Everyone Plays the Athletic Supremacy Game in Education

Posted: September 10, 2012 in From Student to Teacher
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The blame in all of this, including the recent scandal in the athletic department at UNC, lies not with the athletes, but with faculty members, department heads and athletic departments who are willing to cheat the system in order to keep athletes academically eligible to play.

As one coach told me at a party: “Athletic departments, and that includes high schools, will do anything to keep their players eligible. Nothing will change unless there are major reforms. The cheating will continue. Just don’t get caught!.”  (http://www.chapelhillnews.com/2012/09/08/72842/the-lesson-of-college-athletics.html 


These are the kinds of topics that burn me up, that make a quiet Sunday an inner hothouse and compel me to speak my mind instead of working on my latest Pinterest project.  As I sipped my delicious, life-altering coffee in my favorite Minnie Mouse mug, memories flooded back to different occasions where I was the victim of the Athletic Supremacy Game.

It’s a racket.

It’s corruption in its purest form (Is that an oxymoron?).

It is reprehensible to me.

Let me go back to the year 2005.  I had a six month old baby, and four other children and was trying my hardest to teach in an inner city school I transferred to when my earlier school closed down.  This school had frequent lock downs, stabbings, weapons smuggled into the building, and everything that was anything was going on in that school except learning.  I don’t think they gave Bill Gates a tour of this particular school when the powers that be were actively sucking millions of dollars from his vast pockets.

I had a group of students who needed me and I believed in them so I was giving it my all.  One student in particular concerned me because his attendance was sporadic and when he was in class, it was clear to me the reason he avoided English class.  He could hardly formulate a coherent sentence on paper.  Like many kids, he disguised it underneath his ultra-cool, casual, “whatever” demeanor.  But most experienced teachers can see right through those flimsy curtains.

Here’s what was “special” about this young man.  He was gargantuan in height.  Granted, everyone is tall when standing next to me, but this was the NBA player kind of tall.  Guess what sport he played? How did I know this?  His coach came to visit me regularly, to ask how his star player was doing, and graciously tell me of his future plans to play college ball, and so on…(yawning)…

Naturally, it was all very proper until the end of the semester, when the after school visits began.  See, there was no way on this earth that the future NBA star was going to pass my class. He: never completed assignments, never studied, rarely attended class…need I say more?  All the coach’s promises that he would work with him on assignments throughout the year were meaningless, so they correlated perfectly with this failing grade.

I was finally told at point-blank range, that he needed to pass English and “let me get some make up work for him and I’ll make sure he does it.”  Whenever I hear the words “Let me get some make up work…” my brain begins to spin and spots begin to form behind my eyes, which results in a dazzling array of reds and purples.  Suffice it to say, I can’t see straight for a moment. I refused to just pass him along, and the matter was taken out of my hands because the school changed his grade for him.

Now fast forward a few years, three to be exact.  My first child applied to a couple of schools, one of them the Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, a fine school.  I felt that the application fee was a waste of money because he didn’t really have the discipline to join the ranks of elite geekdom genius that is Ga. Tech.  But far be it from me to shatter my child’s dream.  He had a great transcript, natural above average intelligence (from his mama!) and was a god with computer intricacies.  But he didn’t make it into Georgia Tech, which was fine with me.

Guess who did the next year? Mr. NBA future Kobe Bryant himself.  If I was feeling particularly daring, I would throw all caution to the wind and reveal this NBA player’s name, but I haven’t had quite enough coffee for that random act of rashness.

If you read the article from Dr. Barber at the top, you will see that this favoritism towards athletes extends all the way up to the college level.  I try not to get caught up asking too many questions but I wonder:  why do so many fans pay millions of dollars collectively to cheer and shout and fanatically wear a school’s colors for athletes who have snuck in the back door and are not able to meet the academic rigor that is college?  Why is it okay for them to sneak in and then get a “free ride” when I have thousands of dollars in student loans for my college education that I busted my behind to earn? Because I can’t dribble a ball? Maybe I’m not tall enough.

I’ll tell you why.  It’s because everyone in America is sweltering in a cesspool of their own hypocrisy.  The wealthy alumnae proudly tie their collegiate sweaters around their shoulders, carry their foam seat cushions and drive their Lexus (understated elegance of course) sedans to the arenas and stadiums to cheer for their school, proud to sit like royalty in their VIP seats.  What is America cheering for?  Shortcuts? Favors? Corruption?

And these same hypocrites are the ones who tsk tsk when public schools aren’t performing as they should be, and children are dropping out at an alarming rate. Or teachers want to strike!

My partner always says: “Leadership starts at the top.”  when If our leaders engage in dirty educational favors for America’s favorite pastime, SPORTS, then what do we expect from our children? Our teachers?


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