Test Scores Over Touchdowns: When Sports Soil Our Education System

High School Football/slapstix55/CC/flickr

High School Football/slapstix55/CC/flickr

I have attended every book club meeting at my school. I’ve never missed a National Honor Society meeting, a Math Honor Society meeting, a Social Studies Honor Society meeting, or a Latin Honor Society meeting. But when I tell people that I’ve never attended a high school football game, I am always asked the same question: what’s wrong with you?

What’s wrong with me? Let’s take a look at what’s wrong with America’s schools first. China, Korea, Finland, and numerous other countries are crushing us in terms of test scores – especially in subjects like math and science. One out of every three fourth graders is at a below basic reading level, while more than 67% of fourth graders are not reading at grade level at all. Athletic scholarships abound while hardworking Honor Roll students earning perfect SAT scores have to work at Walmart and McDonald’s just to make ends meet.

Tell me how throwing a football will help solve our country’s financial problems and save us from going over the fiscal cliff. Tell me how kicking a soccer ball will ameliorate our country’s failing mental health system. Tell me how slamming a tennis serve will solve our country’s foreign face offs in the Middle East. Tell me how anything related to pure physical achievement will allow our society to make great strides, or how it will propel our country to prosperity.

I’m not anti-athletics. I understand the value of sports in that they encourage exercise, promote teamwork, and provide entertainment. As a member of the tennis team and a proponent of several professional tennis players, I see that sports are not inherently evil. But why do we need sports in our education system? As one commenter noted in this Yahoo! article, why can we not have Little League teams or Minor League teams to train athletes for professional teams? Why should the star football player be the “big man on campus” while the gifted intellectual struggles day and night for successes that could save our country?

I hope this post doesn’t sound too caustic. I’m just upset over the recent rape case that has overtaken the town of Steubenville, Ohio, where members of their community have tried to cover up for the suspected rapists involved – beloved football players who have now been labeled the “Rape Crew”. Maybe if those guys had read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson or learned about human dignity after a discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird, things would have gone down differently.



Filed under Personal, Society

197 responses to “Test Scores Over Touchdowns: When Sports Soil Our Education System

  1. I agree with you, and I think there’s a great deal of truth in what you’re saying. Our education system is operating according to a system of values that’s extremely flawed. Well-written, too! Great post!

  2. Karabo Matome

    Well Laura stole my Words but I agree more. Great post.

  3. Incredible post Thomas. We are as blessed with brilliance in our country as any where else. Why AREN’T we embracing this and encouraging it?

  4. I agree with you. The education system is deeply flawed. And I don’ t even know what to say to that case.

  5. Pingback: The 2012 Blog of the Year Award (PS: Happy New Year!) | Ocean Owl

  6. Adrian

    I think the same set of flawed values is apparent in the Canadian system too; however, I’m appalled by the rape case in Ohio since covering up the rapists is never going to lead to justice. I hope education in the future will focus more on respecting each other and on human dignity as well. Incredible post, Thomas! I think you’re definitely an articulate writer!

    • Exactly – even if a verdict hasn’t been delivered yet, why can’t every member of the town be honest and actually try to make things right? The fact that this case involves minors and that adults are the ones covering up is horrible; they’re setting bad examples and acting as poor role models. Thank you for reading and commenting, Adrian.

  7. Wow, brilliant post Thomas! I agree with you through and through! And yes, like Adrian said, the situation in Canada is most likely very similar. Let us hope that something will change for the good!

    -Grace 🙂

    • Thanks Grace! It’s interesting/unfortunate how Canda’s education system possibly mirrors that of the USA. We’re obviously not the worst off in terms of academics but things could be improved. Who knows – the Supreme Court is going to decide on affirmative action this upcoming season, so maybe athletic scholarships will be next!

      • Speaking as a Vancouverite, I don’t think Canada puts nearly as much emphasis on sports and their facilities. I remember reading about a school in Oregon spending millions on an athletics building and thinking how people would be outraged here if that happened (possibly because our education is subsidized by the government, so really the taxpayers). Full-ride scholarships for athletes isn’t something you hear about often either–or at least not in BC. At my high school, most of the athletes were also on the honour roll and the local scholarships were more for students who were well-rounded or achieved high academic standing. At my university, we aren’t part of the sports organization that the US schools are under so we don’t attract athletes by offering full scholarships based on athletics (though there have been talks of changing this). There are large entrance scholarships given by the university solely dependent on grades. The province also gives out scholarships for high achievement on standardized exams and another set of scholarships for students involved in school extracurriculars (clubs, volunteer work, or athletics) while displaying academic excellence.

        Also, we have a bit of problem with apathy towards our sports teams. They do well and our school paper covers them but there isn’t a jam-packed stadium for every game or the enthusiasm that I imagine is in those football stadiums that your neighbours may attend.

        I think it’s somewhat unfair to compare Canada’s education to the US. And this is just based on what I’ve read in books, but the US is more about what you can afford and in Canada, up until grade 12, education is “free” and most opt for public school. I mean, after reading about parents who try to get their kids into elite elementary schools with the best teachers, I’m a bit biased. I believe the US education system for students with special needs is also different. In elementary school, the special needs classes have specific teachers to help them learn with other methods (but due to $ cuts, this is getting more restricted). Are there still lots of schools with the Freedom Writers’ situation?

        After reading the stats you posted, I looked up some (just for BC though) and while numeracy skills suffer most for grade 4 and 7 students, about 20% of the students aren’t meeting reading, writing, and numeracy standards. So it may be bad in BC, but not nearly as bad as the 1/3 you posted for the US (although there’s a hole in the stats since some students do not take the tests if their parents opt them out and their skill levels go unrecorded)! When the stats come out the school boards and media always address how they need to improve the percentage of those meeting or exceeding expectations.

        Anyway, sorry for such a long reply! I went into verbal diarrhea mode there. I’m wondering which parts of Canada Grace and Adrian are from because their experiences sound so different from mine!

        • I’m curious as to what areas of Canada Grace and Adrian are from as well, or at least the reasoning behind why their perspectives on the Canadian education system are so disparate with yours.

          It’s interesting to read about how athletics aren’t as big in Canada as in the US. While not every sports game over here is jam-packed either, we usually have great turnouts, especially in communities where sports are held in high esteem. I think what you have in Canada regarding entrance scholarships based on grades and scholarships based on high achievement is similar to how it works on the US, albeit a bit more developed and more focused on academics. Over here we have public and private education as well, and although I’m not sure of the exact statistics, I feel like a lot of parents opt to put their children in public school especially because it’s less expensive. However, I do know of people who have parents who paid to place them in private schools that had “better” academics and less troublesome peers (the fact that we have to pay for such a thing is a negative indication…)

          Anyway, you’re right that comparing the education system of the US and the education system of Canada is unfair in some respects, though interesting data can still be garnered. I had no idea what the Freedom Writers’ situation was until I looked it up – it seems like it’s still present but I can’t really say because of its lack of impact in my area.

          Thank you for your detailed comment!

  8. Could not agree with you more, Thomas. I ran cross country in high school, so I’m not anti-athletics, either. But I definitely consider myself an intellectual like you, and I have been very frustrated by the apparent undervaluation of academics. We need to get our act together, because our nation’s place in the future depends on it.

    • Agreed Tyler. Sports are great and possess numerous benefits but should not be at the absolute forefront of every high school student’s life. Judging from what’s taken place in Steubenville the future of our nation really does depend on it.

  9. I 100% agree. If athletes put as much time and effort into their education as they do their athletic programs, maybe we could all cometogether to make some changes!

    • Exactly! Though that would be a stretch because I doubt most athletes with professional aspirations would be able to dedicate enough time to both, those who are not as dedicated to sports (and do not have dreams of making it big) should allocate more time to studying.

  10. We need sports because there is good evidence that physical health is related to educational achievement. Increased oxygen flow to the brain from exercise increases our ability to learn. We don’t necessarily need football teams–which leave a lot of kids sitting on the bench, anyway–but we do need recess. And we need interesting things for kids to do at recess that keep them active and engaged with their bodies and one another. As the emphasis on test scores increase across the nation, recess and physical education classes are on the line, and we are losing this time for an important part of children’s development. We’re looking at a childhood obesity rate that’s risen over the last decade, along with associated diseases we never expected to see in children: Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

    We don’t need to have the most touchdowns or the highest test scores to be a strong society or have a strong economy–although it seems to continually surprise us that we aren’t number one, and yet many countries do well without being number one. On the other hand, we do need to address childhood poverty and the special challenges of educating a culturally and linguistically diverse population. We also need to be prepared to pay for it. We aren’t, and we’re getting exactly what we’ve paid for: mediocrity.

