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The Golden Solution

Here is a long and sometimes interesting article about whether high schools should offer sports or not. The problem with the central thesis, implicit in the author’s narrative of Premont high school, was the idea there is “One Holy and Golden Solution” to the question of sports and academics. And the idea getting rid of sports is a panacea to fixing American academics is obviously false based on the following paragraph from the article:

Though the research on student athletes is mixed, it generally suggests that sports do more good than harm for the players themselves. One 2010 study by Betsey Stevenson, then at the University of Pennsylvania, found that, in a given state, increases in the number of girls playing high-school sports have historically generated higher college-attendance and employment rates among women. Another study, conducted by Columbia’s Margo Gardner, found that teenagers who participated in extracurriculars had higher college-graduation and voting rates, even after controlling for ethnicity, parental education, and other factors.

But only 40 percent of seniors participate in high-school athletics, and what’s harder to measure is how the overriding emphasis on sports affects everyone who doesn’t play. One study of 30,000 students at the University of Oregon found that the grades of men who did not play sports went down as the football team’s performance improved. Both men and women reported that the better their football team did, the less they studied and the more they partied.

People want “The Answer” but there normally isn’t one because people are different. In college, my grades improved when I joined an athletic club as an upperclassman. I needed sports. In fact, I might have dropped out of high school had it not been for sports. That’s just me.

My recommendation, after reading this article, would be to experiment in “sports required” schools. The US Air Force Academy requires every student to be in a sport. If sports are important to a student, they should consider such a school. Have another school in the district, probably smaller, not offer sports at all but focus instead on academics. The development of eLearning makes this school a little cheaper since you don’t need everyone student to be trucked in to the school every day. Some schools won’t change and can try to the mixed approach. School vouchers, while not a cure, makes experimentation and diversity in services easier, and it should be a universal option.

There is no Golden Solution. People have different needs and once we understand that, we can begin to look at our educational establishment with clearer vision.

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