By Jeffrey Shoemaker
Today’s post comes from a conversation that I had with my wife and father-in-law. We happened on to a topic that baffles me and yet I think I understand it: sports talent vs. academic talent. In our culture we openly reward our athletes and not our brainiacs. I understand that it is important to reward people for their talent if its smarts or athletic.
So this is my take on this age-old argument.
On the first Wednesday of February students who plan on playing college football for a division 1A school participate in College Signing Day. This is an important day for some athletes. This is the day in which they sit behind a table at their school, next to them is their parents and coaches, and proclaim to the local area where they plan to play ball for the next year. This is a big deal for the school, parents, and the students since division 1A schools are pretty large and well-known.
These students will get a full ride to college to play football and study at that college or university. I believe that it is in that order, sport then study. These students will have athletics in the fore front of their mind more often that studies, since it was athletic talent that got them their scholarship. While at the university they must keep a minimum GPA of 2.5 to 2.75 depending on the college. Why it is so low? Athletics. I believe that athletics comes first in many of these colleges which brings in large amounts of money. Remember, they aren’t there because of their academic talent, but for their athletic talent.
That’s not to say that athletes are not smart. There is a lot of research out there that shows being in sports, music, and theatre increase your cognitive abilities. We have athletes in our area who are also class valedictorians or salutatorians, consistently on the honor roll, or graduate with honors.
I would have to agree with the Ivy League Colleges in that scholastics is more important than athletics. Ivy League Colleges do not give scholarships for athletics. To these schools, it is more important to have the grades, GPA, and the intelligence to be successful than to play athletics. I think they believe that it should be an honor to play sports at these colleges. These schools have athletic departments and they do bring in money to the colleges, but it is overwhelmingly clear what is important there, research. These schools do a lot of research which brings in a lot of endowments and grants.
I honestly believe that gifted students do not get the recognition that they fully deserve. These are the students who will constantly score the highest on standard achievement tests. These are the students who graduate with honors in their high school. These are the students who are most likely to be ignored. In classrooms, teachers are constantly teaching to the middle or to the bottom of the class. Gifted students are regulated to be student teachers to the students who don’t get the material, and they seem to get hammered with extra work when they finish the work they were given that wasn’t challenging to them. How are these students expected to make Annual Yearly Progress (AYP)?
We don’t have all of the hype that athletics have when it comes to students getting full scholarships. There aren’t any television cameras, no tables, and no teachers and administrators smiling as these students sign to study at different colleges. Thats a shame. There should be. When these students go to college to keep their scholarships they have to get at least 3.0-3.5 GPA depending on the college. The standard is so much different for these students. Is it because these students don’t bring in as much money for the college or university?
I believe that our society isn’t much different from that of the ancient Spartan society. That was a time when being a good warrior was something to be desired. Don’t we call our football players warriors? Don’t we cheer them into battle? We need to get out of this mentality and get into the mentality that we need to look at academics as a way to get the United States back on top in math and science. Fifty years ago we put a man on the moon. We were leading the way with science and math, and now we are so far behind it seems it may be impossible to catch up.