honors (myself included) were in many extra curricular activities including sports (primarily) and music (I’m a band geek too!). This didn’t mean we expected to pass without effort. I think that many athletes are stigmatized in that people think that their athletic ability is what gets them a passing grade. While this may be true in some cases- me being in sports didn’t do shit for my 4.0 GPA.

    OTOH, I do recognize that a good percentage of athletes are coddled. In fact, athletes in my university have their own academic advisors and private tutoring! It really bugs me to see these a-holes passing because of their status.

    *My University does, however, have a nice display of student athletes that maintain high GPA’s in honors’ programs. Those are the people that I can say I am proud to be in a class with.

    PS. Does this sound like No True Athlete (TM) to anyone?

  27. Carbon Based Life Form says

    In 1984, Ross Perot was asked to look into improving Texas high schools. One if the first things he did was take on the cult of Friday-night high school football. And with the cry “No pass, no play,” he proposed barring failing students from extracurricular activities. And what’s more, he insisted that football players had to take courses such as math and English. He also said, “Not teaching evolution as fact makes [Texas] look as stupid as the Luzbuddy Debate Team.”

    While I disagree with Perot on just about everything, we are in nearly complete agreement on schools.

  28. Tim says

    My school used to have a “no D policy” in core courses: 69.4% and below was an F. They changed it because other schools in the county didn’t have it, and as a result they could field dumber athletes. Oh the joys of lowering the bar.

  29. otrame says

    Glynns @11

    Please try to stick it out. Teachers who have a little sense and/or are not burned out are so rare and so precious. I understand where you are coming from. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it, so I have no right to tell you to stick with it, but I just remember the great teachers from my youth and the few great teachers my kids had (in Texas).

    Here is some inspiration.

  30. Psych-Oh says

    As someone who played sports, I can proudly say that I went to a school that valued academics over sports (probably why we were never state champs at anything). And, my JV basketball coach became principal of the school my senior year- she was TOUGH on athletes that didn’t make decent grades.

    It is sad that there are schools that don’t put academics first. They are doing a disservice to their students.

  31. Brownian says

    Let’s say it together: our current sport culture, as it is contribute[s] nothing to education, and every dollar and minute spent on it is energy that could be spent on science, math, history, critical thinking, sex education and art. You know, those things that do make a difference in peoples’ lives.

    Sorry for the qualification, but I don’t agree that sports and athletics don’t belong in school, or that they don’t make a difference in peoples’ lives. Exercise is like reading: some kids just aren’t ever gonna do it if they’re not made to in school. And physical health does contribute to mental health.

    I completely understand why jock culture is shitty and detracts from academic achievement, but considering we live in a time where our sedentary lifestyles are killing us, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better, the answer is not to shunt physical activity off to the side, to be performed at the whim of parents and kids.

    So PZ is wrong when he says,

    Hey, I have this brilliant, amazing, completely non-intuitive idea: how about if…extra-curricular activities were regarded as an optional side-issue, completely orthogonal to the goals of the school?

    Athletics should not be extra-curricular, but they should be universal, and students encouraged as much as possible to participate, regardless of skill level. Drop the fucking hard-core games like football, that only a few gifted with strength and speed can excel at, and emphasize activities where goals are either self-determined or shared, and give the slow, uncoordinated, clumsy kids a chance to get to know their bodies too. (And I don’t want to hear the ‘but competition is good argument: we already see how star football and baseketball players have more safety nets than a Soviet Party apparatchik.)

  32. speedwell says

    telling the football team how they were making men out of us and building character and leadership skills, and then taking us out onto the practice field and teaching us how to cheat.

    Silly Marlon. How long did you live in Houston (where I live) before you figured out that those ARE the character skills needed for leadership around here?

  33. otrame says

    Whew. Thought I was going to have to disagree with Brownian for the first time EVAH when I started #34, then I read this:

    Athletics should not be extra-curricular, but they should be universal, and students encouraged as much as possible to participate, regardless of skill level. Drop the fucking hard-core games like football, that only a few gifted with strength and speed can excel at, and emphasize activities where goals are either self-determined or shared, and give the slow, uncoordinated, clumsy kids a chance to get to know their bodies too.

    So I can say QFT instead.

  34. Nom de Plume says

    Brownian:

    Agreed, and it’s for these same reasons that college athletics ought to be professionalized (which they already are anyway) and college teams made into farm systems for the professional leagues (which they already are anyway).

  35. says

    My school in Ireland had a football team (actually, I think it had two: Gaelic and Association Football), a hurling team, and a rugby team. And I think there were javelin throwers and shot putt at one time.

    I had no idea which students were on the teams. It all happened outside class time. There were pictures on the walls of glory in days past, but none current. Medals were handed out at the annual Awards Night, but other than that the athletes were not singled out at all.

    I do think sport can be useful, though I have almost no interest in it myself, but keeping it completely separate from the academic side of school seems a good idea.

    TRiG.

  36. EB says

    Not just Texas. My teacher-husband here in Colorado gets the same BS. He ends up putting in an incredible amount of unpaid work to help athletes who couldn’t make the grades before get them up there. This often includes, at coach and athletic director prodding, creating extra credit worksheets, staying late to let students do exam re-takes, etc. His last-hour class is routinely, 3 or 4 days a week, emptied of half it’s students so they can get on the bus to go to a game/meet/match. Students doing non-sports extra-curricular never miss class, as their activities are always scheduled for after school, not during.
    It’s EXTRA-curricular activity. You get to do those activities in addition to school. If you can’t hack both, guess which one you should quit? And parents should really get this. School is school, and it’s a hell of a lot more important than football for 99.98% of kids. Your little snowflake needs an education more than a concussion.
    Not saying sports aren’t important, but I would like to see competitive sports removed from schools and put into the club system. Separate grades from athletics. Then, feel free to fail the 10th grade while competing with the football team. See you next year.

  37. says

    The job of a teacher is to make sure the students understand the material,

    Ha. Their job is to do what their bosses tell them to. It usually means producing certain test scores but most of all obedience, lack of disruption (they usually refer to this as teaching good citizenship, in true Orwellian fashion). What individual teachers want to accomplish, in the midst of dealing with the system of schooling, is irrelevant to what they actually accomplish. I don’t blame teachers, they are trying to get by.

    God damn, they taught the standardized state test when I was in school, and they still do that now. Do you think anyone gave a fuck if I understood the material? They cared about the results. The school in our district gives out 80% A’s because the focus is all on homework now, and they force you to do homework during lunch if you don’t do it at home. What does an A really prove if 80% of people get one?

    If the goal was really to teach why the hell would they make people learn things they don’t care about on a schedule that doesn’t make sense in an unexplained order and measure it in standardized testing? Why is it that school can be used to teach ANY lesson, even “kim jong il is our savior”, with equal effectiveness as true statements? Why is it that every country teaches state affirming history instead of the whole truth? The fact that so many people are still baffled at the constant elevation of competitive sport over academics in our schools shows how well the system works. The underlying assumption is that people in charge are trying their hardest to accomplish a worthy goal, but are misguided. It is the same message trotted out to support massive and deliberate fuck ups on the part of powerful people all the time, like when the US government invaded veitnam or iraq. The bounds of debate cement the idea that the leaders of society don’t act in anti-democratic ways. I don’t doubt that decision makers delude themselves into thinking they have our interest at heart, but they think the public is too foolish to know what is good for them. Documents like the leaked wikileaks cables show how universal that type of thought is in leaders- they think the public is an obstacle to be overcome instead of actual people to consider. Would a society of people who aren’t easy to fool or to control (as in people who are actually educated) be the natural inclination of systems of power?

    Have you all forgotten the freakish level of control schools exert over children? They get in trouble for talking or needing to pee too often or learning unapproved content, stuff that is totally normal and hurts no one. If anyone actually wanted to be there it is doubtful that any of the things on the above list would be a problem, but school frames learning as a chore. It is no wonder that there is such a strong anti-intellectual culture here in the US. The most joyful of activities can be ruined by imposing senseless rules and rigid scheduling upon it, especially when you are forced to do it for 12 years in a row.

    Awhile back on pharyngula a poster shared an anecdote. His wife, who teaches, tried to teach kids in her class how to spot logical fallacies. They were to spot them in advertising and bring back their observations. She only got to do it once because those kids caught other teachers in fallacies and said so. The other teachers complained about the children being able to rationally argue against whatever nonsense they were saying at the time, so it stopped. I believe they were 5th graders. Critical thought and open discourse is too disruptive for schools, so it had to be stopped. The story is such a perfect illustration of how wrong the idea that school=learning is. All the learning that goes on seems to be coincidental, and totally inefficient.

  38. kennypo65 says

    @ Charles: Dude, did you miss the point. I was talking about how professional athletes behave and how it starts with this kind of shit when they are still in school. I’m sorry I didn’t make that clearer.

  39. Deepsix says

    My son plays Jr. High Football. His first game of the season was last night. It was an away game. The game started sometime after 6:30. We had to drive 1.5 hours one way to get to the other school. We didn’t get home until after 10:30. My son still had math homework to complete and to study for a test the next day. He didn’t go to bed until about 11:30. We made the decision that he would not play in any more away games that were that far. His academic success is far more important than playing football.

    Also, the pregame prayer over the schools PA system was very moving. It nearly moved me to vomit. Apparently, I’m a lost soul who needs to find Jesus.

  40. Alverant says

    OK Brownian so we keep a PE department, but competitive sports require too much of a budget and the demand to win is a big part of the problems PZ described. So instead of football or baseball or swimming, all of which requires special areas, you do jogging. Most experts say it’s the best form of exercise and during bad weather you go inside and do calisthenics. You get your exercise time and we don’t have to attribute a large part of the budget to sports. Win-win.

  41. Pteryxx says

    Didn’t there used to be PE classes and recess, where all kids had access to sports equipment and playground space and reasonably helpful adult oversight, so they could enjoy physical activity and the benefits thereof? Competitive sports shouldn’t be the only physical activity students ever see, because by definition most of them won’t make it. I vaguely remember PE class being a different sport every week or two, so everyone was new to most of it.

  42. says

    Isn’t it against school board or school policies to fake grades?

    Meanwhile, the g’dottir had to sit down and write an essay in class (when she should have had some days to work on it) because no allowance was made for days out of school with the choir to sing at long-term-care hospitals.

  43. madbull says

    Why dont we hear about preference given to people with 4.0 gpas in joining the football team ?

  44. PlayMp1 says

    As a football fan and former player, I’ve never liked it when people mock football as being for purely dumb jocks… I only stopped playing because as I got older in my teenage years my body shape changed and the position I played was no longer viable for a scrawny kid like me to play.

    That said, this is total crap. I’m in my high school marching band, and we have to put up with some serious favoritism for the football team, even here in relatively enlightened western Washington. The entire football team gets shiny new uniforms every year. If we got that money, we could afford a new drumset for jazz band. Not cool.