    • I agree that there is evidence showing the benefits of sports, even in regard to educational achievement. Having recess and physical education classes are both important, and I think that students should be able to participate in athletics after school if they so desire – but not to the extent that some of them are now. I’m not sure about other high schools around the nation, but at mine I know football players and lacrosse players practice until 8 or 9 PM and dedicate their weekends to practicing as well. One of my acquaintances who wrestles is seriously struggling in calculus because he has to spend so much time working out and with his team. I don’t want to say that he won’t become a professional wrestler or make a career out of his sport, but to me, Calculus will help him more in regard to getting into a good college and getting him a job in the long run. Not to mention learning about math and thinking at high levels is vital for the brain.

      You’re right that there are more issues that affect our country than just the ones I addressed in this post. A balance is necessary to maximize our output – we definitely have the potential to exceed, though it’ll take a lot of work to get there.

      • That does seem rather excessive. I’m guessing the high school you are talking about caters to mostly middle class students? The issues over-programmed, college-bound students of privilege have are completely different from students who are less well-off–not less serious, but different. Rising expectations and lack of balance are among them.

        There are inequities in all aspects of schooling, including in athletics, and in many poor districts, sports, recess, and physical education have all seen cutbacks.

        • I wouldn’t say that my area has an inundation of middle class students and up, but we’re definitely better off than other school districts. I see what you mean though. As I said I’m not exactly sure of the scenarios every high school student is facing, but in the end, balance is key – of course athletics shouldn’t be completely cut especially among communities with more kids in lower socioeconomic classes. But I still believe that almost everywhere academics should be placed above extracurricular activities, and more money should be going to education in general than what’s currently being allocated to it.

  11. Insightful. As an athlete my whole life, I was at most every game, and still am. But my parents instilled that school came first, regardless. As a teacher, I saw activities before school all the time, and this was just fourth graders. It irritated me as priorities just seemed to be in the wrong place. I know I can’t make what’s important to me important to someone else, but I saw so many families pump time and money into activities and very little into students academics. Sad to me.

    • Yeah, my Latin teacher tells his students the exact same thing – academics should always come first. These days so many high schoolers always try to do a lot of things just to do a lot of things; perhaps they want to impress colleges or they just had that drive instilled in them from their youth. I wish that more people could see the importance of learning in itself; it takes time, dedication, and skill to fully take advantage of your education. It should be prioritized above athletics. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  12. I’m with you; I find it crazy that I have to pay so much to go to college while the football players get free rides, even if I admire them. It’s a crazy world, and I wish I had a solution to it.

    • I see what you mean – as a writer who works hard to master your craft, why do others attain such a huge advantage financially just because what they do is more popularized by society? Athletic scholarships have been a debated topic before, maybe those in charge of the distribution of finances will revisit the subject. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      • i’ll also mention it to my boss. i work at my school’s financial aid office, so i can see why such priorities are given. i’ll even give her the link to your blog if i can.

        • That would be a great idea! I’m not in college yet but I’ll definitely do more research on how I can help with the problem in general. Please keep me updated on your progress.

          • Okay, I checked with my boss. Apparently every department has scholarships set up by donors, some that even exceed the scholarships student athletes get, and each scholarship has specific rules. It’s just that the athletic scholarships are more visible than one for engineering, veterinary science, or history, which is why some people feel athletes are getting preferrential treatment.
            It’s not that you’re being undervalued, it’s that the scholarships offered to you are different and a little less well-known than the ones being offered to Braxton Miller or other athletes.

            • I suppose it is the right of the donors to choose who they want their money to go – however, I feel like more of the money athletes should receive should go to academic scholarships. Yes, academic scholarships exist, but there could always be more money for budding intellectuals. Not saying that money is the most important thing ever, but it can certainly help defray the cost of college and other living expenses. I agree that there are quite a few lesser known scholarships though.

  13. I enjoyed your post, but I’m going to disagree with the idea of taking sports out of schools.

    I think sports can serve not only to engage a good number of regular and at risk kids further in school, but it can also engage parents who might not otherwise attend or be involved with their child’s school. There’s also the connection between physical activity and mental stimulation, and the benefits to encouraging kids to become more physically active and socialize in a different way with their peers.

    Sports outside of school is of course an option, but in these busy times of two parent working families, economic hardships and “bubble wrap” parenting I don’t know how high up organized sport falls in the priority list or how accessible it is for as many families.

    I think school needs to be a place where kids can express themselves in a few different ways. Now, the school systems in North America are far from perfect. Totally agree. I don’t think sports is the culprit here though.

    • michaelthewriterguy

      I have to agree with you. Taking athletics out school would be a mistake on the part of school systems. I do, however, agree with this post in that there is a much heavier emphasis on sports rather than intellectual growth. Sports provide many benefits, but the culture around it subjugates more important aspects of school.

      There has to be a change in the culture of how sports are thought. They are not the only thing, nor the most important thing about school. The point of going to school to get an education. And while sports provides an escape for students, the primary emphasis on school (all schools) have to be academics based.

      • You guys, and a lot of the other commenters here, are right – sports are valuable and they shouldn’t be completely removed from the education system. However, as Michael stated, there needs to be more emphasis on education as opposed to athletics. I do think that we should keep physical education courses and recess for younger kids. But I know of areas (and live in one myself) where members of varsity teams have to practice until 8 or 9 PM – furthermore, high school itself places more prominence on athletes. If an individual is expected to practice for that many hours every day as well as putting in additional time on the weekends, how is he or she going to really perform to his or her full academic potential?

        I know of people who have dropped courses like AP Calculus or AP English because they needed more time for their sports. I’m not saying that there’s a 0% chance that these people will become professional athletes, but I do believe that learning skills taught in college level courses comes first as it aids them intellectually and will help them succeed later in life. No, we shouldn’t just get rid of athletics and exercise – but education and learning come first.

        • I agree with the sentiment, but somehow the idea of “sports or AP classes” makes me wonder how well off your school or these students are. Not everyone is made to take AP classes (these are technically college-level courses in high school). If someone genuinely enjoys sports over getting ahead in college academics, they should do that, and this also helps prevent AP classes from becoming “diluted” with students who don’t want to put in all the effort. And for some people, focusing on the sports aspect may indeed help them get to college. Athletic scholarships are complicated, but generally, I don’t believe they come from the same pool of money as need-based financial and academic merit scholarships.

          Also, at my high school, about 5 of the 8 highest ranked students were athletes in multiple AP classes. As someone very involved in debate and academic team, I was frustrated when I felt like we didn’t get appropriate recognition for performance in our competitions. But I also realized that was true of many things. Everyone knew football and basketball at our high school, but many of the other sports had little recognition.

          • I agree that not everyone should be encouraged to take AP or higher level courses just for the sake of education, as that would be counter-productive. And you’re right in that some people do genuinely excel in sports and that they should have access to opportunities. But I still believe that more (emphasis on more, as opposed to all) opportunities should be given to academics and education. Even if athletic scholarships do not come from the same pool of money as need-based aid or academic merit scholarships, the money from the pool for athletic scholarships could be allocated to need-based or academic merit. I’m not sure of the exact statistic, though it wouldn’t be difficult to find, but a myriad of the universities I’m applying to as well as other universities across the nation are graduating students with loans of over 15 or 20K.

            That’s true that other sports are shafted as well, and it would be exceedingly difficult to get perfectly equal coverage for anything. But, in the end, it’s my opinion that academics should come first – we should celebrate those who get straight A’s, or succeed in science fair, or place well in debate competitions. We shouldn’t just congratulate our football team for making Regionals or States.

            • Also, you and someone else were curious about financial aid. This varies a lot by university, but I think the general trend holds, so I’ll give some information from my experience working as a university student who volunteered in the admission office and for a year with fundraising. Most financial aid money is from alumni charitable donations and a lot of those are earmarked to specific causes. At colleges with large and/or successful athletic programs, most of their scholarship money comes from alumni and boosters. That’s also typically earmarked and so can’t be moved from the athletics department to financial aid, no matter how much administrators might want to. Really the only thing they could control is if any profits from athletics could go to other uses (that tends to happen rarely, I think, so that is something universities could work on). So again, that can be more reflective of culture than anything institutional

              The earmarking can also be annoying for other factors though. When I was in undergrad, installation art and new buildings started popping up all over campus in honor of alumni donations. My senior year, we griped that we would gladly forgo one more weird statue by the student center if we could convince alumni to donate to the financial aid office.

