Posts Tagged ‘Education’
I don’t often pass on stories sent by an author who says nice things about me, but that’s because I don’t often get stories sent by an author who says nice things about me. So with that mind, I direct you to Neil Swidey of the Boston Globe, who wrote a Sunday magazine piece about kids and competition called “What Happened to Losing?”
It’s much better than you standard rant against the wussification of sports through no-score leagues because it’s not a rant, and Swidey points out:
If you’ve come seeking affirmation for the facile argument about the so-called “wussification of American kids today,” you’ll probably want to stop reading now.
The issue is hardly black and white. It’s true that our kids, in some ways, are more coddled and have it much easier than previous generations. But it’s also true that, in other ways, we adults have saddled our kids with way more pressure to compete than we ever faced, imposing on them at young ages daunting expectations for their academic and athletic “careers.”
Swidey, though his own personal experience as a father and coach, and through interviews and research, writes about the difficult line adults try to walk with children: how to encourage children in as non-pressurized environment as possible without hurting their feelings or discouraging them by too much emphasis on competition, especially at early age.
Does everything have to be a competition?
If you ask the Father of No-Score Leagues how you do that — and Swidey did — he would tell you there is no line. You either have competition, or you don’t. That inadvertent father of that bastard child of youth sports is Alfie Kohn, whose 1986 book No Contest: The Case Against Competition, outlines how competition is bad for everyone, children and adults included. Kids might love Kohn’s other works, such as ones in which he argues homework and grades are bad for learning.
Kohn tells Swidey that he doesn’t endorse no-score leagues, either, but not because he thinks it makes your child a pussy:
“I began my work on competition from the liberal position that there’s too much competition and it’s too intense, but if we could just manage it and scale it back, we’d be fine,” Kohn tells me. “But I came to the conclusion that it’s not the quantity, it’s the very nature of competition itself that is bad. So the liberals who say, ‘Go ahead and play tennis, but don’t try to make the other person lose’ — that’s garbage. That’s self-delusional. If you’re not trying to make the other person lose, it’s not tennis.”
Kohn and his ilk argue that any games should concentrate on activities that foster and encourage group success, like seeing how many times you can bump a volleyball in the air.
Yeah, sounds dull, right? Plus, I’m not sure the experts account for other members of the group tearing a new asshole in the one schlub incapable of keeping a volleyball in the air. Heck, Kohn’s own kids don’t even buy it completely.
But as the father of a 14-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son, Kohn regretfully concedes that even he never started a cooperative game group in his own Belmont neighborhood. And though his children have independently chosen not to play youth sports, his son has shown an interest in chess — “He’s pretty vicious,” Kohn says — which, of course, is an activity built on zero-sum, warlike themes of competition. (Fortunately, Kohn says, his son has recently moved on from chess to the guitar.)
So how do you blunt the bad parts about competition? Another expert posited these conditions to Swidey: (1) that participation is voluntary; (2) the teams are set up so that everyone has a reasonable chance of winning; (3) the importance of winning is relatively minor, so that 10 minutes after the game, you barely remember who won and who lost; (4) the rules are clear and fair; and (5) relative progress can be monitored.
Actually, those five rules have generally been followed in my youth sports experience. I’ve seen these rules violated by both kids and adults. No. 2 is the one I’ve seen most violated as a child — there’s always some jerks who wants to try to game the teams his way (and, yes, some of them grow up to run the draft for your local Little League). No. 3, of course, is the big problem with adults.
And this gets me back to no-score leagues. I’ve long declared that the reason, as a coach, that I love no-score leagues is not because not keeping score takes pressure off the kids. Not keeping score takes the steam out of the adults, which then takes some of the pressure off the kids. (Children of gung-ho athletic parents who dream of future pro success are still going to put pressure on their kids no matter what.)
Unlike Swidey and others in his article, I don’t think that children are ill-served by no-score leagues because they suddenly can’t handle it when score is finally being kept. Kids learn all about competition in so many ways outside of youth sports, their ability to deal with it, or inability to deal it, is fostered long before they look at a scoreboard. Just watch two 2-year-olds fight over a toy car.