  45. Brownian says

    OK Brownian so we keep a PE department, but competitive sports require too much of a budget and the demand to win is a big part of the problems PZ described. So instead of football or baseball or swimming, all of which requires special areas, you do jogging. Most experts say it’s the best form of exercise and during bad weather you go inside and do calisthenics. You get your exercise time and we don’t have to attribute a large part of the budget to sports. Win-win.

    Jogging? Calisthenics? Why don’t you just tell kids that physical activity is mind-numbingly boring from the get-go and be done with it?

    “Hey, kids! Wanna be healthy? Well, fuck you, because you’re gonna hate getting healthy. One, two, three, one, two, three…”

    It’ll be cheaper and just as effective to buy them pizza.

    Didn’t there used to be PE classes and recess, where all kids had access to sports equipment and playground space and reasonably helpful adult oversight, so they could enjoy physical activity and the benefits thereof? Competitive sports shouldn’t be the only physical activity students ever see, because by definition most of them won’t make it. I vaguely remember PE class being a different sport every week or two, so everyone was new to most of it.

    Yeah, and that PE shit could be fun, even if you sucked.

    I don’t want to deny talented, skilled athletes the opportunity to compete with others at their level. What I do want is to kill the fucking sports culture that tells the kids who aren’t talented and skilled (or have yet to bloom) that they’ve no place in an athletic environment since they’ll never make the NHL, NFL, or NBA, and that they should go home to their computers with a bag of chips and a two-litre of Coke instead.

    And I think it’s getting worse. I wonder how many kids today would even think of creating a Calvinball-esque game, their only exposure to physicality being adult-supervised organised sports. I was somewhat lucky: I had a former high school football star father who was so obsessed with success that he so thoroughly ruined hockey for me that come high school, I avoided football like it was syphilis (I played rugby instead), but in compensation I had access to a forested trail system and friends with bikes, and we spent our summers tooling around in the woods and making up our own sports (as well as playing video games: we were still nerds, after all.)

  46. Elyssa Elizabeth says

    My high school was ridiculous about this, and it infuriated the very competative drama team I was on. Football players were given every excuse and opportunity to avoid losing eligability, from teacher coercion to academic exceptions (even though the team never won), while our award-winning drama team (and only income-generation “club” at the school) were given no such accomadations. We practiced just as long, if not longer, as the varsity teams, but that didn’t matter.

    Not that I’m saying any student should be allowed to pass without putting in the work, but it was infuriating to see the rules applied so selectively. Losing the lead actress the week before opening night because of eligability was pretty devestating, especially because unlike the football team, we didn’t have a second string (we were far to small to have understudies). And I know people on the debate team and math team felt the same way.

  47. Marlon says

    Why dont we hear about preference given to people with 4.0 gpas in joining the football team ?

    Or how about a basketball goal counting as many points as the shooter’s GPA?

  48. Dave, the Kwisatz Haderach says

    I admit to being a terrible person. I should be upset by stories like this, but I just get too much schadenfreude from it.

    The football team (and ONLY the football team) at my high school got treatment like this constantly. They were also given carte blanche to bully and harass anyone they wanted (like, say, me). I can still sketch every scratch and dent on the inside of my locker door from memory (and I was always the one who got punished for missing classes while trapped in a locker). Sometimes now, when I fly back to Ont to visit family, I rent a nice expensive sports car and drive back to that shithole town to watch the quarterback from my high school days stock shelves at the liquor store.

    It is incredibly petty of me to be amused that none of the football team managed to get out of that hellhole. But I am, and honestly, I’m not really sorry about that.

  49. Alverant says

    Jogging? Calisthenics? Why don’t you just tell kids that physical activity is mind-numbingly boring from the get-go and be done with it?

    You mean like what is already being done in math and science and English and the other subjects? Why should PE get special treatment? You say you want to get rid of the sports culture that tells athletes they’re special. But that’s pretty much what you’re doing by having specialized areas that aren’t necessary to the subject at hand. To teach chemistry you need a chem lab. To teach art you need a studio. To teach PE you need a space for exercise.

    If science got the same treatment as PE there would be a special building just for demonstrations where the students got to blow stuff up like on Mythbusters. But in the real world, they’re pretty much told science is mind-numingly boring from the get-go.

  50. barkdog says

    I have gotten similar letters at school, but the motivation seemed to be to remind teachers that they cannot arbitrarily change grades or offer extra credit to allow failing students to stay eligible for sports of music. I think there was also a subtext saying to make sure your grades would stand up to challenge. I did not (and do not) feel pressure to pass anyone who did not deserve to, but then our school is not exactly a sports powerehouse.

  51. Michael Swanson says

    @34, Brownian

    Sorry for the qualification, but I don’t agree that sports and athletics don’t belong in school, or that they don’t make a difference in peoples’ lives. Exercise is like reading: some kids just aren’t ever gonna do it if they’re not made to in school. And physical health does contribute to mental health.

    Physical fitness is very important, but there is a huge difference between student fitness and football teams. Actually, I’ve always felt that PE should be divided into two types of classes, one would be merely fitness oriented, the other sports-oriented. While you should be required to take one or the other, whichever is chosen would be optional. Sports fans don’t have to deal football hating nerds like me, and can enjoy their class; nerds like me can stay fit, but don’t have to deal with being brutalized by members of the varsity team in my freakin’ class.

    It would be like an honors class. Some kids naturally excel at academics and they have classes that allow them to focus on that. This serves to help the academically inclined, to prevent those who don’t care about academics from detracting from the class, and to keep kids who aren’t gifted in that manner from feeling like shit about themselves. The same goes for kids who are athletically inclined. If they want to stay fit through the sport of basketball (blech!), it’s best if they enjoy it, I don’t detract from it by passing the ball to the wrong team because I don’t fucking care, and the nerds and fat kids don’t feel like shit about themselves every day. Just make us exercise.

    The reasons that I don’t see official sports teams contributing in schools is that they are usually sorely lacking in actual sportsmanship; which should be the true lesson of sports; they take an inordinate amount of money from other programs; and they help to promote an unhealthy kind of aristocracy. If you can run really fast or throw a ball really far that’s great, but understand what it really means: it means that you can run really fast and throw a ball really far.

  52. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Agreed, and it’s for these same reasons that college athletics ought to be professionalized (which they already are anyway) and college teams made into farm systems for the professional leagues (which they already are anyway).

    Not a chance that is going to happen in the US. There’s no way under Title IX.

  53. says

    I think it’s fine to have a school athletics program — we have one at UMM. It’s healthy for the students, an appropriate level of investment is made, and it’s not the be-all and end-all of the school. Students know that sports are not an excuse for poor academic performance.

    My problem is entirely with schools where the sports program grossly distorts the whole mission of higher education.

  54. Tualha says

    Hmmph. I’m planning to go to UF in a year or so, and I bet this happens there too – it is VERY footbally. Well, hopefully not too many jocks doing something as nerdly as Comp Sci.

  55. Brownian says

    You mean like what is already being done in math and science and English and the other subjects? Why should PE get special treatment? You say you want to get rid of the sports culture that tells athletes they’re special. But that’s pretty much what you’re doing by having specialized areas that aren’t necessary to the subject at hand. To teach chemistry you need a chem lab. To teach art you need a studio. To teach PE you need a space for exercise.

    I’m not saying there shouldn’t be funding for math and science and English and art and drama and PE. One shouldn’t be sacrificed for another.

    But that’s a long-term educational policy, and everyone in North America knows that the world ceases to exist beyond the next election cycle. Ha-ha! Cut my taxes and my services! Short term thinking is awesome!

    If science got the same treatment as PE there would be a special building just for demonstrations where the students got to blow stuff up like on Mythbusters. But in the real world, they’re pretty much told science is mind-numingly boring from the get-go.

    Sure. Maybe. I’m Canadian, and even in redneck Alberta I don’t think we don’t shit our pants over sports to the same degree. When I was in junior high, the high school senior ‘star’ at my school who could get away with bloody murder wasn’t a football player, he was a drama wonk. (And how I hated the smarmy, smug son-of-a-gun. We’re close friends now, but back then I couldn’t stand how the entire school wiped his ass for him.)

    Physical fitness is very important, but there is a huge difference between student fitness and football teams.

    Yes, and perhaps I should be clearer that I’m advocating for student fitness, rather than sports teams, and more than that, creating attitudes that physicality is fun, rather than just for fitness.

    An ignorant population is expensive, undoubtedly. But so is an unhealthy and aging one.

    Actually, I’ve always felt that PE should be divided into two types of classes, one would be merely fitness oriented, the other sports-oriented. Sports fans don’t have to deal football hating nerds like me, and can enjoy their class; nerds like me can stay fit, but don’t have to deal with being brutalized by members of the varsity team in my freakin’ class.

    It would be like an honors class. Some kids naturally excel at academics and they have classes that allow them to focus on that. This serves to help the academically inclined, to prevent those who don’t care about academics from detracting from the class, and to keep kids who aren’t gifted in that manner from feeling like shit about themselves. The same goes for kids who are athletically inclined. If they want to stay fit through the sport of basketball (blech!), it’s best if they enjoy it, I don’t detract from it by passing the ball to the wrong team because I don’t fucking care, and the nerds and fat kids don’t feel like shit about themselves every day. Just make us exercise.

    That is an awesome idea, Michael, and that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about.

    I wish I’d thought of that!

  56. bannerstuff says

    I agree with Brownian’s qualification regarding the “sports culture” rather than sports in general. Maybe I would add the cult of personality and personal unaccountability surrounding athletes. The broader American culture would be better served if we celebrated scientists, artists, and educators more, and intellectual and academic prowess as much or more than athletic prowess.

    However, I think individual and team sports can be great for kids’ development. Ideally, competitive sports can teach the value of work ethic, teamwork, leadership & coordination skills, performing under pressure, and proper training and preparedness, all skills that are transferable to other areas in life after high school. (Not to say these skills can’t be learned in other extra- and intracurricular fields, I’m just saying organized sports can also be one of those arenas, for those so inclined) The critical point is, as always, in the execution, with proper emphasis on setting individual goals, working hard to achieve them, and the importance of sportsmanship.

    I played tennis (varsity) and volleyball (club) in high school, and I was lucky to have a relatively stress-free and pressure-free environment from my parents and coaches. The focus was on having fun and improving individual skills (for those classmates who were looking for athletic scholarships). Maybe because I grew up in a part of the country that didn’t stress out over football or basketball and because I attended a public school in a well-off area, but my high school sports experience was great.

    Having said that, the adult recreational leagues in which I currently play (where everyone for the most part has matured) is closer to the sportsmanship ideal I mention above, rather than my high school experience.