              • Interesting – the earmarking reminds me of what we learned in my government class about how Congress and other departments allocate funds to certain programs in the state. I visited one of the colleges I’m applying to and I read in the school newspaper that they were protesting how money was earmarked for buying new massage chairs in the library instead of going to more useful purposes – reminds me of your story about installation art and the new buildings.

                It makes sense that the money would come from alumni and boosters. It does reflect (negatively) on our culture that so much of it is used specifically for athletics as opposed to academics. Yes, of course academics receive some money, but not as much as it should.

  14. Well written post! Although I share your concern with the sports dominated school culture we live in today, I am excited to come across students such as yourself who have intelligence, drive and passion. It is people like you that will lead us forward as a nation.

  15. Well stated and understood, but let’s remember that athletics, particularly football, isn’t the real issue. The issue lays at society’s feet. It has allowed itsself a system of wrong values.

    The arts programs and athletics programs have always been a valuable part of the education system, as these programs (when used correctly) promote healthy minds and bodies which produce success in academics. As education systems began to struggle to “keep up with the University of the Jones’,” then prestige and money issues began to plague our schools and their districts. These programs then ceased to be about promoting healthy minds and bodies and became the vessels in which one school or district could best another. As that monster grew, it became too big to control. The ” no pass/no play” rule, existing today, has helped curve this beast, but the damage has been done. Society must return to a healthy balance, before this issue is ever to be resolved.

    • I agree that the sports issue is a reflection of a bigger problem that plagues society. Sports and arts and academics are all important, but like you said, a balance should be achieved – each school shouldn’t try just to beat other schools in its area or nationwide, but they should strive to beat themselves (as in they should try to constantly improve.) I don’t think having competitive academics is necessarily a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be in excess; fostering learning and a love of learning is always what’s most important.

  16. There’s nothing wrong with you — quite the contrary. I have nothing against athletics and I lettered in track and field when I was in high school. The problem of over-emphasis on football and under-emphasis on educational achievement is a damning indictment of high school but also of the overall U.S. society. Your fellow students are mirroring the world around them.

    The good news about high school is that you leave it behind and find communities where nobody cares about football. Thomas, you’ll be making a far greater contribution to the world in the years ahead than any football player.

    • Thank you for agreeing with me and for your comment! I hope that no one who has read this thinks I want to permanently dispose of athletics from the education system (even though I brought up the idea). Educational achievement does need to be more of a priority in our nation, or else we won’t be able to deal with the upcoming problems that we’ll have to face, like the deterioration of the environment.

  17. michaelthewriterguy

    Reblogged this on michaelthewriterguy and commented:
    This article has piqued my interest on an issue that is one of the very foundations of our culture as a society. While the author advocates for sports to be taken out of schools, I do not. I do, however, agree that sports have become something of a nuisance for the academic and intellectual growth of this country’s youths. The culture surrounding sports has become one which subjugates intellectual advancement for the sake of a game that has no real world impact. Sports provide an escape for those who play them, and do promote some very positive thing, but a culture which puts a game before an education has something inherently wrong with it.

    • Thanks for the reblog, and I see what you mean about taking sports completely out of schools – not the best idea. A cutback in the emphasis on sports over academics is necessary though.

  18. Thomas, I’m a teacher. I agree more than you might imagine. Sports are good for kids, but they aren’t what matters most. They aren’t even close.

    • I’m glad that I have the support of someone who works in education and is a key player in pushing our generation forward – thanks for reading and commenting!

  19. veronicahaunanifitzhugh

    I understand your anger about the Ohio situation.

    I am not sure about assuming that the smart student and the athlete cannot be the same person. I went to UVA with Tikki Barber, former New York Giant, and he’s one of the most gracious and well spoken people (not just athlete) I know. Excluding a person from intelligence due to their physical abilities (as well as disabilities) is problematic for me.

    My thoughts go out to all those who suffer violence.

    • I agree with you in that intelligence and physical prowess aren’t mutually exclusive. However, I don’t think we can generalize as a whole – not every professional football player is stupid, and not every professional football player is smart. But what they’re doing on the field, while it has its merits, doesn’t contribute to the overarching issues affecting America today (at least a lot of the ones that will have serious consequences in the future.) There are also a myriad of compelling articles about how unsafe football is and the numerous head injuries that the players suffer, but that’s beside the point. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  20. Athletics are great when they promote values like teamwork and sportsmanship. But when people rabidly idolize athletes and cover up their wrongdoing, something is clearly broken. I’m not sure I agree that athletics need to be removed from schools, but we should certainly hold athletes to the same standard of behavior as everyone else. I see this blindness towards crimes committed by athletes as a problem that pervades American culture, not just our education system.

    • I agree, athletes in culture overall should be held to the same standard as others – yes, they are talented, but we all are in different ways. Athletics isn’t the most evil thing on the face of the planet but academics should be emphasized more in the education system.

  21. Hiya Thomas,
    I appreciate you bringing attention to this argument, however I don’t think you’re addressing it properly. From what I’ve gathered in this post, you fail to see any value in sports aside from the value of physical recreation. I’ll be brief in how I address you. Sports are foremost medians for physical release and for exercise. You made no mention of our country’s atrocious obesity problem and difficulty with weight-management: sports alleviate and also fuel the nutrition/personal fitness/dietary markets. Secondly: sports are a means of retaining cultural identity. I am part of the bookish community and I’ve rarely inspired an enlightening bond by talking about Flaubert or Pynchon. As much as I hate the parade of bowl games, football is able to tear down a wall between strangers and allow for the formation of a friendship. I said I would be brief so I’ll keep it that way. I think your qualms aren’t with sports but with the larger-than-life roles that its heroes play in our society. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a modern-day intellectually dominating society. Those haven’t exised since Homer. America is a consumerist state that heaps glory on its vapid heroes and scorns its intellectuals. Even so, I encourage you to find something in the sports that you lambast: David Foster Wallace wrote a series of incredibly illuminating essays on Roger Federer that make the tennis star seem like the best thing since Hamlet. The Paris Review ran a blog by a former footballer-turned-writer some months ago that will debunk the meathead athlete stereotype. And if you think that all sports gods are treated everywhere as they are in America, look at Ireland’s wonderfully entertaining national sport: Gaelic Hurling. Games draw crowds of thousands but none of the players are professionals–during offseason, the stars return to their day jobs just as everyone else.


    • Yes, I completely agree that sports combat obesity and play a prominent part in the fight for better health. However, you’re right in that my main problem is with how athletes are so revered in our society. After scanning most of the comments that have been posted I see that America does heap glory on its “vapid heroes and scorns its intellectuals”, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. If we start by changing our schools – and it doesn’t have to be a major change, like cutting sports completely – perhaps we can start a movement that will value learning and academic achievement and all of those good things Yes, not all athletes are meatheads, and yes, some athletes do go back to their day jobs, but our country could be doing a lot better as a whole in regard to setting our priorities straight. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  22. I’ve never been a fan of watching or participating in athletic activities as a child (with the exception of dancing and watching the Olympics). It wasn’t until I was in grad school that I developed an appreciation for the role that competitive sports plays in a person’s life. The way that the cult of celebrity and athleticism has intersected and soured undoubtedly requires attention, but I’m not sure young people would be any more satisfied or grow into any more contented, responsible adults if they didn’t get to pursue sports the way they could the arts, sciences, medicine, law, business, armed forces, or non-profit work.

    • I agree that athletics shouldn’t be entirely eliminated. However, the arts, sciences, medicine, law, business, etc. should be equal if not more emphasized than sports – these things, in my opinion, bring a larger benefit to our society than athletics do.

      • I was reminded of this entry when I was reading an article about hero worship and football at Psychology Today. Here’s an excerpt:

        In our culture, sports stars are treated as heroes and have privileges heaped on them; their anti-social behavior is often overlooked. The great forward passer gets a scholarship while an outstanding science student is forced to take out student loans…Fans are forgiving…and many parents actively encourage and want to raise a football star or scholarship baby…Aren’t there other sports from which young children gain the upside of football without its downside?