Swidey also gets into everybody-gets-a-trophy leagues as well, and unlike no-score leagues, I can’t say I’m a fan of those. Not because it has ill effects such as causing killing sprees. I dislike them because all those trophies clutter up my house.
The default position whenever parents get heavily involved in an athletic dispute involving their child is, they’re obviously overbearing, overindulgent busybodies who are turning their kids into pussies. (I’m not sure what the default substitute for “pussies” would be if the athlete is a girl.)
However, a lawsuit over a school’s role in a lost swimming scholarship has emerged in the St. Louis area that, if the parents’ allegations are true, makes me think: Yeah, I’d be suing their asses off, too.
And I would hire Al Pacino from “And Justice for All” as my lawyer, for the drama.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Peter and Marzie McCoy of Wildwood, Mo., are suing their local school district after their daughter, a state championship swimmer, briefly lost her scholarship to Colorado State University after it reviewed a recommendation form filled out by a Lafayette High School counselor that was less than flattering. In theory, everybody followed procedure. The problem was, say that parents, that the counselor filling out the form had never met their daughter. From the July 9 Post-Dispatch:
The recommendation form, signed by Lafayette High School counselor Beth Brasel, said that Shannon McCoy was “below average” in five personal traits including initiative, character, integrity and leadership.
The McCoys said that the description of their daughter was “grossly inaccurate” and that Brasel had never met Shannon before the form was filled out.
Rockwood spokeswoman Kim Cranston said it was the district’s understanding that the recommendation form had nothing to do with the rescinding of McCoy’s scholarship, based on their contact with a Colorado State University admissions officer.
A message left Thursday for the admissions officer was not returned. [Brasel was also not available for comment.]
Predictably, many of the comments left by readers paint the parents (and their daughter, with her mere 3.0 grade-point average in an age of grade inflation) as spoiled brats, especially because they’re not dropping the lawsuit even after Colorado State, after the parents’ appealed, gave the scholarship back. At 80 percent of out-of-state tuition, room and board, that scholarship money is no small potatoes. Here is a comment by someone called cardsphan:
Cry me a river Parents. Way to teach your daughter to be a spoiled brat. What parents, teach their kids that if something goes wrong just sue for money to make it better. Did you ever think that maybe your daughter didn’t deserve a scholarship? I had one for athletics out of Marquette HS but i also had a 3.6 GPA. A 3.0 is not hard to get in HS, maybe the girl was to much into swimming and not her grades. IM JUST SAYIN
Given that grammar, I can believe a 3.6 GPA would be related to grade inflation.
As usual when these stories hit the local press, there is a lot we don’t know. We don’t know why that particular counselor filled out the form, and why she filled it out as she did. Did she really know Shannon McCoy? Had she heard stuff from other people? Had the parents and the school clashed in the past? Over what?
Until court papers are filed in response, we won’t know the school’s side of the story. Maybe Peter and Marzie McCoy are big pains in the ass who are doing their daughter a disservice. Or, maybe they do need to advocate for their daughter — and others in a similar situation — against an idiotic and possibly vindictive school bureaucracy.
The point is, we don’t know. And the other point is, until we do, we can’t make snap judgments about the parents — or the school, for that matter. But what I do feel confident saying is that it is NEVER wrong for a parent to speak out and least ask what is going on, or ask why something happened the way it happened.
There is a time and place for parents to advocate for their child, and parents deserve answers to their questions. On the other hand, parents need to approach these issues in as reasonable a manner possible, which admittedly can be difficult when you see your own child getting hurt. I am of a belief that reasonable people can reach reasonable conclusions. And, yes, sometimes that means parents finding out the hard truth that their kid is an asshole.
However, if that’s not the case here, if the school cavalierly and/or maliciously filled out a form in a way that screwed up a huge opportunity for Shannon McCoy — well, I hope the parents get every dime they’re asking for. I would want to, in that situation.
With 14 of 15 counties reporting — including its largest, Maricopa — Arizona appears to have passed Proposition 100 by a 64-36 margin. Prop 100, passed first by the state’s legislature, raises Arizona’s state sales tax from 5.6 percent to 6.6 percent through 2013, providing an extra $1 billion to schools, health care and public safety, and preventing an immediate $900 million cut — $450 million of it to education — in the state budget.