  57. Skellington says

    Markita @ 45 said…

    no allowance was made for days out of school with the choir to sing at long-term-care hospitals.

    I’m not surprised. I had to pull every trick in the book and complain my way all the way up to the principle’s office to get a few days to make work up when I was the one in the hospital. Given that they didn’t want to give me any extra time because I’d been under and/or recovering from anesthesia, I suppose I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t get any leniency for all-day orchestra tours.

  58. says

    Skeptifem gets to the heart of the problem.

    Honestly, I don’t know what the solution is to the tension between the two competing truths: “High-quality public education is necessary if we are to lift many people out of poverty,” and “Schools that admit large numbers of students will always be used as tools of social control.”

  59. Glynnis says

    @32

    Thanks for that. I had a wonderful professor who shared that with our World Lit class in an attempt to get students into poetry. It got to me then, and it gets to me now. It actually made me cry this time around. :)

    Thanks for your encouragement.

  60. cyberCMDR says

    My wife saw that self-same letter when she taught in Texas. This is only symptomatic of the larger problem. Typically, the first quarter of the school year a number of students would not be taking things seriously, and their failing grades would show that. After that report card they would tend to shape up, because their parents (hopefully) would get on their case. My wife was told by her department head that her failing rate was too high, and she had to do something about it. It was strongly implied that she needed to sprinkle some “magic pixie dust” on some grades to bring up the averages. The kids of course figure this out, and realize they don’t have to work hard to pass. These schools are more concerned about their numbers and how they look than they are about education. It’s all about appearances, and getting that next administrative promotion.

  61. says

    This happens in Indiana, too. I student taught in the fall of ’10 at a really rural HS under an utterly incompetent, checked-out dude who was only a “teacher” in the sense that that was his job title.

    These kids were used to reading short stories aloud in class, immediately taking a quiz, and then having free time the rest of the hour.

    For TEN WHOLE WEEKS, I bent over and took shit from parents – constantly – about “why’s Jimbob Wrestlerkid failing YOUR class when he wasn’t failing before??” and “Sally Basketball is gonna be benched if you don’t give her extra credit!”. It wasn’t ALL sports related…but a lot of it was.

    The real deal is this: those kids weren’t fucking prepared in the SLIGHTEST for me to take over and actually start learning critical thinking skills. I had kids that didn’t turn in major assignments and sic their parents on me. Your kid is fucking failing because he’s a lazy asshole who doesn’t turn in assignments, and when he does it it is with the least amount of effort needed to get by.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I wasn’t perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but the ten weeks those kids spent with me was worth more than the 26 they spent with him. But the whole experience was so wretched, so unbelievably terrible that it destroyed my dream of working in the profession. I’m not sure if I can ever go back and do that again.

  62. Skellington says

    I should have added, to keep more on topic, that team-work is a very important and unfortunately under-valued skill, and an area where school sports could be helpful (though from my scrawny, birth-defective geek perspective, they were more about in-groups and out-groups). Anything that could help shift the emphasis from “me first” to helping-the-team would probably be a good thing in the US.

    It’s that very, very, group centered work-ethic that made my high-school orchestra so good. Go music geeks!

  63. Pteryxx says

    The same goes for kids who are athletically inclined. If they want to stay fit through the sport of basketball (blech!), it’s best if they enjoy it, I don’t detract from it by passing the ball to the wrong team because I don’t fucking care and the nerds and fat kids don’t feel like shit about themselves every day. Just make us exercise.

    Yes, this. Had to comment…

    I don’t know much about honors classes (never been exposed to one) but in some of my science and English classes where I excelled, I got encouraged to act as an informal TA and help the students who needed it.

    …The parallel was that in PE, I’d “accidentally” “lose” the ball to somebody on the other team that needed a chance. A lot. Like, enough to throw the game. And then look innocent. *cough*

    It’s amazing how easy it is to make winning-obsessed jerks throw complete meltdowns by simply not taking their game seriously enough. Conversely, I’d say three-quarters of the kids who didn’t give a shit suddenly lit up when they had a fair (ish) chance. There’s far too much conflation of winning a sport with playing a sport and it sours people for life on the whole concept.

  64. Ronster666 says

    When I taught biology lab classes at a community college in California, I was approached a number of times by students and one biology teacher in particular (a wrestling coach too) to give special treatment to athletes. I always had the same answer; every student in my classes receive equal treatment. Once I had a student (a wrestler)come into the class at the beginning of week 5 to tell me that he wanted to start the lab work. We allowed students to miss only two labs. During week two they could make up the first lab. I told this very large student, who looked to be of Samoan ancestry, that he had been dropped already. He started kicking chairs around the classroom. I informed him that he had two choices, either leave or face off with campus security, who had their offices adjacent to the science building. Luckily for me, he chose to leave. For the seven years that I taught, never did I give preferential treatment to any student. I’m kinda proud of that.

  65. Brownian says

    There’s far too much conflation of playing a sport with playing a sport and it sours people for life on the whole concept.

    Yep. And it should be a crime

  66. consciousness razor says

    Cut my some rich asshole’s taxes and my services! Short term thinking is awesome!

  67. Brownian says

    Ahem. I prematurely submitted. I’ll type this really fast, and then I should go change my pants.

    There’s far too much conflation of playing a sport with playing a sport and it sours people for life on the whole concept.

    Yep. And it should be a crime to do that to kids. How fucking dare someone convince somebody else that they’re not worthy of enjoying the pleasure of moving their own fucking body because they’re not so good at it?

  68. Algernon says

    To be honest, being from Texas, I expected this letter to be much much worse.

    My mother taught high school in Texas for many years. Her stories make angry but some times they make me sick :(

    As some one who was never able to physically be a part of sports it always hurt to know that nothing I did would be valuable anyway.

    Fuck I hate life. I shouldn’t news when I’m depressioned.

  69. says

    Brownian: Athletics should not be extra-curricular, but they should be universal, and students encouraged as much as possible to participate, regardless of skill level.

    I hated everything there was to hate about gyms, PE, and sports. I find it all but impossible to imagine an athletic culture that would entice me to participate. It upsets my stomach just thinking about it. I doubt it could really be salvaged in the way Brownian imagines. I rejoice that I am no longer subject to “Studies in Contemporary State-Sponsored Terrorism — also known as gym class” (Calvin & Hobbes).

  70. Dhorvath, OM says

    I took phys ed throughout highschool, we had a robust set of options: there were traditional competitive sports classes where I could mistrack projectiles, coaching based classes where I could not care about other people mistracking projectiles, and there were fitness and recreation based classes where I did many enjoyable activities. Through that I formed lifelong habits of thought because I learned that exertion itself can be a reward independent of results.
    That is the sort of thing I want for everyone. Introduce options: if ball sports don’t suit, try track, if competition doesn’t suit try orienteering, if problem solving doesn’t suit try backpacking, if calmness doesn’t suit try something else. Doing this sets people up to think of their body as something to enjoy, rather than merely a repository for their brain. Sport is something that nearly anyone can enjoy and the benefits are deeper than football and basketball would indicate.

  71. says

    Let’s boycott sports!!
    I dunno, I’m just absolutely and extremely apathetic to sports. And not just because I’m a part-time blob. Well anyway: Salary, physical, pain, mental, life, poverty, news, drugs, heroes, fame, sports.
    What?

  72. Pteryxx says

    I hated everything there was to hate about gyms, PE, and sports. I find it all but impossible to imagine an athletic culture that would entice me to participate. It upsets my stomach just thinking about it. I doubt it could really be salvaged in the way Brownian imagines…

    This, I think, is an example of the kind of response that comes from having been taught to actively hate sports, not from mere disinterest. Don’t people often learn to feel this way about math, or school in general? But physical activity is more vital than math, I’d say.

  73. Vicki says

    Dhorvath–

    I like this (and had only a little of it in school). I was well into my thirties before I discovered any sort of exercise I liked other than walking (which can include brisk walks on Manhattan streets, strolls in parks, or hiking in other parks). Now, I lift weights, use the Nautilus machines, and do some related stuff working just with my own body weight.

    I regularly tell people that I like weight training, but I know that most people don’t, so give it a try and if they don’t like it, maybe there’ll be something else that suits them.

    I’m fairly sure that one of the things I like about the weight training is that I can do it noncompetitively: I keep track of how many reps I do and how much I lift, but I’m not worrying about whether I increase it (a chunk of the point here is just to know what weights I can reasonably pick up for a given exercise), and I do my best not to pay attention to anyone else’s settings on the machines.

    Yes, there is competitive weight training, but the point is that competition isn’t built in there (or with hiking) the way it is with team sports. (Yes, there are other noncompetitive exercises, or ones that can be: swimming and dancing come to mind.)

  74. Dhorvath, OM says

    Vicki,
    I took a ‘body shop’ class one semester, it was all about weights, body composition, flexibility, and aerobic fitness. There was zero competition and it was a hoot.

  75. Sean Boyd says

    FSM, this reminds me of freshman PE class. The wardens for the boys’ and girls’ PE classes (I refuse to call that pair of state employees educators) went out of their way to make fun of me for my clumsiness and lack of strength and speed (of course, that I was a year or two younger than my fellow freshmen didn’t help) and always seemed to pair me up with the class bullies in any activity requiring separation into small groups. It was bad enough that, on the occasion that I did something okay, I’d receive mock praise, like “Miracles do happen.” The attitude of classmates often mirrored that of the wardens.

    All of this to say…my initial reaction was that I thought PZ was overreaching a bit regarding the administration’s missives about grading. Then I read the comments, saw the personal stories, and remembered my own experience. And it makes sense, after all, that the admins would write the memo as if it was a gentle reminder, while the teachers, who as PZ himself points out, already know all these things, take it for what it really is: keep our footballers on the field at all costs.

    And it reminds me, on the flip side of the discussion, of my time as a TA in grad school. I had a few football players in class over the years, but this was a mid-sized state university (bigger than UMM, but I bet with a similar feel) and I never felt any direct pressure to keep them eligible. My footballers did okay anyhow, but I had one colleague who failed a player, only to have that player retake the class the following quarter. So it seems that those grades given were respected by the higher-ups, at least. On the other hand, one of my advisors once fielded a phone call from the athletic department regarding a JC prospect for the football team. Seems that coach wanted to get this kid to transfer up to our school, but this kid hadn’t passed the remedial math needed to take the basic algebra class they were required to have passed in order to transfer (not to mention graduate.) I remember thinking it was pretty cool that the school ended up not waiving the requirement for this particular player, something I’m not sure would have happened at our close-by PAC-10 neighbor.

  76. says

    I’ve read the thread quickly, so forgive me if I’ve missed something (I need to have that on a loop these days; I’m never quite caught up). As a former Texan (and thus, a former student in Texas public schools) and a former teacher (I’ve taught in Texas and in public schools, but no, I’m afraid, in Texas public schools, except as an occasional substitute), I might have a tiny skosh of insight.