        • So true! Other sports that are more individualized like tennis or swimming seem to be a little less emphasized, though I don’t have any statistics to back up that statement. In general I feel like academic achievement should be given more emphasis than athletics, as education will allow our country to prosper more than just throwing around footballs. Thanks for sharing that article from Psychology Today!

  23. Thank you for stating this issue so clearly and your feelings so strongly. As one of those intellectual students who worked fast food all through high school and can barely find scholarships, I’m right with you on the grossly overrated position of sports in our schools.

    • Yeah, I can imagine how tough it must’ve been – from your blog you have honed your writing, and I suppose working has developed your character (to look on the bright side at least.) Thanks for sharing your perspective and for reading and commenting!

  24. adm22

    I agree with you, but the education system always reflects the values of the society it operates in. Education doesn’t value academics as highly as it should because America doesn’t value academics as it should. Here’s the dirty little secret: if more communities valued education as highly as Beijing (where China’s international test scores are taken from) we wouldn’t be behind. We would be leading the pack.

    • Exactly! I’m not saying that we should make our education system super elitist and cut-throat competitive, but if we allocated more resources into academics and put more of an effort into hiring dedicated teachers, things could change. It would take time but it would be a major step in ameliorating America’s values.

  25. I enjoyed your post. I used to be a teacher and saw a lot of special treatment for athletes in a town where football was king. Just remember your studies will pay off in the end!

    • From what I’ve read so far I feel like a lot of teachers and students know how much preference athletes receive in a lot of areas. I love learning and I can’t wait to take advantage of the opportunities my education will give me – I am so thankful for it, and I hope others my age are as well.

  26. LetSdeG

    Thomas, you are exactly right. Anyone that attempts to compare the contributions of a scholar with those of an athlete, as if they are equal servants to a society, is clearly not seeing the whole picture. Think of how many years the athlete actually adds value versus the scholar? Sadly, we are a very superficial society focused on image, winning at all cost and the bottom line. our values are beyond flawed, they are decayed. There is no better evidence of that than in college sports.

    • I agree! I’m not saying that athletes don’t work hard – of course they dedicate hours and hours into their talents too. But who will make more of a difference in society, who will propel our country forward? Athletes might, but those who attain high levels of education and are able to make a different due to their academic ability will probably do more.

  27. I really enjoyed this article because I agree with some of your points, but I disagree with some of your conclusions. I agree that people need to be rewarded for their scholastic achievements and it is not fair how much the high school world values the quarterback over the valedictorian. However, I think that without sports there would be far less kids focusing on their grades. Sports are a great way to keep kids on track and make them focus in on their goals. I don’t think that sports are the problem here.

    • I see what you mean. Sports shouldn’t be entirely eliminated, and they aren’t the only problem. However, I stand by what I say in that they do lend to the problem – as far as I’ve seen and as far as the statistics I’ve read goes, many students focus much more on athletics than they should academics. Why is it that we force athletes just to get a “C” average to continue their sports? Why aren’t we holding them to the same standard as the rest of the pack? I understand that not everyone is going to be an academic superstar or a valedictorian, but the disproportionate amount of prevalence played on academics is an issue.

  28. Well written and insightful. You probably make your English teacher proud.

  29. **@Why should the star football player be the “big man on campus” while the gifted intellectual struggles day and night for successes that could save our country?..

    >EXCELLENT points. And yet many people wonder why WE as a country are so far behind other countries in Science & Math fields?!?(which is why there are such high scholarships available here available..) For years these things have been noted though by many..I had the awesome opportunity of co-raising scholars. (one is on the brink of attaining his PHD & our youngest son is following his footsteps) and I’ve never been able to mentally grasp why such notoriety was given to athletics in schools. Albeit there were/are programs for gifted students(and my sons were in them…) yet one had to look for those programs for our children. I’ve always said athletes were/are OVERPAID for their talents especially compared to what teachers!/professors/scientists! are paid in our country..Just does not add UP. We can’t expect to compete with other countries in cerebral fields until our education system is elevated by, alot! *Round of applause* for penning your thoughts & sharing…You’ve gained a new follower/fan.

    • Yes, exactly! As someone with experience in raising gifted children I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Yes, there are gifted programs and opportunities for academics-inclined kids, but there should be more of them. Especially considering how many sports-related opportunities there are in the education system and how much preference is provided to those who partake in athletics – we really need to be giving more thanks or resources to teachers, professors, scientists, etc. like you noted. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  30. I definitely agree with your stance. I never attended football games and I send my boys to a Montessori school – where they do get time for play at recess but there are no sports teams (for all grades preK-12th). If adolescent sports teams were somewhat privatized (to park districts, leagues, etc) then more funding could go strictly to education and equipment for the classroom. Let parents who value sports pay to have their children play.

    • I agree with this. Even in my school, parents who want their children to play sports have to pay several fees. Taking sports completely out of schools sounds extreme, but in reality it wouldn’t be a gargantuan step. A small but certain privatization could aid academics and provide more resources strictly for education in schools.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  31. You dont seem to be aware of the fact that those athletes you hating on bring in more money to its school than anything else !!! That is why they are, always have been and always will be as you called them ” the BIG men on campus”! There is a real good chance those books you read, those lights so you can see and anything your school provides you with was paid for by the BIG men you decided blog about!!!!
    Thomas you need to let elite men of your school know that you are thankful for everything they do!!!

    Play football


    • Why are those men bringing in the money though? Why should they be the ones who are providing for resources on campus? Why aren’t we allowing those who contribute to the academics of our colleges (which is what I think college is about – education) be the ones who do the heavy duty lifting? We shouldn’t focus so much on football players or athletes – I respect them as much I respect all human beings, but that does not mean we should allow them to have a disproportionate amount of influence in our education system.

      • Football also teaches the players lessons for life, football is exciting, it brings small towns together on Friday nights, colleges on Saturday and the NFL on Sundays!!!!
        Spectators pay huge amounts of cash with a smile on there face for game tickets!!!
        Its safe to say people just dont get “fired up”, if you will, for a spelling bee like they do for a primetime football game!!! I dont think you can get the rush going to any type of educational event that football delivers!!!!!

        • Yes, football provides entertainment, but at what cost to our country’s educational development? I’m not saying that we should just ban the sport completely, but more of a focus needs to be put behind academics. Why aren’t spelling bees exciting? We should encourage kids to get fired up for learning and competing in other ways than just through sports.

  32. Firstly, congratulations on being Freshly Pressed with such a well-written and well-argued piece.
    I’m commenting just to let you know this problem isn’t just in the USA. I am from the South of Scotland, from a very rugby-oriented region. The way your football players are treated is very similar to the way the rugby players at my school were.
    Everyone was moaned at for their interpretation of the school uniform…except the rugby boys.
    If you were late to school you’d have your card marked…except the rugby boys.
    If you didn’t go to the school’s rugby games, you were immediately ostracised because you didn’t fit with how the school “worked”.
    I love rugby now, but I hated the boys on my school team. They were disgusting and rude to myself and my friends. I didn’t want to support that.

    • I’ve heard about how popular rugby is in Scotland. I wasn’t aware that a similar problem is plaguing your school though. The fact that they receive such preferential treatment as to avoid discipline and that people are castigated for not attending their games is cruel and shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s not like they’re ostracized for missing an academic club or something of that sort.

      I’m really sorry that the guys on your school rugby team are such trouble. Hopefully they will mature – perhaps you could tell a teacher about the problems they’re creating? Thank you for reading and commenting.

      • Outside of Glasgow, rugby is definitely the more prominent sport over football (soccer) over here, especially in the South.
        I’ve been out of that school for 4 years now (I’m 21, lol) but if I see the guys from the rugby teams when I’m out now, nothing has changed. They still maintain a really superior frame of mind even though they’ve gone absolutely nowhere.
        It’s pretty sad, actually. Because if they pick up an injury which means they can no longer play, they have nothing to fall back on.

        • Yeah, that’s another thing – while I’m glad that many athletes are able to attain an education alongside their talent in sports, sometimes it’s not enough. This is why we should always strive for balance. Though it is sad that you don’t see development in the sports players after four years, I will admit…

  33. Good job man i agreed with you; it is sad but this continues on to our universities and even in life.

  34. Sports is merely diversion. Ala Huxley’s “Brave New World.”

    • I remember studying Chomsky in AP Psych last year. He does make interesting points about how sports can breed unnecessary submission – perhaps they do correlate with jingoism, though I’d have to do more research on that one. I think sports possess benefits: lowering obesity, creating catharsis, fostering teamwork, etc. but you’re right in that sports do serve as simple entertainment a lot of the time that prevents people from accomplishing other things. Thanks for reading and commenting! (also, I read Brave New World, it was a great book)

  35. northernmalewhite

    ah yes America, what a country! So macho and bone-headed. Third world attitudes are the norm from a supposedly first world country! I’d hate to be female/gay/not white in that country. And they wonder why episodes like Columbine happen.
    LetSdeG knows.

