Sunday, October 24, 2010

No Sports for You

Really? Yes, really. The principal of Martin Van Buren High School is trying to drive sports out of the school. Rather than share a reaction that ought to be obvious, I'm going to share a rebutting anecdote instead.

I have a student this year, "Jonathan," who seems so far to be a bright and good-hearted kid. But he has issues, for sure--anger issues, home issues, friend issues. He's in counseling already, thanks to a quick and concerned counselor at my school who jumped right in when I alerted her to Jonathan's problems. I checked in with her the other day about Jonathan's progress.

"His attendance is better, right?" she asked.

"It is," I said. "He's been in school every day, and he's been late less."

"Good," she said, nodding. "He wants to go out for baseball and there's batting practice after school every day, so he's getting here. That should help."

Sports are important to Jonathan, important enough that he'll overcome his aversion to school to play baseball. And if we can get him there for baseball, the academics will begin to sink in, at least somewhat. And then Jonathan will have options other than baseball, too.

Sure, it doesn't work that way for every kid. But it works for an awful lot. Because student athletes have to get through a physical, pass every subject, and be present on game days, you're also promoting health, scholarship (at least a minimal standard), and attendance. Maybe Ms. Shevell will save a few bucks, or get a few distracted athletes graduated because of her new policy. But I wonder if she won't also see a drop in attendance and a bigger drop in graduation rates as kids who were drawn in by sports find one less reason to show up every day.