Friday, March 15, 2013

Be Cool, Stay in School.....or Go to a Basketball Game

Act #74:  Be an advocate for your child's education.

Congratulations to Madison Central High School 2013 KHSAA State Champions!  I mean that.  Now that we've gotten that out of the way, no one has to question the sincerity of my praise for the outstanding accomplishments of my husband's alma mater and my niece's future high school.  As a 17-year resident of Kentucky, I get it.  I really do.  I've had no choice but to come to accept, even celebrate the value of basketball in the Bluegrass state. I understand how team sports can contribute to wellness, character building, development of leadership and team, and the societal transmission of values and norms that create an atmosphere of social harmony, aka team spirit. Go Big Blue!  Or in this case, Indians Inspire (the text seen on MCHS's home webpage).  We'll save questionable athletic team names and logos for a future blog.   But when the local school board cancelled not one, but two entire school days last week to allow the masses to attend the boy's state championship tournament, I had to ask myself, have we gone too far in the manner that we elevate the status of athleticism, particularly in our public schools?  In a world where our youth will be inheriting a host of complex social issues rooted in systemic injustice and inequality, what messages are we sending when we are willing to pull our children out of school in order to encourage them to attend a basketball game?

Not all sports are created equally.
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association oversees 16 sports that include archery, bass fishing, soccer, and golf.  I can't be for sure, but I have my doubts that entire school systems would be shut down if a local team made it to the bass fishing state finals.  If the goal of high school atheletics is indeed to promote sportsmanship and character building, shouldn't all 16 teams be provided with equal attention, resources, and time?

Brawn before brains.
This year students from the same school competed and won at the regional Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Conference, received awards at the Future Health Professionals (HOSA) state competition, qualified to compete in the state Robotics competition, and brought home awards for scientific achievement at the Wright State University National Invitational.   While I do not claim to know the scheduling of these events, my guess is that even if they took place in the middle of a school day, classes would not be cancelled to permit student participation.

Boys rule.
Last week when the MCHS boys played (and won) in the state tournament, classes for the entire county (that's a total of 10 elementary, 5 middle, and 2 high schools) were cancelled for two days. This week the MCHS girls are playing in the female version of the state tournament, almost 3-hours away (as opposed to the boy's tournament which was about half an hour away), and business is as usual at Madison county schools. While it is true that the girl's tournament games are scheduled in the evenings rather than in the middle of the day like the boy's games, the question remains - why weren't the boy's games also scheduled at a time that wouldn't interfere with regular class schedules?
You either have to play a sport or be a cheerleader to fit in.
As a parent, this is probably the one that bothers me the most.  What if my five year old boy grew up not caring about team sports?  What if he enjoyed playing the fiddle? Being a Boy Scout (another blog entry all together)?  Or what if he simply wanted to read, throw rocks in creeks, play with his dog?   Now think about this, what is his school telling him about societal values when classes are cancelled to allow athletes to compete and to allow the rest of the student body (like him) to attend the game?  What if he didn't play and didn't want to cheer on the team?  Where exactly would he fit in? 

So while I wouldn't dare undermine the positive impact that team sports can have on our society, I do challenge us to think about these inequities that exist in the very fiber of our educational foundations - our public schools - and the daily messages that are being ingrained into our young minds. As parents, if you have an opinion on matters such as these, know that you can and should have meaningful, respectful conversations with your school board and administrators about your child's education.  Or you can send them this blog.


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