    • Interesting comment… not sure if some of it is sarcasm, however, I suppose that third world attitudes can be associated with certain individuals within our country when they’re stressed. Females, gays, and minorities are making great strides in this country though, don’t count us out yet. As for Columbine, that was such a horrible incident, and while I’m not sure how deeply sports in our education system relates to it, I genuinely hope nothing of that horror happens again (and that nothing similar to the Sandy Hook shooting ever occurs again.)

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. (:

  36. A great post and there’s so much to say but I’ll have to disagree with some of the things you say. Sports can’t be separated from schooling/academics; there are countless reasons why sports benefit any student. Scholars do a great deal for any society but the world of sports with global pull, sponsors, marketing generates, that’s if done right, a considerable budget for any economy – not to mention athlete role models. I have seen the rape case though – but a bunch of bad apples can’t characterize everything from sports at school, the education system and everything. I work in education and coincidentally travel a lot – I’ll say this the British A-levels can be one of the toughest exams that too in every subject, many countries can claim that their students are ahead in terms of many things but the emphasis North America lays on creativity makes for better students any day. That said I believe teachers are required – I’ve only met a handful in my life. I’m sorry if this sounds disordered; I tried to summarize!

    • **Good teachers (at the end of the post!)

      • Why should athletes be the ones affecting our economy the most though? Why can’t we let our scholars/scientists/etc. pull some of the financial load – it’s unfortunate that our society and our economy is so dependent on people who are showing physical talent instead of intellectual ability in their professions. I understand that not every football player or athletic person is a jerk; one of my acquaintances is a football player, a good friend of mine is a cheerleader, and several of my close friends are tennis players and swimmers. However, we should be moving more emphasis from sports to academics. Finally, I completely agree with your point about good teachers – they are absolutely vital.

        Thank you for reading and commenting!

  37. The Great Surge

    Agreed, in a lot of European countries sports are played separately but unfortunately things will remain the same in the US. What people don’t get is that a lot of these colleges and higher institutions with the exception of the Ivies benefit A LOT from sports. The amount of money pouring into these colleges helps them pay for a lot of things including newer buildings. In many places like Texas, high school football is a tradition and believe me, traditions in the south do not change fast. I would be a big supporter of a minor league sports for younger teens as even those kids whose high schools do not have football programs can participate but the issue is just the money and finances. In reality, people could care less about how bad a school does as long as they are making money on their own.

    • I see what you’re saying and that’s unfortunate, honestly. The fact that our education system relies on athletics to pull monetary support is unsatisfying – shouldn’t we allow our academics speak for themselves to attain resources from the government/donors? If we continue to place all of our values and lend money toward institutions just because we like how they manage their athletics, we’re devaluing education itself, which won’t allow many students to prosper.

      Thank you for reading and for sharing your perspective!

      • The Great Surge

        Well Thomas, as a result of our institutions making money through sports, they make more money than colleges elsewhere. Harvard and the Ivies along with MIT are the exceptions but for most other schools, sports are a critical source of funding. I will write a follow up blog to yours, the other writers on my blog are okay with it and I will end up going into detail about this post of yours. See your post caught my attention because I have found this to be an issue in primary and secondary education and I feel that there is so much to do about it that we aren’t doing about it.

  38. I agree with you that there is too much of an emphasis on sports in the United States and not enough focus on academics.

    However, that said, there is a vast difference between the US public education system and other countries such as Finland, China and Singapore. Because of those differences, to be fair, we cannot compare the results of US students with those countries unless we separate the chaff from the organic grain and also compare apples to apples.

    As a public high school teacher in California for thirty years (1975 – 2005), I taught four periods of English and one period of journalism in addition to being the advisor of the student run high school newspaper. One year, my student reporters were invited to write a series of pieces for a European magazine called “Easy Speakeasy”, headquartered in France. “Easy Speakeasy” expressed interested in the sports programs in US schools because we were told that these programs do not exist in France and other European countries. Sports in Europe are mostly outside of the public schools sort of like Pop Warner Football in the US.

    Pop Warner was founded in 1929, continues to grow and serves as the only youth football, cheerleading & dance organization that requires its participants to maintain academic standards in order to participate. Pop Warner’s commitment to academics is what separates the program from other youth sports around the world. In fact, studies show that kids involved in sports that require them to maintain their academic grades above a 2.0 GPA graduate in higher numbers than students that do not participate in sports. Europe has programs similar to Pop Warner and I understand this is the only place students in Europe may participate in organized sports because these programs do not exist in European schools. In Europe and most countries, the focus in the public schools is all academic–no sports, drama or music programs as in the US.

    I can only guess that “Easy Speakeasy’s” editors invited our journalism students to write for their European publication because the high school newspaper I was advisor for had won international recognition several years in a row from Quill and Scroll out of the University of Iowa. In the English classes I taught there was a lot of chaff and only little grain but in that journalism class, I taught the organic cream of our high school—students willing to be at school as early as six in the morning and stay until as late as eleven at night to produce the high school newspaper, while many of my English students did not bring textbooks to class, do class work or even consider doing homework. Instead, there were students in my English classes that waged an endless war against academics disrupting the educational environment as often as possible.

    By the way, Quill and Scroll does offer academic scholarships. There is another organization called JEA (the Journalism Education Association) that also awards academic scholarships related to writing/academics. I know this because one of my journalism students earned a JEA scholarship. I required my journalism students to compete at the regional, state and national level in JEA academic writing competitions.


    The schools in Europe are academic only.

    In addition, in most of the world there are two tracks in high school: academic and vocational and students in those countries may graduate from high school either with a degree earned in the academic or vocational. For that reason, comparing graduation rates in the US with other countries does not count because in the US we only graduate through academic programs but still graduate a higher ratio of students through the academic track than any other country on earth.

    Then there are those children you mentioned that cannot read and are functionally illiterate. When we compare the US to all other English speaking countries, the rate of functionally illiterate children is about the same telling us that this is more a product of a culture that does not value learning and reading as much as countries like Finland where the majority of parents start teaching his or her children how to read at home by age three so those children can already read when they start school at age seven.

    In the US, many parents leave it up to the schools to start teaching children to read at age five or six and only those children that were taught by his or her parents start out on track and move ahead.

    Then there is the fact that the US may be the only country on the planet that mandates children stay in school, no matter what, until age sixteen to eighteen. In China, for example, there are about 150 million children in the grade schools but only about 10 million graduate from high school at age 15.

    When the International PISA test is given in countries around the world, that test is given to a random sample of fifteen year olds. That means in the US, because every fifteen year old is still in school, America’s students are being compared to the very best in countries such as China where students that are not the best academically have left the system by the time the PISA people show up to test fifteen year olds.

    However, when we filter out the chaff and leave only our most proficient students and compare them to the most proficient students of other countries, this being apples to apples, the US students beats every country in the world in every academic area tested.

    • Thanks for your detailed and insightful response! It’s great to hear from someone who’s been teaching for so long and has impacted some of the best and brightest minds in our country.

      The way Pop Warner runs thing is interesting. I don’t particularly like how the system is run so that students only have to maintain a certain GPA to play sports – I feel like we should be raising our kids in an environment where academics is naturally the most important aspect of their education. I agree that its methods are better than nothing, but I must say I appreciate how Europe does things. Not sure if I would support taking out all music/drama/arts etc. but we need more of a balance in our schools so that athletics do not always reign supreme.

      As for the academic and vocational track idea, I wonder how well that would work in the United States, because it sounds decent – not every kid will want to go to college and earn a degree in an academic subject. So should we be forcing them to? Furthermore, I think the point about our culture is what I was trying to write in my post. We should place a more prominent emphasis on education and getting our kids to read at a younger age, know their basic math, etc.

      I suppose what you’re saying has merit, though I’d need to see more definite statistics to truly support it. Even if our most proficient beats their most proficient, they’re still doing just as well if not better than us in terms of economic output, technological advances, etc. And I’m confident that they have more “most proficient” students that we do – something that we should strive to fix.