    First, I won’t pretend athletes didn’t get special treatment, but in my school, at least, it wasn’t obvious or egregious. Everybody had the same graduation requirements, and on the occasions (more than a few) when I was in the same class as the star quarterback of my era, he didn’t receive any obvious slack in classwork or assignments. The did sometimes miss classes on away-game days… but that only affected 5 Fridays per academic year (I got excused early at least that many times for band events and speech tournaments!) and I’m personally sure they had to make up missed work (as did I, in the similar circumstances). We weren’t Odessa Permian[1], of course, but football was pretty important at my school.

    Next, as at least one other person has pointed out, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) is the sanctioning body for all interscholastic competitions, not just athletics. That means band, choir, and other music; speech and debate contests; math and science competitions; foreign language festivals; drama; art; and on and on. Plus, of course, the whole range of athletics for boys and girls; not, by any means, only the dreaded troglodyte game of foobaww. The note PZ quotes mentions 1500 students… and no high school has 1500 football players, even in Texas.

    Further, the UIL eligibility rules applied to all UIL-sanctioned activities: If I had fallen short of the grade requirements, I would’ve been unable to become a member of the 3rd-place debate team at the 1977 Class 4A UIL State Forensics Tournament.

    Also please note: I don’t know if it’s still true today, but when I was in school, there was a strong correlation between participation in high school extracurriculars and reduced dropout rates and increased graduation and college enrollment rates… and the numbers were actually even better for athletes than for the general extracurricular-participating population. (And no, I can’t give you a citation: This was 35 years ago… but I’m also not lying.)

    Finally, there are other ways to understand parts of the note PZ quoted. This…

    The eligibility status of these students is very important to them, their parents, and to this campus. Please review six weeks grades of 68 and 69 to ensure that those grades accurately reflect student effort, test/assignment reliability and accuracy, and objectivity that can be explained.

    …is being presented as encouragement to bump up the grades of failiing students, but it could just as easily mean something like: “If you give a student an F[2], and it’s numerically even close, make sure you’ve got it well documented, because those students and their parents will be highly motivated to challenge your marks.” In my experience as a teacher, we were constantly being urged to give numerical rather than letter grades[3], to keep copious notes, and to generally be constantly prepared for a parental “audit” of any grade; this is only more cogent advice when cherished (and valuable) extracurricular activites are at stake, over and above the obvious academic stakes.

    And this…

    Please also remember that any student who you are going to allow to make up work or do additional work should be given an “I” instead of an assigned numerical grade.

    …is also presented as an enticement to let failing students slide, but it could just as easily mean something like: “If you know a student has outstanding (legitimate) makeup work that will change his/her grade, make sure you give a grade of Incomplete, because once you assign a letter grade, it’s damn hard to correct it later.” There are any number of perfectly cromulent reasons a student might be allowed to make up missed work — illness, family crises, legitimately excused absences — and these things don’t necessarily come up in a timely fashion to be neatly completed by the end of each term. A student’s current average at the end of a term might be an F, counting the missing assignments as zeroes, but it’s reasonable to wait to give that F if you know the work is likely to be made up.

    This memo might mean exactly what PZ thinks it means, of course… but it’s worth noting that’s not the only way to read it.

    *********

    [1] For the uninitiated, Odessa Permian is the prototypically football-crazy Texas school that was the basis for the book, movie, TV series, and (I gather) forthcoming second movie all called Friday Night Lights.

    [2] In my school, anything under 70 was failing, and I’m pretty sure that was a statewide standard; dunno what the current standard is.

    [3] Somebody please explain to me what the difference between an 87 and an 88 is when grading literary analysis of Inherit the Wind.

  77. consciousness razor says

    I took phys ed throughout highschool, we had a robust set of options

    That’s good.

    I took arts throughout high school, and there were not a robust set of options — far from it. I do put a higher priority on math and the sciences, to name a few, but arts education regularly gets dumped on. Big time. And that is not a good thing.

    So when people start talking about expanding PE and sports, of all things, it makes me want to weep. It’s not that I have anything against them, but that they already dominate the schools, as has been attested in this thread. I would like to see kids have more options so they would actually get some benefit out of their physical and health education. For that matter, I’d like to see more kids have more extra-curricular options in general.

    However, to state the obvious, education as a whole already lacks sufficient funding to go around as it is. Everybody wants bigger and better everything, rightly so; but we have to understand that it isn’t those other departments (whether sciences, sports, arts, etc.) which are the problem. The real problem is our governments’ (federal, state and local) complete and utter failure to take education issues seriously. They don’t understand the problems; and even if they did, they would continue their habit of following the money wherever it leads. They simply don’t know and don’t care. And I’ve really given up trying to understand how any significant changes will ever occur. It just seems impossible sometimes.

    So I think I’m going to go rip the head off a kitten now. I’ll see you folks later.

  78. Brownian says

    I hated everything there was to hate about gyms, PE, and sports. I doubt it could really be salvaged in the way Brownian imagines.

    Maybe not entirely. But I see the people that use the school yard across the street from my house when it’s not otherwise being used by students: an Indiana Jones wannabe practicing with a bullwhip, a girl twirling multiple hula hoops, a girl punching and kicking into a partner’s padded hands, a girl practicing poi, as well as countless impromptu soccer, football, volleyball, basketball, and frisbee sessions; and I see a population that wants to exercise and have fun, if it can find a way to do it far from coaches and gym bullies.

    Hell, with some friends I invented a running-throwing-catching game in which it’s impossible to keep score: after every play, all players rotate through positions, including those on the other team. (I’ve previously described the game and rules on Pharyngula. Plus, it has röck döts in the name!) Even though goals can be ‘scored’, the constantly shifting teams make the scoring irrelevant. Also, there are points for ‘style’, in order to encourage creativity and expression. It’s also scalable: the game requires an odd number of players, but that’s it: players can join or leave mid-game if they were late in arriving or decide they need to stop for another beer, making it an excellent party game.

    I feel for your experiences Zeno, and they’re not that much different than those of me and my friends. I guess I was lucky enough to find other like-minded individuals who said, “Fuck it! Bully jocks don’t own the concept of ‘sport'; we’ll make up our own goddamn games and have some fucking fun!”

  79. says

    consciousness razor:

    So when people start talking about expanding PE and sports, of all things, it makes me want to weep.

    I was a band member throughout high school, and never an athlete[1], so you know where my sympathies lie… and yet…

    Are you really confident that a band or a chorus or a Drawing 1 class is really more important than a tennis or golf or cross-country running team? I would no more send my child to a school without a sports program than to one without an arts program. My actual child had no interest in sports, and instead devoted her extracurricular time to drama and creative writing, as it turned out, but I think both sports and the arts are essential elements of a well-rounded school community. Attempts to play them off against each other are (deliberately, IMHO) subversive of the entire educational enterprise.

    *******

    [1] Nor even a PE student: In my school, marching band satisfied the PE requirement, so while I had PE in junior high, I never did in high school.

  80. Dhorvath, OM says

    Consciousness Razor,
    I think it’s worth noting that I am Canadian, eh. The atmosphere in which I went to school had a higher value on all manner of education at least from a political funding standpoint. We also had a robust arts program with classes in drama, visual arts, photography, band, etc. If money was spent on phys ed, it was balanced against those other programs which also required fiscal assistance.

    And that is my point, we were presented options that would not have existed on a purely parental basis for most students. That’s something worthwhile. Spending into a few critical sports to the detriment of the rest of a school’s health is not what I was saying I favour. Instead, I was saying that I want students to be exposed to a broader spectrum of what physical activity can mean, pretty nearly the antithesis of “Yay Football”.

    So when people say that they want schools to just be about cerebral learning, I despair nearly as much as when I read about schools that give a pass to failing students based on their gridiron value.

  81. Brownian says

    Doing this sets people up to think of their body as something to enjoy, rather than merely a repository for their brain.

    I remember having this feeling, and it blew me away. I’d been studying gongfu for a few months, and I was walking down the street, and it occurred to me that it was the first time in years that my body was more than a brain conveyance mechanism. It was such a good feeling, I practically pilled in the shower right there.

    Now I just jog short distances, and mostly only when I’ve got to get from point A to point B, but even with that limited amount of excercise I can be sitting in a meeting, listening to colleagues drone on about who knows what, and thinking, “Damn, but my ass is tight!

  82. consciousness razor says

    Are you really confident that a band or a chorus or a Drawing 1 class is really more important than a tennis or golf or cross-country running team?

    Did I say that, Bill? No. I clearly stated where my priorities are, and I clearly stated what I think the problem is.

    Ripping head off kitten now.

  83. Pteryxx says

    …but I think both sports and the arts are essential elements of a well-rounded school community. Attempts to play them off against each other are (deliberately, IMHO) subversive of the entire educational enterprise.

    I would add, the conflation of big-ticket sports with PE is also subversive of education. Heck, I favor physical competitive team sports such as hockey and football – exactly the kind that are most problematic – and it’s still obscene that student-athletes get treated like royalty among second-class citizens. However, unlike the arts and other scholastic or cultural activities (or even physical ed classes), sports teams actually GET lavish funding. Their disproportionate wealth is a slap in the face to every other program. (Including other sports… my beer-league level hockey team had its tiny budget zeroed so the football team could have new workout rooms, or something.) There ought to be a way to peg the division sports budget to the rest of the school… mandate that half its funding be allocated to other programs, perhaps.

    I guess I was lucky enough to find other like-minded individuals who said, “Fuck it! Bully jocks don’t own the concept of ‘sport’; we’ll make up our own goddamn games and have some fucking fun!”

    Much like sex, if you do it right, everybody wins. *hits the showers*

  84. Dhorvath, OM says

    Pteryxx,

    I would add, the conflation of big-ticket sports with PE is also subversive of education.

    And I see I should have just waited. Well spoken and very concise.

    hits the showers

    Don’t touch anything that looks like pilling.

  85. Stephan says

    Wow, this may be the first time I really disagree with you, PZ. These standards are perfectly reasonable for a school system. It simply is reminding teachers that for students in sports, an error in calculation in the middle of the quarter is much more damaging than the same error for a student that doesn’t have to maintain “eligibility.”

    This statement also says nothing about giving extra credit to sports players, it simply states that if it is ALREADY part of the policy, the student should have an incomplete. Again, for the conventional student this really wouldn’t matter, but for sports students it does.

    This is simply raising awareness about differences between students, and that is something that teachers should be doing and something administration should be helpful and supportive in doing.

    This policy thing also clearly states that grades can not be changed unless there was an error or if the grade is incomplete…how could that possibly be a bad idea?

