Posts Tagged ‘Scandal’

My nine year-old daughter is a beast on the track. She has trained with a venerable club in Durham, North Carolina for the last two years. Despite its inner-city membership, we love what it stands for: building character and discipline. The Durham Striders have consistently trained athletes who have won many medals and built a reputation of improving the lives of inner-city youth.

However, as a parent in the stands, I didn’t fit in with the general school of thought in the group. For us, track was an avenue of discipline and focus for our child. She is a natural athlete and loves to compete; thus this outlet was just what she needed. It never occurred to us that this hot, sweaty, demanding torture was a means to an end, the end being an athletic scholarship.

Scholarships are great. I went to college with them. My older children received full academic scholarships. With the ridiculous cost of college tuition these days, there are far more families sending students to college with some form of financial aid than there are parents writing blank checks.

But my daughter didn’t run for the money she might get down the road.

Unfortunately, many families of minorities believe the only way their children will be successful is if they play a sport and get a full ride to a big college or university.

Why? Is it because they know that inherently the schools their children have attended are not good enough and have not prepared their children well enough to pursue any profession?

Maybe the parents weren’t educated and thus couldn’t provide the academic support their children needed to do well in school.

It certainly seems clear that many “minority” groups including African-Americans and Hispanics (especially those with African ancestry) are gifted physiologically, with an inherent ability to excel in sports. A friend once told me that God knew what he was doing when he gave minorities their portion, because he knew what they would have to endure long before they did.

The other night I watched an interview on the local news with a former University of North Carolina employee, Mary Willingham, who has co-authored a book called Cheated: The UNC Scandal, the Education of Athletes and the Future of Big-time College Sports.

Can you tell who is in charge?

She blew my mind during the interview when she called the NCAA a “cartel” and likened them to a plantation, extorting the African-American athletes to help earn millions of dollars and thus paying for all the other sports at universities which generate less revenue, like lacrosse, field hockey, etc. which are all the “White” sports, the sports of the privileged. Here’s the link for the nterview:

http://www.wncn.com/story/27992414/willingham-unc-had-shadow-curriculum

Aside from dating a couple of basketball players in college, I don’t know a thing about college sports.  But I was an avid supporter of my student athletes when I taught high school, standing outside in the freezing cold collecting money during football games, and sitting under blankets with my equally frozen children, because the athletes wanted to see their teacher there.

But I stopped going to any high school games or offering my support of any kind when I was pressured to pass a kid along, or change a grade, or give the athlete another chance.  When the parent showed up in my trailer in tears, telling me their kid would have no future if they didn’t pass my class, and that sports was all they had, I became angry.

I was angry that the parent had such a low opinion of their child’s intellectual ability, of their academic potential, that they defaulted for them the only thing they could: the equivalent of slave labor.  They essentially sold their child to work for free, in scorching heat, for hours each day, for the white man.  After all, we know who has the money don’t we? In college athletics, high school booster clubs, and professional sports.

Why else would Marshawn Lynch be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by the NFL? The puppet had to perform, keep the stakeholders happy, the ones who wanted to see a sweaty athlete offer a verbal recap of violent plays just to feed the man’s bloodthirsty power trip.

Just look at the owners of these NFL teams, as they stand (during the 4th quarter, with two minutes left on the clock) and you can see them making mental calculations in their heads of a win or a loss and what it will mean for their bottom line that week.

From high school sports all the way to the pros, the Black man (and others) continues to fall for a system of subjugation and control.

The “no other way out” mentality for minorities is visible in every area of modern society. Jim Caviezel starred in an inspiring film based on the true story of De la Salle high school and their winning streak.  I loved everything that Coach Ladouceur believed in and stood for, but the same one way ticket to modern slavery still rang true for the athletes of color.

I can think of tons of movies and stories where athletics is the only answer for the minority students.

And yes, it’s a great option for a young student, but why can’t there be anything else? Why can’t schools and parents push their children academically and say, “Just imagine son, you can get an academic scholarship and an athletic one. You’re an athletic scholar. You can have it all.” Unfortunately, what he hears more commonly is, “Well, he ain’t got no daddy, so football all he got and he needs to get out there and get himself a scholarship to play ball.” Junior hangs onto that instead.