  39. Reblogged this on BoasClan and commented:

  40. Pingback: Focusing too much on the gods of football, baseball and basketball « Crazy Normal – the Classroom Exposé

  41. Louise McGivern

    I’m sorry, sports in schools is so much more than just providing entertainment, promoting teamwork and encouraging exercise. Sport builds character, creates motivated, confident, ambitious and driven members of society that in turn will contribute positively to the work force one day. It’s not just about being an intelligent student, it’s about creating individuals who are happy; educating the whole child. Not every child is blessed with “book smarts” if you take away sports, then what about music and the arts? Aren’t they as important as chemistry and math??
    Most student athletes work hard, trying to manage a full class schedule and a full-time training schedule is not easy. Most athletes understand that they aren’t going “pro” once their college career is over, so work hard to achieve good grades to plan for their future. As a former NCAA student athlete myself I’ve walked in these shoes. It’s not easy…I didn’t have anything handed to me on a plate. It was HARD WORD keeping a 3.0 GPA to stay eligible (a 3.0 was imposed on us by our coach, to stay eligible in NCAA you only need to pass 6 credit hours, so a 2.0)
    I live in France, and I’m Scottish. We don’t have the collegiate athletics system you have in the states, but there is still a huge focus on educating the whole child….which is so important, sports is a big part of that. I am a mother now and sport will always be part of my family life.
    I think you are looking at this from a very narrow-minded perspective…and you do sound a little bitter.

    • Yes, athletics are important. Yes, sports are important as well as music and arts. But sports are not more (emphasis on more) important than music, arts, or academics. In my post I am saying that we should devalue sports so that athletics receive equal if not a little less preference than academics, because academics will aid us in the long run.

      I understand that it was hard work (I think you meant hard work) to maintain a good GPA, but that’s the point. We should be striving to obtain good grades no matter what, to work hard to plan for the successes of our futures. By placing so much prominence solely on athletics we’re taking that away from academics.

      I’m sorry that you think that. Also, “bitter” isn’t exactly the right word for this – in my school, yes, sports are very cherished, but I’ve done well (not to sound cocky) in terms of academics and other areas. I’m not just bitter, I’m upset that the football players in Stuebenville got away with raping that girl – as well as multiple other girls – just because they belonged to the revered football team. I apologize if being upset over a horrible crime like rape is offensive to you.

  42. It’s not that sports ruins the culture of education; it’s more that what priority a community give it can have horrendous results, as the Ohio tragedy demonstrates. When a program becomes so unnaturally inflated by boosters and the community that criminal acts aren’t reported and young boys are trained to believe there are no consequences for even the most heinous of choices, the tipping point into corruption has been so fare passed that the needle on the “Acceptable/Unacceptable dial is just circling in a never-ending blur.

    • Exactly. Sports are okay, but when they are taken to the extremes and its members treated like they can do no wrong, things get out of hand. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  43. Based on all the responses to your article, you obviously hit a nerve, a very sensitive nerve. And, that’s what it takes, sometimes, draw attention to a problem. Yes, this is a problem and I back your comments 100%. You’re correct! For me, our culture, the human race, has some real problems with setting priorities. It seems, at least as for as “sports” is concerned anyway, it’s all about the love of money and fame. I know, it’s called capitalism and fee enterprise. But really, what’s more important, watching a multimillion sports “hero” and his “team” so they can further their fame and fortune or helping the people who work to solve the problems of the world to make life better for everyone? I’ve seen kids self-image destroyed because they made a mistake during a sporting event, “He cost us the game. She cost us the match” Yet, no one, not even the parent, took the time to explain to that child, that high school-er, that college kid, that their value as a human being is just as great after their mistake, as before. We got it backwards. I can’t justify a professional athlete, a college or pro coach, etc. being paid millions more than the president of a university, or a professor, or a teacher, or a policeman, a nurse, a fireman, and so on. That doesn’t make sense. I know, it’s called capitalism and fee enterprise.

    Back in the seventies I was a fan of pro football, until one Sunday afternoon I witnessed a lineman violently seize a quarterback, turn him upside-down and spike him, head first into the field. The lineman could’ve simply knocked him down, that would’ve been more than adequate to stop the play. The quarterback was taken from the field unconsciousness. Fortunately, it turned out, he was not permanently injured. From that moment on I have not and will not watch pro football. I only watch baseball, auto racing, etc.; sports where the outcome is based solely on skill and maybe luck.

    I’m now following your blog. Look forward to reading more…

    • You state everything so well. I agree in that people should be allowed to play sports if they choose to, but our country as a whole should place more emphasis on academics, which will lead to more prosperity overall. The whole winning v. losing aspect of athletics doesn’t help either; I know that sports can help people learn that winning isn’t everything, but at times there’s too much pressure to do well and bring in the dough.

      That sounds like such a horrible thing to watch. I’m glad that you still have sports to watch that aren’t violent – after reading so many articles about concussions and brain injuries caused by football, it’s hard for me to stomach it sometimes. Thank you for reading and commenting, I really appreciate it!

  44. eborated

    Reblogged this on ebogunn and commented:
    This speaks wonders! Why is it considered uncool to be smart over being athletic? Who created this law?

  45. Opinionated Man

    Go Korea!… I mean… ya America reprioritize already lol. Nice post!

  46. Pingback: Freshly Pressed: One Step Closer to Ruling the World | the quiet voice

  47. I thought I’d left a line here … oh well. I understand the appeals of sports but I agree with you, it’s being given too much priority over the brains, the one that are supposed to be the future leaders of America, the ones that can help get out of this pickle. Smart is always cool but maybe not everyone can see past what their eyes can. It is such a dang shame.

    This is the second rape in a short time (the other was in India), that I’ve heard of, these creeps and abusers are getting scholarships? What a world. I’m glad this has gone sort of viral, more people can see this better now that you’ve pointed it out. Awesome post.

    • I agree with you Devina. The people who commit crimes like rape need to be punished, not awarded – there shouldn’t be any exceptions to that. Thanks for your time and for reblogging!

  48. Reblogged this on Hot chocolate and books and commented:
    A well written post that hit’s a spot that needs to be looked at a lot more closely.

  49. Great post. Why reward criminal behavior? I think that the larger issue at hand is the social value system within which our society functions, which still assigns a higher social status to “jocks” than “nerds.” Some other countries have different social value systems, especially in Asia.

    • I was looking for a reply like this, and I found it on the last one!

      I agree that there is an underlying cause here; and situations like this are the effect… but not necessiarly the cause of this issue in education. The larger issue is how our society places “value” on these roles. As you have stated, in America it is a good thing to be a “jock”; and there is a negitive connotation with being a “nerd”… How many current professional athletes can you name? Now how many current scientists/mathematicians? I think the state of education is a refelction of this…

      While schools need to be part of the solution to change this culture, they cannot do it alone… this is a problem that extends well outside the halls of education.

      Great post! Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

      • I agree that this issue is just a part of the problem plaguing society. It’s unfortunate that we allocate more respect and pride to professional athletes than scientists or writers. What you stated regarding the naming of professional athletes v. scientists/mathematicians reminds me of a statistic I read in my AP Government textbook about how the younger generation is growing up without a strong sense of connection to politics – I recall that only a few could name their congressmen, as compared to celebrities on reality television or pop stars. Thanks for reading and commenting guys!

  50. The Great Surge

    this is a highly entertaning blog post

  51. Are you really in high school? You are a great writer and provide persuasive arguments. Are you considering a career in journalism? Good luck in all your future adventures and congrats on the FP.

    I would throw this perspective at you: American schools are good at inspiring ingenuity, which is very hard to measure on a standardized test. While our test scores might be behind others, America is the place where things like airbags, the Internet and iPhones are invented. The American entrepreneurial spirit is about dreaming, inventing and improving and is alive and well. I believe that one thing that is important for schools to do is to provide leadership and learning opportunities for all kinds of students. Some learn through regular classes, some through presenting drama programs, some through constructing the yearbook and others through sports. I agree that sports garner more attention that they should, but they are just another method for learning and leadership.

    • I appreciate your perspective – you’re right in that kids learn differently and that the US does a great job of fostering various types of learning. Through experience, education, etc. however, athletics has garnered an unfair amount of attention and some of its resources should be allocated toward academics.

      Thanks for your comment! Yep, I’m in high school; I took journalism for two years but realized it’s not the style of writing I love or would want to do for a living. As you can see, that hasn’t stopped me from blogging though.