    The only problem that could be inferred from this, and I believe it would be unfair to infer this, is that teachers are giving sports students more chances for extra credit or do-overs than other students. The statements

    “Please also remember that any student who you are going to allow to make up work or do additional work should be given an “I” instead of an assigned numerical grade. ”

    and

    “Extra credit work or work (including re-test) turned in after the grading period or evaluation has ended may not be considered when determining a student’s eligibility for extracurricular activities except in the case of an “incomplete” grade. ”

    make it clear that this isn’t being told to teachers as a required policy, on that this is the behavior they should take IF they are doing these things in the classroom. The excerpts of this letter here DO NOT SAY to pass sports students or give them incomplete. The policy stated above is good policy, your interpretation is out of line.

    Now if there was verbal stuff that went with this, that’s another thing.

  86. says

    Did I say that, Bill?

    No, but what you did say is often found in close proximity to those arguments. I mean to be having a broader conversation about this issue; not simply narrowly responding to your precise points.

    Also, be kind to kittens.

  87. says

    This happened at my med school – one guy in my year got called into the dean’s office after failing everything and got told he could stay on because he was in the rugby team.

    (I believe he went on to become an orthopaedic surgeon.)

  88. Classical Cipher says

    Stephan, Bill, and others who have responded similarly, when you combine this type of letter with the culture PZ and others in this thread describe, I see the relatively innocuous language used here as being indicative of an attempt to maintain plausible deniability. Teachers know there are students trying to maintain eligibility – angry coaches, angry parents, and angry students will make sure you remember it at all times. Teachers also know that their grades need to reflect student work. I don’t see any reason to send a message emphasizing the existence of student extracurriculars in connection with grading policies except to pressure teachers to consider extracurricular activities in their grading.

  89. says

    PteryxX:

    I would add, the conflation of big-ticket sports with PE is also subversive of education. Heck, I favor physical competitive team sports such as hockey and football – exactly the kind that are most problematic – and it’s still obscene that student-athletes get treated like royalty among second-class citizens.

    I agree with all of that… it’s just that in my experience [1] critics of interscholastic sports tend to paint all athletics with the football brush, and [2] people tend to assume that the only way to address the problem of special treatment for athletes is to gut athletics. I’m not suggesting you’re making those arguments, but plenty do, and this is a good opportunity to talk about that.

    However, unlike the arts and other scholastic or cultural activities (or even physical ed classes), sports teams actually GET lavish funding.

    Mebbe so, but not in my particular experience. Neither in my own high school (which was admittedly a long time ago) nor in any of the public schools I taught at (which were admittedly not in Texas) did sports get disproportionate funding consideration over other extracurriculars or in-curriculum arts programs. Football is inherently expensive, of course, because it requires a lot of equipment and a large-ish staff, but at my school drama, music, speech/debate, etc., were all as strongly supported as football. In fact, the Band Booster club was larger and more active than the Football Boosters.

    It’s also a little tough to keep track of the budgets: You often hear about how much a school is spending on its football stadium without anybody ever mentioning that that’s also the track stadium, soccer stadium, lacrosse field, marching band performance venue, and location for graduation ceremonies, and even a school without football would probably need to spend some money on at least some of those things.

  90. says

    Classical Cipher:

    I see the relatively innocuous language used here as being indicative of an attempt to maintain plausible deniability.

    I’m sorry, but I think you’re “assuming facts not in evidence,” as they say on all the courtroom dramas. On its face, the note PZ posted is a reminder to follow established rules, along with the caution that teachers’ strict compliance is especially important to those (all 1500 of ‘em) whose extracurricular participation might be at risk. There’s no direct evidence of nudge-nudge, wink-wink here, and the assertion that “everybody knows” teachers are pressured to cheat on behalf of athletes doesn’t constitute any such evidence.

    Teachers know there are students trying to maintain eligibility – angry coaches, angry parents, and angry students will make sure you remember it at all times. Teachers also know that their grades need to reflect student work. I don’t see any reason to send a message emphasizing the existence of student extracurriculars in connection with grading policies except to pressure teachers to consider extracurricular activities in their grading.

    And yet, I get memos all the time reminding me to follow procedures I already know by heart. It happened when I was a teacher (and not in any connection to athletics), and it has happened consistently during my post-teaching career. The most parsimonious interpretation of this note is that the school is engaging n CYA by putting in writing a reminder to follow the strict letter of the rules.

  91. says

    Bill Dauphin said,

    it’s just that in my experience [1] critics of interscholastic sports tend to paint all athletics with the football brush, and [2] people tend to assume that the only way to address the problem of special treatment for athletes is to gut athletics. I’m not suggesting you’re making those arguments, but plenty do, and this is a good opportunity to talk about that.

    I am a bit curious where you have come across either of these trends as my experience has been quite different. My experience has been similar to what has been present in this thread, that few people are for the wholesale gutting of athletics in school, but they are very much against the sport culture that is often present.

    I for one put very little importance on organized interscholastic sports. Though I do see a definite role for physical education and intramural sports in schools. I did take part in sports in school though it was not a popular one as it was curling. However in general I find the culture of sports is very different here in Canada, at least in my hometown. No one gave a damn about the sports teams unless they were actually on a team and I doubt any teacher would give special privileges to those students. If they cannot do both sports and school they should have to give up the sport.

  92. Classical Cipher says

    There’s no direct evidence of nudge-nudge, wink-wink here, and the assertion that “everybody knows” teachers are pressured to cheat on behalf of athletes doesn’t constitute any such evidence.

    I take the anecdotes provided in this thread by teachers and former teachers, like those by Zeno and Ogre, as evidence that this culture exists in some places. I have also seen similar stories on other blogs run by teachers and professors – angry athletes, coaches, and helicopter parents confronting and complaining about teachers or professors causing athletes to lose eligibility. It’s not a piece of common wisdom with no basis, as you imply above – it’s supported by accounts from people who have experienced it directly. However, I accept the point that some schools may be generating CYA-type messages telling everyone what they already know for no reason.

  93. Evolouie says

    It’s not just high school, it’s every high school and every college. Sports should be banned as a school function.

  94. PeteJohn says

    This sort of thing sticks in my craw. Allow me to explain.

    I was an athlete in high school. I played baseball in the spring and basketball in the winter. I was fortunate enough to have enough talent and desire to play baseball at the collegiate level as well. I was a history major and was expected to read a book a week, minimum, in many of my upper-level history classes. And those were hardly my only classes. My last year of baseball eligibility overlapped with my first year of graduate school. I was taking two graduate history seminars during the fall (which involved roughly 3 books), when we had 3 1/2 hour practices nearly every single day, and was taking graduate education courses in our competitive spring season. Guess what? I never was in the ballpark of academic ineligibility at either the high school or college level. I took homework with me on bus trips. I asked my teammates for help if need be. I went and talked to teachers and professors and asked for help if something I had missed didn’t make sense. I spent the tiny amount of spare time I had studying. It all paid off, because I got into a good college, a good graduate program, and have found a pretty good job in education.

    So, when I read or hear about athletes asking for breaks, or even worse being handed them by adults with screwed up priorities, it makes me gag. I actually had one of my HS freshmen ask this past spring if he could go to the library and take a nap because he had baseball practice the day before after school, which let out at 2:20. My answer? “I used to get back from trips at 3 AM, listen to my coach yell at us for various mistakes for 20 minutes, come back, and be up for 7:30 class that morning. I did it, so can you.” That shut him up.

    Athletics should enhance the academic experience and provide practical applications of the skills necessary for academic (And for that matter real-world success). It should help develop time-management, discipline, focus, and determination. Being a student-athlete is an honor, not a privilege, and if a young man or woman is incapable of doing both, than the athlete part needs to go away. Shame on you, letter writer.

  95. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    It’s not just high school, it’s every high school and every college. Sports should be banned as a school function.

    Yeah that’s such a reasonable approach.

  96. Zeno says

    Pteryxx: But physical activity is more vital than math, I’d say.

    Pteryxx appears to have a gratuitously cruel streak [shudder] (or is merely channeling my high school PE coaches).

  97. Qwerty says

    I think it is the competitiveness that often turns people off to sports. Especially the “win at any cost” that often comes with football or other high school and college sports.

    The pathetic thing is that football and cheerleading (the two most often looked upon as “let’s help them with their poor grades) are not lifetime activities which maybe one of the reasons we are, as a nation, woefully obese.

    I do remember that at the community college I attended we were encouraged to find some kind of “lifetime” activity that we’d enjoy until our old age.

    At least PZ walks. He’s mentioned it several times in this blog. And bravo to those who get any kind of useful physical activity without the unnecesary competitive aspects.

  98. DFS says

    Back when he was “H” Ross Perot, Perot was the major force behind HB 72 an education reform bill that included the minimum GPA requirement for participation in extracurriculars.

  99. says

    Qwerty:

    I think it is the competitiveness that often turns people off to sports.

    I think it’s more how much others invest in a sport (family, towns, etc.) that makes the nonsense like passing athletes happen.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with competition, it’s part of life. I loved doing gymnastics and competitive archery in high school and I was varsity swim and dive team.

    If there were ever any problems at a swim meet, it was with the spectators, not the athletes. Family, friends, fans – they can get seriously crazy about any sporting event. That part of it I don’t grok at all. I don’t watch any type of sports, but I loved actually doing them and competing.

  100. Meathead says

    Sounds like SOMEBODY was on the receiving end of a few too many mega-wedgies in school.

  101. Melody says

    I spent my freshman year of high school in Dallas, TX and this was well known by students. This was almost 20 years ago.

  102. says

    This is doing the *opposite* of accommodating athletes. It’s failing to give them proper educations they’re entitled to as students.

    Why are we rehashing the nerds vs. jocks thing years after finishing high school? Some unathletic nerds decided to get over it ASAP.

  103. says

    Travis:

    …it’s just that in my experience [1] critics of interscholastic sports tend to paint all athletics with the football brush, and [2] people tend to assume that the only way to address the problem of special treatment for athletes is to gut athletics. …

    I am a bit curious where you have come across either of these trends as my experience has been quite different.

    Mostly in conversation with my liberal friends, often in blogs or forums not too different from this one. People will often take off, based on some football or basketball scandal, on all interscholastic and/or intercollegiate sports, forgetting that in addition to the 300 lb linemen or 6’9″ centers, it’s a lot of rowers and runners and fencers and golfers and tennis players… not to mention a lot of women and girls… who benefit from sports.

    Following a negative news story about UConn basketball not long ago, I had a fellow commenter on a CT political blog tell me (and anyone else who would listen) that the athletic dept ought to be eliminated, because “good schools, like the Ivy League, don’t care about sports.” I had to point out to this nimrod that the very term “Ivy League” was originally coined as the name of an athletic league involving those schools, and that they’re all very deeply committed to athletics as part of an educational program.

    Classical Cipher:

    I take the anecdotes provided in this thread by teachers and former teachers, like those by Zeno and Ogre, as evidence that this culture exists in some places.