Ms. Willingham has been walking a lonely road for the last four years, amid the scandal of phony classes and the easy way for UNC athletes. It’s a road I am quite familiar with.  And I know many of the teachers in Chapel Hill High School were tutors for the athletes after they did their day job educating the privileged white kids. It is a corrupt and wicked system Ms. Willingham exposed at UNC and she paid a painful price for it, as I did in the very same town. But there’s something to be said about having ethics. I found I slept better at night with my ethics than I would have without a soul.

How can this nation gain an equal footing racially when everywhere they look, white people see minorities still serving them, still living smaller, earning less, and being subjugated?

I told my partner that if every professional athlete in the NFL who is African-American refused to play ball on one Sunday during the riots after Mike Brown was executed, the nation would have been forced to deal with it, like a slap in the face.  After all, money talks.

 

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I was planning on writing about my infuriating experiences as a teacher with credit recovery, after reading the Wall Street Journal article below, but it’s Monday and I don’t want to set a negative tone for the week.

http://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/02/cheating-students-in-d-c-with-phony-credentials/

(Since I’m not subscribed to WSJ.com, I’ll link it through Diane Ravitch’s blog, where I initially came across the opinion piece)

Instead, I’ll release from my psyche an incident that was minor in the great cosmos of the universe, but significant to how we approach education.  I liken it to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, which I linked on my blog this summer, its subject focusing on how our education system in America stifles creativity in children.

Since I am an unemployed educator at the moment, I have had to take my daughter out of her wonderful Emilio Reggio Spanish Immersion School (wow, that’s a mouthful!).  She is two years old and attended for one year.  I find it to be similar in style to the Montessori method, which most people are more familiar with.  At its core, it is structured to encourage education through play.  It strongly encourages natural exploration of the world, and there is no rigid curriculum.

Consequently, my daughter, who appears to be developmentally sharp, soaked up the Spanish immediately, without suffering any lingual confusion with us at home. There are millions of wonderful things I could say about her experience and how beneficial it was for her, but sadly, without a job, I could no longer afford to keep there and justify it.

So, being the obsessive person that I am, I wiped my sorrowful tears, and set to researching activities to engage my two year old in daily.  My stay at home mom days were over a long time ago, and my teaching job for the past decade consumed my life so much, I couldn’t believe how much I relied on other people to raise my child.

One of the activities I thought would keep the social aspect alive was story time at the library.  So, one day we ventured out to do a Fall themed story time activity of books and songs for her age group.

In the activity room, the  moms and nannies shuffled in with their tots, looking cute as cupcakes.  The librarian began with a song, which was wonderful, and then proceeded to read a story that was far too advanced for toddlers and their attention spans.

Nevertheless, my daughter did what she would normally do at her old school.  She was dancing like the leaves in the book, remembering the song (about leaves) and dancing around and then stopping to touch the picture on the pages, etc.

Everyone in the room looked at her like she was an aberration.  The librarian had to tell her twice, which was enough for me, that she would have to sit down and behave so others could enjoy the books too.

Of course, I understand.  The other kids couldn’t see from their sedentary positions on the floor.

But for my daughter, as for all of us in my home, and at her old school, reading was alive and vibrant, filled with color and song, and isn’t it just like American educational standards to expect children to be all lined up in a row, in silent obedience?

So we left and I felt a weight bearing down on my chest.

Since that day, we have not returned to story time, but we may try other libraries and see if it’s less rigid.  I don’t know.  Perhaps.

Ultimately, this reminds me of the coursework I have taken years ago, and the pedagogy of how children learn, and the variety of learning styles.  Sadly, our country has adopted a once size fits all, and the ones who don’t fit are labeled.

Story time stared me in the face again the other night as I watched a new show called “Scandal”, an interesting show, and last week’s episode featured a billionaire who was suddenly acting out of character, and doing crazy things like driving around in his mansion, and having fun.  His proper family wanted to have him committed, but he fought back and at the end he told his son that he’s not crazy, he simply spent his whole life doing what was expected of him, and raising his family, and managing the millions, but not living. And for once he was going to do what he wanted to do.

Wouldn’t it be great to get out of the pegs everyone expects us to fit into and dance around during story time, as freely as leaves?

Dancing in the leaves, courtesy of mirror.co.uk

Dancing in the leaves, courtesy of mirror.co.uk

Check out this lovely blog I came across this morning, and this short but poignant piece, “What Should a 4 Year Old Know”.

http://magicalchildhood.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/what-should-a-4-year-old-know/

All parents need a copy of this.  I needed it for sure.  Good week to you world!