  52. I can appreciate your outrage. I grew up in Indiana and played basketball on the varsity team. I was revered as a demi-god. Fortunately, I had as much or more passion for education (and some very good teachers) which kept me on the right track.

    Thanks for the post.

  53. ALittleBirdie

    I am currently a student in the Honors College at my University and while I agree that sports are revered far too much, I am also one who recognizes the benefits of athletics in the education system. You mention Little Leagues and various other programs that could be separate from school, however, you should also consider that these programs would most likely cost money. Such fees could prevent many children from participating in sports and would thus miss out on the opportunity to experience working with a team and maintaining good fitness. And while intelligence should most definitely matter more than sports and focusing more on education could revamp the high school hierarchy, I am not convinced that this would eliminate all detrimental injustices. High suicide rates among young adults in China and Japan are most closely related to the pressures of academic success. The competition for the highest GPA, the best test scores, and acceptance to the most prestigious schools often leads to an unhealthy mental disposition. Yes, everyone should recognize the value of a good education and the beauty of the intellect, but a balance between the powers of the mind and body must be achieved. I played soccer for 13 years–for FREE, I might add–as a starting player and the moments that I stepped onto the field, readying myself for the game, were some of the best moments of my young life, especially while my body was going through the yucky state of adolescence. It was so refreshing to clear my head of all the pressures of papers and exams and college applications even though I love school and I love learning! And even though I was a starting player, I wasn’t popular, I wasn’t “special.” And that’s okay, because I played because I wanted to. Because I felt like I was apart of something bigger than myself yet knew I was still important to the team. Academic endeavors that are not monitored, even if conducted by a brilliant student, can lead to a life of loneliness. Samuel Johnson in his work “The Vanity of Human Wishes,” for example, expresses that there are many traps that can ensnare the intellectual if he or she is not careful. The desire for fame and glory, perhaps, or one’s gradual descent into madness by disconnecting from society and the everyday world. Many of the great authors and intellectuals agree–moderation is the key to a happy and healthy life. Athletics in the education system is a way to help students achieve that balance, because after all, not many students actually go on to play professional sports and I’d wager that once they most of them eventually get over not being the cool kid at school, however unfair it is.

    • ALittleBirdie

      scratch through “once they” in that last sentence

      • Laura Hedgecock

        I agree with ALittleBirdie (don’t think I’ve ever written that before) in many ways. Sports can be a wonderful complement to academics. Plus, let’s face it, there are a lot more kids willing to run around the track than there are willing to attend the Latin Society meetings.

        The problem comes in the reverence part, particularly the reverence adults hold for athletes. Moderation is the key. When coaches and alumni treat athletes like gods, they negate the benefits.

        • ALittleBirdie, out of all the comments I’ve read so far that disagree with what I wrote, I agree with yours the most. I don’t think honing in on intellectual prowess and making that the most powerful “force” in the high school hierarchy would make things too much better than they already are: you and Laura are right in that moderation is the key. Sports does provide many essential experiences when growing up even if those things can be attained in other areas – after researching how exercise lowers depression rates I am a firm believer in the benefits of physical activity. Essentially, yes, you’re right that academics and athletics are both key components to a healthy lifestyle; I just think that in contemporary society academics needs to receive more prominence than it currently has. We can learn how to not be the coolest kid in school and to form our own self-image in multiple ways, not just by playing a sport in high school and stopping afterward.

  54. I agree with that you’ve posted here. While I didn’t have as much merit as you did, there were few games that I participated in. Along with social events. I was more interested in the academic events that brought together, my favorite crowd, the nerds. The people who were the blood and strength of the school. The ones who I’ve taken with me to college, to ensue in our craziness here.

    While football, baseball and other sports will surpass things like science, we can only hope this generation pushes those chemistry sets to their generation. To give their children the open mind that creativity has to offer. Not tell them to put the crap out of the other person. Teach them to have an open mind, and seek knowledge.

    • Yes I agree. While I wouldn’t say participation in sports and a propensity for violence are correlated, it would be great if young minds were put to work in addition to young bodies. As many people have said a balance is necessary, and in society we should strive to value everyone for their accomplishments, especially if their accomplishments could end up saving our country from a lot of trouble. Your set of friends somewhat reminds me of my own, thank you for your thoughtful comment!

  55. What you just said is applied not only in usa , it’s just a society bias , a stupid idea about sportive people the being considered more out going , sociable and therefore more cool than the guys with the books .

  56. cftc10

    Reblogged this on cftc10.

  57. Sports provide a sense of belonging, teach self-discipline and responsibility.

    • True, but those things can be taught in other ways as well. I’m not saying as of now that we need to just eliminate all athletic programs in every single school – I’m suggesting that we re-prioritize and give academics the spotlight it deserves.

  58. jessieklynn

    Reblogged this on jessieklynn's Blog and commented:
    Great truth in our upcoming generation. I absolutely agree.

  59. jessieklynn

    Amazing. Very interesting points, and very realistic. Great post, thank you!

  60. mrmattpieroni

    I am a teacher, a coach, and a former athlete, but I could not agree more with your comments. Coaches are not held accountable for their students the entire year. I have mingled with 100’s of coaches and they can all explain 100 ways to hit a ball or the perfect run play, but when asked about academics, the majority have only 2 words: Study Tables.

    Now, in my experiences this usually translates to the smart players “helping” (doing) the lower players work for them. Players aren’t taught study skills, they learn how to squeek around the system for a couple of months. Using sports as a motivator to achieve in the classroom can only work if the coaches and school are in 100% and for the entire year. This is very rare because it is a lot of extra work for coaches, but it is not involving X’s and O’s of their sport.

    How many times have players squeeked through the season with C’s and D’s then once their sport is over cash out and do nothing? There needs to be a sweeping change in coach accountability for their players throughout the school year.

    Great comparison,

    Mr Matt Pieroni

    • Yes, exactly! Teachers should encourage education, but coaches should be as well – they are these kids’ role models, and if they don’t advocate academics, who will? I’ve seen a lot of what you described happen in my school – the struggling athletes asking their more academically-inclined peers to aid them – but not truly loving or learning the material themselves. It’s an unfortunate mindset for anyone to possess, not just athletes, and to foster a true appreciation of learning adults should step up to the plate. Thanks for your thoughts!

  61. Phil Martin

    I feel like you raised some very valid points about how the U.S. focuses more on sports than academics. You definitely see it in colleges and universities. I mean, they’ll be hard-pressed to give a total free ride to a student who has a lot of promise. Then, colleges will make it even more difficult to give financial aid and scholarships for students sitting on the fence. Oh, but look… They’ll give an athlete with a lower GPA and academic expectations a free ride because the school knows the athlete will help them make money when the team reaches bowl games or basketball tournaments.

    I feel like the only way the U.S. will ever be more competitive academically is if there is a major culture change. That change may never take place.

    • While I agree with what you’ve written here, I really hope it does take place. We need our state to step up in terms of academics! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, though.

  62. I drift away from WordPress from a week and a miss this! Congratulations on being FP’d! 😀 Also, good luck answering all of these posts! 😉

    I can definitely understand your point on this topic. Over here in England it’s even more imbalanced; sports isn’t really encouraged or well taught in our state schools, and the only people who have good access to sports and sports equipment are private school children. Which of course, makes it easier for them to get into many universities on sports scholarships (or musical ones, with musical aptitude again being mainly encouraged in private schools.) Fast forward to the Olympics, and billions of taxpayer money is being spent on London 2012. And perhaps we can call this justified, in that it is something that a lot of people want to see. But it isn’t then justified when dozens of sports stars are knighted or honoured by the Queen just for the sake of hitting a ball, and they’re paraded as heroes against all the other hard-working people who actually do something for their community. And the ones who aren’t instantly recognised getting into a huff, believing that what they do is actually important.

    Intellectual achievement has long been ignored or briefly celebrated before being forgotten, both at a local and international level. We just have to hope that with the change in times this is one of the many more things which will change.

    • Wow, that does sound strange. From what other commenters said I assumed that England had a nice system worked out due to how sports are separate from state schools, but now I see that a proper balance is lacking. You’re right in that hopefully this will change as people in positions of power are called to action; maybe our countries’ education systems will never suffer to the extent in which a major change would be necessary, but we’ll see.