    Ah, but anecdotes that demonstrate a defective culture exists around school sports “in some places” does not make this memo mean something it doesn’t say.

    I always come to Pharyngula predisposed to agree with PZ, but I just don’t read this memo the way he is reading it: To me it’s a very clear message that “you’ve got overeager parents and students on one side and the UIL on the other side, so you’d better make sure your ducks are most sincerely in a row.” To me it’s very obviously a memo encouraging rigor, and not one winking at the rules.

    I’m sorry to say it, but I often sense an anti-sports bias among my liberal, humanist, pro-intellectual friends[1]. I don’t know exactly why it bothers me: Aside from clumsy dabbling in recreational activities like skiing and tennis, I’ve never been much of an athlete, nor has anyone close to me, and I haven’t played organized team sports since I gave up Little League baseball at age 9 or 10. And while I’m a sports fan of sorts, I’m not a particularly rabid one. In short, I don’t have any real emotional investment in defending athletics… and yet, the cynicism I often encounter about sports, among people with whom I agree on nearly everything, genuinely does bother me.

    Go figure, eh?

    ****
    [1] Sad that pro-intellectual should even need to be said, eh? But that’s a whole ‘nother conversation, I grok.

  104. Scott Simmons says

    LRA:

    However, I see the tone of this letter as saying that when kids are able to do their favorite extra-curriculars, they *want* to remain in school (as opposed to, say, dropping out).

    Yeah, but the emphasis is backwards. I still remember the moment I really started taking academics seriously in high school; it was the day the head coach sat me down and said, “I just saw a copy of your midterm English average. If that’s the number on your report card at the end of the quarter, you’re off the team. Now go fix it.” He didn’t go to the English teacher and say, “That’s a smart kid and we need him on the team. Can you help him out?”

  105. TimKO,,.,, says

    That letter’s not as bad as it gets at University where stakes (money) are higher. I once taught a course where the grades I gave were subject to review because one student was “on the team”. And I, by inferred corollary, was not.

  106. Baktru says


    Athletics should not be extra-curricular, but they should be universal, and students encouraged as much as possible to participate, regardless of skill level.

    That is how it works where I grew up. There were no ‘school teams’ at all. The idea doesn’t even exist where I grew up. But Phys Ed. was mandatory for everyone. Every single year of Elementary and High School, I had two hours of Phys ed. And yes that did include sports, volleyball and basketball mostly.

    But ‘Teams’? That was all outside school completely. I played football for a while (the ‘soccer’ football) and that was in the youth team of a proper low league team, not the school.

    The only extra-curricular activities the school had was the chess club and the marching band. Anyone involved in those got one concession, being in either one got you one hour per week of mandatory ‘study time’ removed.

    I feel that is a better solution. I sucked majorly at Phys. Ed. beyond any doubt, only volleyball I was average at. But those were for everyone, and it didn’t matter I was bad at it. I never really understood why the US system has those school teams, it never made sense to me.

  107. The Lone Coyote says

    Ahhh I remember being forced to participate in sports during elementary school. I could never get the rules, could never make myself care about winning or chasing the ball around, and I remember well the shame of ‘losing’ and having the entire team pissed off at you.

    Not for me.

    How do I keep in shape? I hunt primitively. It’s a competitive ‘sport’ all on its own, except instead of competing against other humans in an arena where they get to set the rules, I’m competing with billions of years of natural selection. I’m just now picking up the atlatl (thank you once again to Billy-Bob_Kenobi in the IRC) and figuring it out. It’s fun.

    The rewards of winning: Fresh meat. That’s worth more to me than the adulation of fans and teammates any day. And it does keep you in shape. Lots of long distance walking required. And I respect my opponents (wild rabbits, mostly) very much, because they win well over 90% of the time.

    Remember, there’s no obesity epidemic among hunter-gatherer cultures.

  108. PHS Philip says

    [The following should probably be taken with a whole shaker full of salt because I go to a very high achieving public high school, one which has a 30 year old track that’s falling apart but a ~40 million dollar brand new auditorium for theater and band, tons of funding for art, new and very nice science classrooms with lab setups, etc. Not exactly a typical American high school]

    I realize this isn’t the context of the note, but from a lot of what PZ said (and what others here said) about academics coming before extracurrics: tell that to colleges. As a student who just finished high school and is entering college, let me tell you that if you don’t put every bit as much into extracurrics as you do academics, you can have some serious problems getting into top colleges. It isn’t fair to tell kids to worry about academics more than extracurrics when that will just keep them from getting into the schools they want to go to. Most of my activities I did for fun, but there were definitely a few that were there mostly for college applications, and I didn’t really have a choice. If I wanted to get into a top engineering program, I was expected to put in almost as much time into those as the normal curriculum.

    At the worst times I could be doing 3-4 hours of homework a night, 2-3 hours of rehearsal (I did tech), and try to fit a workout in there so I would stay in shape for track. Add in an hour or two of tutoring the days I had it, the community service group I co-led (and finally had to drop out of because there was simply no way to juggle all this), robotics…Sure, my grades never slipped badly and at worst I got the occasional B+ rather than an A, but again, that’s not what I’m talking about. Extracurriculars were getting just as much as academics and that was the way it had to be. And I wasn’t even close to the worst in terms of extracurricular overload.

    So seriously, stop blaming kids for a bad extracurricular to academic ratio. It’s not our faults, it’s what is demanded of us.

    Oh, in glancing up right before I posted I saw another thing I wanted to agree with. It’s not fair to paint all student athletes with the basketball/football brush (or really even all players of those sports). I was an A student, involved, I’m going to a top engineering school, etc, and I was jumping between Cross Country, Track, and Soccer. I don’t understand the intense anti-sport sentiment I see a lot among a lot of liberals and nerds (I’m both, so I don’t mean to bash either group). What’s wrong with sports, as long as they’re kept in check? For a lot of people, they’re a good way to stay in shape and a healthy outlet for frustration and stress. Sports have their place, just one subordinate to academics, at least in schools.

  109. The Lone Coyote says

    PHS Phillips: I think a lot of the bitterness towards sports you see among the nerd/liberal crowd comes from years of being treated like we’re wusses or something if we don’t like sports. I have no problem with other people liking sports, obviously sports do something good for people if so many people like them so much (why I’ll never figure out), but I don’t like them myself and have no interest in playing them. Call me a wimp because I don’t want to chase balls around? My concept of my own manliness doesn’t depend on winning a game or being part of a team.

    After elementary school, I went to alternate high schools. They had no sports programs. No obnoxious jock culture. Just alot of troubled teens and stoners trying to figure out their work and smoking pot behind the building. Lucky me. I’m very savage when I feel threatened, and if I had gone to a school with a pack of jocks, they probably would still beat my ass but I can guarantee someone would lose a finger or two. I don’t mean to be an internet tough guy or anything.

  110. PHS Philip says

    I guess I probably have a skewed perspective here. At my school, many of the top athletes are also among the top students, especially in a few specific sports (cross country and track, the girls half of lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis) so that sort of bullying doesn’t really happen. There’s a little bit of playful joking in gym, but in good humor, and it’s usually nerd to nerd anyway, so no one’s really offended (“Man, you suck as basketball.” “I beat you on the last calc test, so it’s all good” kind of thing). I think that makes it harder for me to empathize with people who were bullied for that sort of thing. I’ve been bullied, sure, but I’ve never been in a context where that sort of bullying even made sense.

    I can believe it happens on an intellectual level, but on a gut level my experience makes it hard to understand.

  111. Submoron says

    Just like Thurber! I read his autobiographical sketches and about a “Foobaww” star who could have learnt from the “two short planks) (or maybe he was too thick even for that) and Thurber’s professors were reduced to making train noises to make him understand what was meant by “form of transport”. So this was happening a hundred years ago.

  112. Baktru says


    tell that to colleges. As a student who just finished high school and is entering college, let me tell you that if you don’t put every bit as much into extracurrics as you do academics, you can have some serious problems getting into top colleges.

    So it’s still the system that is messed up. Back in Europe, the entry requirements for the two top colleges in my country are very simple:

    –> Have the appropriate High School degree
    –> Pay the tuition fee.

    And for that second one? If your parents are low-income the government will sponsor a good chunk of it as long as you never fail a year.

    Which is actually what education should be, accessible to anyone with the right mindset and intellectuial capacities. And those you prove by passing the college-prep types of high schools.

  113. says

    Here in Australia, it’s generally more like:

    Teacher: “So, here’s a nice fat FAIL for the kid who didn’t to their work.”
    Kid: “But…but!! I do *insert sport here*… I’m busy!”
    Teacher: “That’s not my problem – If *insert sport here* means you can’t do your work, then learn to do both, quit *insert sport here* or put up with your grades.”
    Kid: *toughens up and learns time management skills*

    And that’s how it should be.

  114. carl3082 says

    As a teacher, I read this letter differently. To me the key phrase is, “…ensure that those grades accurately reflect student effort, test/assignment reliability and accuracy, and objectivity that can be explained.

    This letter is about making sure teachers can explain why they failed a student and back it up with some kind of evidence. If you fail any student – athlete or otherwise – there is a good chance that you will face angry parents (who usually have ignored any communication up to this point) and you need to be able to give the administration some ammunition to fire back with.

    The paragraphs explaining the conditions under which a grade may be changed are there so teachers can cite them when they are pressured by parents, coaches, etc. to change a grade.

  115. lordshipmayhem says

    In the province of Ontario, in the elementary and middle school systems, I am assured by many teachers (mostly recently retired, so as to not threaten their pensions) that that they’ve made it easy on teachers: you don’t get issued a passing or failing grade. You get transferred. Right on through to high school.

    What this means is that a lot of Grade 9 students haven’t a hope in hell of passing. They’ve never been forced to absorb the knowledge or discipline required to be good students.

  116. Bill Dauphin, avec fromage says

    PHS Philip:

    So seriously, stop blaming kids for a bad extracurricular to academic ratio. It’s not our faults, it’s what is demanded of us.

    I’ll go a step further and say we should stop thinking of a big slate of extracurricular activities (whether athletic, nonathletic, or a mix) as “bad.” I admittedly haven’t made a rigorous study of the matter, but everything I’ve seen suggests that students with high levels of extracurricular participation generally do better in their strictly academic work. Perhaps that’s why elite colleges place such an admissions premium on extracurriculars: They see them as a predictor[1] of overall academic success.

    I don’t doubt there are athletes who focus so intensely on their sports that they neglect their other studies and activities… but they are, I suspect, a tiny minority[2]… and guess what? There are also high school kids who focus on music or drama or debate or gaming or computer nerdery to the detriment of their other studies and activities, too. The star quarterback who’s good enough to compete for big-time college scholarship may not have taken a challenging academic curriculum, and may have been too tired and distracted to peform well in math class… but the same is probably true of the star violin player who’s competing for a major college scholarship as well[3]… and neither of them is typical of high school athletes or musicians generally.

