Monday, March 31, 2014

athletic prowess

In Asiatic countries as I understand it, local news outlets celebrate the academic achievements of local kids: There is public applause for often-grueling private efforts.

In America, it is youthful athletic prowess that reaps attention as little Johnny or little Suzy gets a media pat on the back not for chemistry or history but for soccer or football.

Last Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players at Northwestern University should be free to unionize and exercise collective bargaining rights with the institution that makes so much money from their often-televised expertise.

The battle is far from over, but there is a chink in the armor of institutions which claim sports of whatever popularity are just a part of collegiate activity.

Will other private and perhaps public institutions follow suit? If football players are "employees" rather than simply "students," who knows when or where the next shoe will drop?

Yesterday, a friend passed along an article about the "fake" classes athletic superstars take in order to be academically eligible to run onto the football field. The article makes a substantial case that everyone is in on the scam -- from academic front offices to college dorm rooms.

Lost in the rhubarb of argument seems to be that of all the college athletes who compete for their schools and utilize fake classes in order to keep their grade-averages up, a very minor number will go on to professional careers in sports ... and even when they do, their athletic lifetime is no where near the average human life span. And so, at 30 or 35, what will these people do to live out fulfilling lives? Based on education, they seem suited to absorbing applause and enormous salaries, but otherwise to be left out in the cold when it comes to fulfillment. Yes, I was a star ... and now I can sell Buicks or mop the high school floors. That may be a bit too simplistic, but you get the drift.

There is nothing wrong with selling cars or being a swab-jockey, but isn't there something quite sad about paying $100,000 or more (four years of college) in order to do so? Is this the "education" to which parents want to subject their kids? All the money in the world, all the applause in the world, and you still can't spell properly or thread your way through a tax return? What educator thought up this format?

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