Friday Night Lights

Just heard a parent in Texas say that he would take two jobs and pay $1,000 out of pocket to keep football at their High School. He went on to say the school system should cut all that “liberal arts fluff” (art, music and foreign languages) and just teach math, science and reading. He did not resort to calling them readin, ritin’ and rithmetic, but he came real close.

Sports seems to be a more important part of this school system’s identity than academics. I am always started by this attitude. I like sports as much as the next person.

Wait, no, that’s a lie. I like sports considerably less than the majority of the people I know. I don’t watch sports and only pay enough attention so I can make conversation like when our HS team made the playoffs and it was all anyone could talk about.

I know folks have a deep attachment to sports, especially football, but I have yet to hear a story about a parent at a public school willing to work two jobs and pay $1,000 so the school can pay the French teacher. Now maybe if that was about the marching band for the football games…

I find it dishearteningly consistent.

The urban public schools I attended had very little, but they always had football, basketball and cheerleaders. No school paper or plays, no orchestra, band or Model U.N.

On the other hand, my husband’s suburban public high school sounded to me like something from an Afternoon Special – Philosophy class, a school paper, talent shows and marching band. They managed all those “extras” along with the sports.

If schools (because of budgets) are forced to pit athletics against liberal arts, the arts will lose. Arts always need a justification for inclusion in the curriculum. The folks who need to hear WHY learning music or French enhances academics never question the value of athletics.

Despite the bare bones of our HS, my friends and I all graduated and did well enough on the SAT to get into college. Some went into the military. Some went to jail. And two of those football players went on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Can the parent in Texas really believe that the breadth and depth of his sons education doesn’t help shape his future? Or maybe he is banking on an NFL contract. Are we moving more toward fatalism, or vocational schools? Either explanation works for current attitudes toward public education.

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