    At my school, many of the top athletes are also among the top students, especially in a few specific sports (cross country and track, the girls half of lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis)….

    Yeah, my daughter finished 3rd in her class, and both of the girls who finished ahead of her were athletes: The valedictorian was a star soccer player and the salutatorian was a non-star (but varisty, nonetheless) tennis player.

    Like your school, my daughter’s high school recently built a new state-of-the-art auditorium. At the same time, we[4] rebuilt the football stadium grandstands (mostly because of accessiblity concerns) and renovated a number of other athletic facilities around the district… but we spent more on the auditorium than on all the athletics upgrades combined.

    Of course, this is New England, not Texas… but in my (whole life of) experience, the stereotype of high school as a jock-dominated hell is vastly overstated. I’m not denying or devaluing the contrary experiences of others; just suggesting they’re not as universally representative as they might seem.

    *******
    [1] Note: I said a predictor, not (by any means) the predictor.

    [2] Mind you, this is high school we’re talking about: There’s a whole different dynamic in big-time college sports, where the game is effectively a full-time job for scholarship athletes in the “revenue” sports… but that’s a different conversation.

    [3] I forget the name of the author, or the title, but IIRC there’s a recent book out surveying the data on the roots of high human performance, and it boils down to immense amounts of practice. Whether it’s jump shots or arpeggios you’re practicing, it’s going to interfere with the other things you might have been doing if you weren’t practicing so much.

    [4] “We” because I was on the town board that oversaw the bond-financed renovations (at all 7 public school campuses in town).

  117. Bill Dauphin, avec fromage says

    As a teacher, I read this letter differently. To me the key phrase is, “…ensure that those grades accurately reflect student effort, test/assignment reliability and accuracy, and objectivity that can be explained.”

    This letter is about making sure teachers can explain why they failed a student and back it up with some kind of evidence.

    ^^^THIS!^^^ A much more succinct statement of the point I’ve tried to make a couple times.

  118. Scott says

    The argument I’ve always heard is that sports are good preparation for adulthood. I guess if you consider adulthood to include a class system where a certain group of people who don’t really contribute to society (atheletes) are afforded certain privileges that aren’t available to non-athletes, and to non-footbal players in particular. Sports are a great way to reinforce the class system,

  119. excrusader says

    This is such an interesting topic, IMO. Having been both a good student and a student athlete at the collegiate level, I have very mixed feelings about the intermingling of sport and school. On the one hand, I absolutely loved getting a full scholarship to swim at a fairly prestigious academic institution. On the other, I think my focus on swimming during college certainly affected my long-term education and career goals.

    While I can blame my evangelical religious phase during high school and college for some of my somewhat shortsighted educational goals, I think my focus on athletics didn’t help. I managed to get good grades and juggle a successful athletic and school career but I ended up majoring in a pretty fluffy major. I look back now and wish that I could say I have a little less Jock-type major from such a great school.

  120. says

    A point that’s been embedded in several of my tl;dr posts in this thread, but which I want to make explicitly and (hopefully) more succinctly is this:

    Many of the same complaints that are being made about elite high school football players — special privileges, interference with academics, etc. — are just as applicable to elite high school performers in other activities, including some we admire as arty (e.g., instrumental music) or geeky (e.g., robotics competition). Sports, and football in particular, may be the most visible examples of these problems (mostly because of the intense third-party interest in sports), but they are not categorically different.

    And yet, we almost never hear complaints about the trumpeter or debater who gets excused from class to go practice, or leaves school early to go to an event. I have, in recent years, come to believe that, notwithstanding all the spectator interest[1], we harbor a cultural bias against sports as being fundmentally less worthy than other human enterprises… even other enterprises that are also primarily physical in nature and/or primarily for others’ entertainment. When was the last time you heard a dancer referred to in the same dismissive tones that “jocks” almost always are?

    ****
    [1] In my experience, even many rabid sports fans and professional sports journalists buy in to the idea that sports is a guilty pleasure at best.

  121. excrusader says

    I think the attention/rewards generated towards sports in American society is totally disproportionate to those generated toward almost any other activity. For that reason, many view athletics as a guilty pleasure.

    IMO, when football coaches are the highest paid “faculty” on an academic campus, people should feel guilty. And I say that as an athlete/sports enthusiast.

  122. PHS Philip says

    And yet, we almost never hear complaints about the trumpeter or debater who gets excused from class to go practice, or leaves school early to go to an event. I have, in recent years, come to believe that, notwithstanding all the spectator interest[1], we harbor a cultural bias against sports as being fundmentally less worthy than other human enterprises… even other enterprises that are also primarily physical in nature and/or primarily for others’ entertainment. When was the last time you heard a dancer referred to in the same dismissive tones that “jocks” almost always are?

    Agreed. Teachers complained a lot about athletes missing half to 2/3 of their last class of the day a lot for away games (and I think it’s a legitimate complaint, and the need for it is the fault of the school, but that’s a long story and not really the sports’ fault), but they almost never complained about all the days of school the Model UN kids missed (often 6 or 7 days for the kids going to every conference), extra choir or drama rehearsals for major shows (a few days each a year), the many field trips the art classes took (I think they did about 5-6? I didn’t do art, I stuck with band and tech crew, so I’m not exactly sure). I’m unconvinced that athletics are less worthy. To be a top athlete, you need tremendous dedication, hard work, and perseverance. To someone who doesn’t do it, it looks like pure talent, and talent is necessary, but it is certainly not sufficient. A good track runner is out there every day, pushing their body. A good soccer striker spends hours perfecting their shot, day after day, and works their body damn hard to get in good enough shape. And so on. Why isn’t that worthy?

  123. David Marjanović says

    My school used to have a “no D policy” in core courses: 69.4% and below was an F.

    Wow. Is that legal in the USA!?! Over here, outside of university, the equivalent of F is defined by federal law as < 50 %.

    Why is it that every country teaches state[-]affirming history instead of the whole truth?

    …erm… you don’t know enough countries.

    I was taught such things as the fact that Austrians were overrepresented among concentration camp guards. And that wasn’t one lone teacher or something, it was in the textbooks.

    On the other hand… the whole truth? There’s way too little time to teach that. The way I was taught it, about 10 years after the Iron Curtain had fallen, there was no history east of the Iron Curtain after the division of the Roman Empire in the 4th century. China? Yes, it exists…

    Jogging? Calisthenics? Why don’t you just tell kids that physical activity is mind-numbingly boring from the get-go and be done with it?

    “Hey, kids! Wanna be healthy? Well, fuck you, because you’re gonna hate getting healthy. One, two, three, one, two, three…”

    It’ll be cheaper and just as effective to buy them pizza.

    <scream>QFT!!! QFT!!! QFT!!!</scream>

    [3] Somebody please explain to me what the difference between an 87 and an 88 is when grading literary analysis of Inherit the Wind.

    The teacher.

    I actually had one of my HS freshmen ask this past spring if he could go to the library and take a nap because he had baseball practice the day before after school, which let out at 2:20. My answer? “I used to get back from trips at 3 AM, listen to my coach yell at us for various mistakes for 20 minutes, come back, and be up for 7:30 class that morning. I did it, so can you.” That shut him up.

    You are an asshole.

    You are an asshole for claiming that people should get by with less than 4 1/2 hours of sleep per night as if everyone were Thomas Alva Fucking Edison.

    You… are… an… asshole.

    Now, I’m not defending your idiot student. To the contrary. He knew full damn well he was going to have school the next day, so he should have known better than to do something which required him to stay up to an *insane* time. At the very least, he should have asked you beforehand instead of after the fact. But that doesn’t make you any less of an asshole, asshole.

    PeteJohn #99 wins the thread.

    Think again.

    The pathetic thing is that football and cheerleading (the two most often looked upon as “let’s help them with their poor grades) are not lifetime activities which maybe one of the reasons we are, as a nation, woefully obese.

    *howl* Argument from ignorance about any other countries than the US of A.

    Really… any.

    Really, competition is bad?

    It’s not automatically bad, but it’s overrated, especially in the USA.

    Have you seen comment 116? It talks about how to get into a top college. Well, over here, there’s no such thing as a top college, because the colleges aren’t so stupid as to waste money in trying to compete with each other to nobody’s gain.

    And yet, we almost never hear complaints about the trumpeter or debater who gets excused from class to go practice, or leaves school early to go to an event.

    What, that happens, too?

    Over here, nothing other than illness (real, or pretended by the parents) or a Very Special Permit from the principal excuses absence in the first 9 years of school.

    (…Afterwards, it’s a farce, because the students, which are pretended capable adults, can excuse their own absences… I suppose that’s an Austrian Solution™.)

  124. David Marjanović, OM says

    Oh fuck. *whine* PZ, could you please close my <b> tag right in front of the </scream> tag? Thanks a bunch.

  125. says

    Over here, nothing other than illness (real, or pretended by the parents) or a Very Special Permit from the principal excuses absence in the first 9 years of school.

    for certain values of “over here”, of course. My mom took me out of school regularly for a week up until…5th grade I think, to go skiing for a week. No one gave a fuck.

  126. consciousness razor says

    To be a top athlete, you need tremendous dedication, hard work, and perseverance. To someone who doesn’t do it, it looks like pure talent, and talent is necessary, but it is certainly not sufficient. A good track runner is out there every day, pushing their body. A good soccer striker spends hours perfecting their shot, day after day, and works their body damn hard to get in good enough shape. And so on. Why isn’t that worthy?

    Who said anything about “worthiness”? The last time I checked, sports programs weren’t under any significant threat in the U.S. Quite the opposite: they’re often placed ahead of many other considerations in secondary education, in terms of how student athletes are treated, how much funding is allocated, and so on. Why do so many people not understand this? Why do they turn this situation on its head to make it seem like sports are being victimized or something?

    Also, the last time I checked, school programs like music, drama, etc., are typically courses in the curriculum. They sometimes do require additional work outside the classroom, making them co-curricular, rather than extra-curricular like a sports team. (Cut their funding more, and that may be all that’s left: perhaps only a marching band and a choir, instead of general music classes, a classroom concert or jazz band.) Correct me if I’m wrong, but there is no such thing as a “football class” in secondary education. So, unlike the case of co-curriculars which are an academic course, there’s no potential conflict between scheduling two different classes, because football isn’t a class. How such conflicts are sorted out between two actual classes is not my concern, except that it should fair to the students and teachers. Note that I’m not saying sports aren’t “worthy,” just that this is a false equivalence.

    And yet, we almost never hear complaints about the trumpeter or debater who gets excused from class to go practice, or leaves school early to go to an event.

    What, that happens, too?