      Thanks, and now I know how you must’ve felt like when you were freshly pressed (and if I recall correctly, more than once!) I think your posts garnered even more attention than this one, too…

  63. James R. Clawson

    Thomas you definitely have your priorities straight. It seems as though school and especially High School has become more social. I remember a few years ago when one of our sons decided to do home school and finish school early to avoid a lot of the distractions to graduate. Along with the internet and other media networks that are out there one can be very distracted and get lost in what is right. Congratulations on being focused on your pursuit of a higher education!

    • The internet and social media networks have definitely contributed to a lack of focus for teenagers in contemporary society. While socializing is an important part in any person’s development, it’s also necessary to shut out distractions sometimes and focus on studying. Thank you for your kind words and for reading and commenting!

  64. Woof, soooo far off. This is what is wrong with this country. You need sports to teach young children about competition. Losing/Winning like an adult. Also exercise is a big deal right? Good. Kids today are so coddled. Failure is a road bump to success. Ask any successful person how they got to be that way and 99999/100000 will say “learning from my failures, adapting, and becoming a better (insert career here)” Children need to learn teamwork, dedication, perseverance, commitment and sacrifice… So that when they do grow up, and have to deal with fiscal cliffs, and mental health epidemics, or whatever comes their way, they could take what they learned from at a young age and apply it to these conditions and solve the problem in a mature way…kind of what these politicians aren’t doing today…

    • I agree that sports and exercise are important to our children’s success. But they shouldn’t be the main thing – children can learn about failure, adapting to different circumstances, commitment, etc. through various ways. I’m sure there are several successful individuals who have never touched a ball before or ran two miles at one time. Yes, sports can help, but academics will propel children into more success; learning will allow them to develop the thinking skills that are vital in life.

  65. It’s nice to have someone else who has joined the “I’ve seen the light” club. Recently, I covered for a teacher who resigned. Who did they ultimately hire for the position? A teacher with no classroom experience, without the credentials to teach most of the classes he’ll have; but, OH, he spent the last semester helping coach football at a local private college. So YES, we want him. And those poor kids will suffer.

    • That’s horrible! I can’t believe a teacher with no classroom experience or the credentials to teach most of the classes he’ll have was actually hired – I hope that they realize the mistake they’ve made soon.

  66. Pingback: Why sports will always have precedence over academics in the American education system | reesarch

  67. What upsets us is America’s reverence of all things sports above other things and the inequality that this brings. What if we took *some* of the millions of dollars that an athlete earns and used it to bolster public education or to help bring equality to poorer schools and neighborhoods that are in desperate need of help? So, we think it goes deeper than just sports in schools…but, we feel the effects, still.

    • Exactly! Sports in itself isn’t inherently evil, it’s the disparate amount of attention it attains compared to other important (and arguably more important) things like education. Thank you for your thoughts.

  68. screenshot

    Reblogged this on Screenshots News and commented:
    Finally, a voice of intelligent reason rises out of the sea of grunts and screams as America worships sports while ignoring education. Of the dozens of topics I try to tackle on my list of the top 100 things that are wrong right now in our country, this issue has been rising higher and higher on that list. Here’s another blogger’s take on it.

  69. Ron

    Let’s face it. Professional sports is simply an arm of the entertainment industry. There is big money involved for the talented few who can make the major league teams. I have no problem with individuals who chose to earn a living in this field, nor with universities or high schools that prepare students to become professional athletes. Let us all be honest about it, these students are majoring in what ever sport it is they choose.

    The reality of it is only a handful of those who graduate with a “degree” in their chosen sport will ever make a living in the big leagues. There are only a few positions available each year, and only those with the highest mark will even be considered. If the cut off is say 98.8 percent, those who sacrificed, worked, suffered, tried, retried and did not give in to the temptation to quit but could only earn a mark of 98.7 percent have little or no hope of getting into the big leauges. Unless they seriously majored in something else the only thing left for them is a sales associate postion at a sporting goods retailer. Now compare that with medicine, law, science or technology grads. How many of them found successful careers in their chosen field with only a 65 percent average?

    There is so much hoopla and hype attached to athletics, even at the high school level. Not so much growing up in a suburb of Toronto, it is not really a big part of Canadian culture, although our school principal really tried hard to identify with the football team. Nobody really cared, the stands were never filled with cheering students, the local newspapers did not feel obligated to report the school’s exploits on the front page. Quite a contrast to American culture, where my cousins grew up. In my travels I always made a point picking up a copy of what ever small town newspaper was available in the U.S. The high school teams always seemed to make the front page ot the newspaper. When my cousin’s team played their rival, one could not even drive through the town. It seemed all the students participated, cheerleaders, marching band, ushers, half time entertainment.

    We were taught at an early age to idolize athletes and revere athletics. I never saw the point to it. At the end of the day, the sports scores do not have any impact on important issues. It will not change inflation, crime, the economy, create a new source of renewable,free. clean energy, find any cure for disease nor propel astronauts to new galaxies at greater than light speed. Those who have worked and created miracles in the labratory, the science nerds are the ones who should be encouraged and recognized. I have yet to hire an individual who has ever offered superior performance due to varsity athletics experience.

    The technology contained in an iPod today was thought to be impossible and nothing short of a miracle in 1969 when the first man walked on the moon, which was still in the realm of “work of the devil” when the Wright brothers flew in 1903. I do not think people like my old phys. ed. teacher who also coached the football team, whose IQ could barely register on a household thermostat, living out his failed major leauge football fantasy was able to inspire anybody to actually do anything of consequence in their life. I do not think the teamwork. sacrifice and discipline from any varsity gridiron made today’s routine medical procedures that were impossible even 15 years ago a reality. Well, coach did inspire me NOT to be a jerk!

    Stories about successful athletes going on to greatness off the field are few and far between. They make good reading and sell newspapers and are in some ways inspirational, but….

    Some of the non athletes from the past who made a lasting impression:
    Thomas Edison, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Madame Curie, Nikola Tesla,
    Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Louis Pasteure, Christian Barnard.

    One final note. Athletes can go from hero to zero in litterally a split second. Make one small error during the last play of the game, loose the “cup”, and the player takes the blame, is maligned. If he does not make that one mistake and wins the cup, then…. If a pro stays in the game beyond his best before date for the good of the team, then no matter how great he was, what he accomplished he is remembered only as a washed up hasbeen. I am glad so many here can see sports for what it really is.

    • This is an extremely intelligent and well-written comment! At this point I don’t have much to contribute besides stating that many people probably empathize with you but do not have the eloquence to write their opinions in such a persuasive manner. Hats off to you, Ron, and thank you for reading and commenting.

  70. You have no idea how much I’ve been waiting to hear this! I’m Irish, so we don’t even have honor roll or even much streamlining. There’s only one class were we’re rigidly streamlined (Maths) and I’m in the top class for that, but people just think ‘Oh, nerds.’ and then the athletic ones get the adulation. It’s quite a vindictive thought, but when they’re particularly horrible I sometimes find myself thinking ‘You will work for me, and I will fire you.’ xD

    • Aw, I’m sorry that you’re not recognized for your academic achievements! I hope that you know how impressive they are irrespective of the recognition your athletic peers receive – it appears that you already know how they will benefit you in the future. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  71. Katie Seifert

    Hi, I’m going to W&M next year as well and found this from a post you made about another article. 🙂 But I’d just like to say that I totally 100% agree with you. I live in Virginia Beach and when I was a junior the city was going to make HUGE budget cuts to education. In these cuts were, among many other things: a furlough for teachers (I forgot the amount of days), a total stop of all bussing to PUBLIC academies throughout the city (so kids going to one of the academies would have to somehow find a way to get to school and back everyday by themselves even though some kids lived about 45 minutes away from the nearest academy), all teachers that had not been teaching for three years was under the risk of being laid off, all teachers had to pick up an extra block of classes while the actual LIST of classes was to be shortened, etc. etc. These are all awful, awful cuts. But the one cut that got everybody angry enough to write letters to the city and stop the budget cuts? Getting rid of JV sports. Nobody cared when it was academics getting hurt. That was just an afterthought. But once those JV sports were at risk of getting cut everybody suddenly paid attention and complained. Some people’s priorities just don’t make a lot of sense.

    • It’s great to e-meet another W&M student, hi! What happened in your city really does show the misplacement of priorities – I feel so bad for those teachers and for the students who had to somehow find transportation to their schools from so far away. If only people felt as strongly about academics (or more strongly) as they do about athletics… anyway, thank you for reading and commiserating and I look forward to seeing you in just a few days!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s