    Yes, it does, although I’m sure it’s almost always a rehearsal with an ensemble, not a single trumpeter leaving class to practice. That’s not to say I think rehearsals should interfere with other classes, just trying to clarify that. Also, in many places, there are events like state competitions, which are intentionally scheduled on a weekday rather than on weekends. Then there are other things like charity or community events.

  127. Spunmunkey says

    Not the greatest work of fiction – but ‘I am Charlotte Simmons’ by Tom Wolfe talks about these issues in the US college context.

  128. PHS Philip says

    Who said anything about “worthiness”? The last time I checked, sports programs weren’t under any significant threat in the U.S. Quite the opposite: they’re often placed ahead of many other considerations in secondary education, in terms of how student athletes are treated, how much funding is allocated, and so on. Why do so many people not understand this? Why do they turn this situation on its head to make it seem like sports are being victimized or something?

    A lot of people here said it. The attitude seems to be that sports are somehow a less worthwhile human activity than the arts, science, the humanities, and so on. Certainly they are not better, but I don’t really see how they’re worse, either. You can argue that they don’t really contribute much to society, but then, you want to be careful about that, because the argument can be made that neither does much art. It’s still a worthy enterprise.

    With regard to how athletes are treated, the mixed up priorities, etc, I believe that they happen, but I’ve never seen them nor experienced them. I don’t think sports are treated unfairly in funding (well, sometimes unfairly favorably) but I do think the attitude toward them shown by many here and elsewhere is every bit as strange and unfair as the attitude that many jocks have toward academics.

    It talks about how to get into a top college. Well, over here, there’s no such thing as a top college, because the colleges aren’t so stupid as to waste money in trying to compete with each other to nobody’s gain.

    I wouldn’t go that far. Some schools would be better than others either way. In all probability it’d be the same schools that are the top schools now. The competition to get into them now is encouraged by the schools, certainly, but even if it weren’t they’d probably be the best.

  129. tohellwithyourturtle says

    Too bad foobaw (sic) and bakertball tend to pay for all of the sports played on campus. I may be mistaken, but don’t said programs feed the coffers of your pet projects?

  130. says

    consciousness razor:

    And yet, we almost never hear complaints about the trumpeter or debater who gets excused from class to go practice, or leaves school early to go to an event.

    What, that happens, too?

    Yes, it does, although I’m sure it’s almost always a rehearsal with an ensemble, not a single trumpeter leaving class to practice.

    Not quite right, at least in my experience: Actual band practice was generally held during the scheduled class time (band was a for-credit activity, similar to art class), or at regularly scheduled after-school times. Occasionally we would have to leave class early to travel to an event, or to perform for an in-school function, but the most likely reason for an individual musician to get excused from class was to practice individually or in small groups for the state Solo and Ensemble competition that was one of the highlights of our year.

    Mind you, it was always the student’s responsibility to arrange to make up any missed work; more often, we had to get done with our classwork in advance in order to get the time off from class. And the point is that these accommodations were made because the activities were considered an important part of our educational experience. We weren’t just skiving off.

    Now, when it’s music we’re talking about, nobody seems to mind, because that’s The Arts™[1]… but when precisely the same policies are followed to accommodate athletes’ needs, that’s a big frickin’ scandal.

    That’s what I meant earlier when I said sports were treated as less worthy. It’s kinda’ like sex, actually: People want it, and people do it, but we’re all supposed to feel very, very ashamed of it. Why?

    *****
    [1] Nothing here is intended to denigrate the importance of the arts in school. That is the path I took, and so did my daughter, and I will fight to keep the arts in my town’s public schools, if it comes to it; I just don’t see why we think athletics are any less valuable.

  131. says

    Missed this previously:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but there is no such thing as a “football class” in secondary education.

    At my school, that was almost wrong: PE was a required class for all students each year, but participants in organized sports like (but not limited to) football could take Athletics as a substitute class, the difference being that students in Athletics focused on their sport(s) (or off-season training for same) instead of the more generalized PE curriculum, and those classes were scheduled for the last period of the day, to coordinate with after-school practices.

    FWIW, band class was also an allowed substitute for PE (because of the physical nature of marching, even though marching season was only half the school year)… so in terms of curricular status, band and football “class” were almost perfectly equivalent.

    How representative this is of current practices, or practices in other states, I couldn’t say.

  132. says

    BTW, as regards football specifically, I suspect this whole conversation will eventually be moot: With the emerging understanding of the effects of repeated microtrauma to the brain, I doubt football as we know it will survive more than a decade or so. It’ll either be radically changed to reduce the amount of contact, or it will just die out, because what parent is going to send hir little boy out to get his brains preemptively scrambled?

    When I say this to my friends who are football fans, they generally say two things:

    a. What about boxing? Parents still let their kids do that.

    b. What about headers in soccer?

    And my responses are:

    a. Boxing is nearly dead itself, but it’s also an individual sport that’s historically been seen as a ticket out of grinding poverty. Football, OTOH, requires large teams of players, and because of the costs involved, is a much more middle class sport. Kids who populate football teams mostly expect to go to college; their parents will want to send them there with working brains.

    b. How many headers in a soccer game, compared to how many times someone’s head hits the ground or another player in a football game? You could take the header out of soccer and still have (mostly) the same game; take contact out of football and it’s really not football anymore.

    It makes me a little sad, because I enjoy (casually, at least) watching and following the sport… but I suspect it’s a “dead game walkin'”!

  133. consciousness razor says

    Now, when it’s music we’re talking about, nobody seems to mind, because that’s The Arts™[1]… but when precisely the same policies are followed to accommodate athletes’ needs, that’s a big frickin’ scandal.

    Count me in as one of the nobodies who does mind. I didn’t think that was common at all, but if you say it is so, then I mind. Individuals should practice on their own time, not during music class or during some other class.

    If it isn’t because of a requirement for a class or some kind of emergency, I think a student shouldn’t be given special treatment. I think I’m fairly consistent about this. It applies to everyone.

    That is the path I took, and so did my daughter, and I will fight to keep the arts in my town’s public schools, if it comes to it; I just don’t see why we think athletics are any less valuable.

    That’s what I meant in my remark about “worthiness.” I don’t think athletics are or should be less valuable to a student. However, in school, classes come first; then all that other stuff like sports, cheerleading, debate club, chess club, etc. Why is this hard to understand?

    Let’s take sports out of the equation for a moment. What I don’t understand is why people are equating, for example, a chess club and a music class. Yes, since both may involve non-classroom activities, they may both interfere with the schedule of other classes, and that is a problem for which some kind of fair compromise ought to be reached if possible. If not, then tough nuggets for chess and music — they just won’t get that opportunity because they have to be there to take the algebra test. A music teacher shouldn’t impose those kinds of requirements on his or her students. One class doesn’t get priority over others, so neither music nor algebra should interfere with the other unless it is possible to reach some kind of fair compromise or the degree of interference is insignificant.

    The chess club, however, is not an academic course. There’s no conflict between two classes for which two or more teachers must reach some kind of compromise. The chess club shouldn’t be on equal footing (or better) with classes from the point of view of the school. If a student wants to be in chess club, they have to find a way to manage their time so that the can handle their coursework first, and only then chess and whatever else they’re interested in doing. If a student decides it’s okay to get bad grades so they can become a chess grandmaster when they grow up, that’s just fine, but they will get bad grades. Now replace that with any other extra-curricular activity.

  134. says

    Oh, now I see.

    tohell:

    While football and basketball are considered “revenue sports” at the college level (though there’s no small controversy about the true economic impact), no HS sport really brings in much revenue: No shoe contracts or stadium naming rights or bowl game/tournament payouts or megadollar alumni, and ticket prices are such that HS kids can go to the games on their allowance money. Even when there’s an active booster club (usually parents of current and former student athletes), whatever funds they raise go directly to support the team with prosaic things like Gatorade and handwarmers. High schools spend money on sports, they don’t make money… not even on football.

    Personally, I think that spending is valuable. I wouldn’t put it ahead of the arts or other co/extracurriculars, because I think they’re all valuable… but I wouldn’t let sports get cut from my town’s schools without a fight.

    It’s worth noting, though, that contrary to what some have said, in most parts of the country (but probably not Texas, Nebraska, or Florida), if schools find they must make cuts in sports, football is the first to go. Not only is it resource intensive (because of all the equipment required for both games and practice), it’s a Title IX nightmare, because it involves large, all-male (with very rare exceptions) teams. many smaller schools never start up with football in the first place, and focus on soccer instead. Really, the Friday Night Lights high-school-football-as-religion phenomenon is the exception, not the rule.

  135. says

    I don’t think athletics are or should be less valuable to a student. However, in school, classes come first; then all that other stuff like sports, cheerleading, debate club, chess club, etc. Why is this hard to understand?

    Why do you think I’m saying anything different? If a student gets out of class early, or even misses class, a handful of times during the course of a 180-day school year, how on Earth does that equate to classes not coming first? Nobody’s suggesting turning school into full-time band camp, with the occasional random math lesson: You’re looking at this upside down.

    And BTW, co/extracurriculars (whether athletics or not) are not just valuable to the student; they’re a valuable part of the overall educational enterprise. Everything I’ve seen says that being engaged in these kinds of activities improves core academic performance: Broadly speaking, curricular (classroom), cocurricular, and extracurricular activities aren’t in conflict. We’ve got a lot of problems in American education, but how we integrate these kinds of activities within the overall schooling package is, in my experience, not one of them.

    Finally, the distinction you’re making between class and not-class isn’t (or wasn’t at my school, anyway) as clear as you make it sound: For instance, my school offered Speech as an elective course (actually, 2 elective courses, Speech 1 and Speech 2) and there was also a Speech Club. Some of the Speech Club members were also enrolled in Speech class, but at any given time most were not… and yet we all practiced together and attended the same tournaments. Because of the way our schedules were, the serious college-bound students — who took all 4 years of math, science, and foreign language in addition to the 4 years of English and PE and 3 years of History/Social Studies — had very little space in their schedules for electives, and thus mostly weren’t in Speech class. So the best, and most serious, students in the club were the ones most likely to miss time from classes other than Speech class, in order to practice or go to tournaments. It was similar with Journalism/School Newspaper and Drama: Clubs linked to classes, but in which the most academically serious students in the club were not in the class.

    Guess what? Almost every member of my class’s top 10 percent in graduation rank was heavily involved in at least one of those activities, band, and/or varsity sports: They weren’t having their education stolen from them by non-classroom activities; they were being enriched.

  136. Dhorvath, The Beta is Coming. says

    Bill D,
    I have already seen similar things up here. At least one high school in my home town ditched football due to related injuries and that was while I was in school twenty years ago. It appears we are having a similar response to hockey, one local junior league has banned body checking. There are plenty of competitive things we can do without aiming to injure competitors.