For purposes of this blog, passage means that Arizona schools will not be eliminating or greatly reducing their sports programs.
As you might recall, in my Prop 100 preview, I talked a lot about how Arizona was making itself the capital of Scared Old White People, what with all the anti-immigrant legislation and the threat of voting down Prop 100 despite knowing the trigger would be pulled on some draconian cuts. With Prop 100’s passage, perhaps Arizona does need to build its Scared Old White People Capitol building yet.
However — and I say this as someone who has broken the tape on 40 — a quote like this one from the Arizona Republic makes me wonder if health reform legislation missed the boat by not really having death panels.
But for Tempe residents Al and Joan Laninga, both retired and registered Republicans, the proponents’ campaign was not necessarily persuasive – at least not in the way it was intended.
Joan, 71, a retired private school teacher, said the amount of the tax was insignificant and she had initially considered supporting the tax hike, but the campaign changed her mind.
“First it was all about having enough police and fire,” she said. “When they changed their focus to education, I figured the whole thing was a scare tactic.”
For all the talk about the local NBA team’s “Los Suns” statement and possible sports boycotts of Arizona over its new law demanding police play brownshirt with brown people, the Arizona Republic looks at a more salient, everyday sports issue regarding the bill: how is it going to affect high school sports?
That seems like a fairly minor concern, but the story brings home the point that in many areas of Arizona, they’re not worried about fans boycotting games. They’re worried about athletes leaving town and, in effect, boycotting games.
It’s impossible to accurately measure the influence SB 1070 will have on high school sports in Arizona. But coaches and administrators in school districts that are heavily Hispanic fear a reduction in enrollment this fall as families leave the state, leading to fewer kids playing sports.
“We think it will probably have a chilling effect,” said Craig Pletenik, spokesman for the Phoenix Union High School District, whose enrollment is 78 percent Hispanic. “This law doesn’t just affect those who may not be documented; it impacts a lot of immigrant families with American-born kids.”
Katherine Bareiss, director of community relations for Mesa Public Schools, is concerned that individual schools within districts could take a bigger enrollment hit, thus creating a competitive disadvantage in some sports. Mesa High, for example, is 49.5 percent Hispanic while Mesa Mountain View is only 14.2 percent.
Bareiss says that she knows that illegal immigrants are part of the scholastic and athletic makeup of her school district, but that it doesn’t ask, and it doesn’t want to know. Legally, nobody has to tell.
Under a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Plyler v. Doe, children of illegal immigrants (or children who are illegal themselves) are protected from discrimination in public schools. The 5-4 decision ruled against a Texas state law that would deny funding education to children of illegal immigrants, and denied the Tyler (Texas) school district’s attempt to collect a $1,000 per-child fee from illegals. The Supreme Court ruled that the state had no compelling interest for discrimination, particularly against children, who presumably had no say in where they lived, and their immigrant status. (The Republic story cites ths case.) Except to hear more about Plyler v. Doe as legal battles over the new Arizona law take shape.
However, schools’ concerns are not just about whether there will be enough athletes for a team once SB1070 is in full effect. They also wonder what will happen to the athletes that remain. Again, from the Republic:
What if, Pletenik said, a bus driver carrying a team to a sporting event makes an illegal left-hand turn and is stopped by a policeman, who, after peering inside, asks players to show proof of citizenship?
I’ll take it one step further. What if the bus driver is asked to show papers? What if the people who maintain the field are asked to show papers? What if the people who clean the gym are asked to show papers?
I don’t want to turn this into the same flip tone that inspired the Naperville (Ill.) Sun to run this headline the day of a large immigration rally in downtown Chicago: “The Day the Lawns Weren’t Mowed.” But what Arizona athletic programs will discover — heck, what all of Arizona will discover, is just how integrated illegal immigrants are into the fabric of life.
You could look at the scenarios drawn up by the educators in the Republic article and say, hey, they’re illegal, right? So what’s the problem? And, technically, yes, they’re illegal, so, yes, they are violating the law. However, the dranconian Arizona law — on top of the state’s lousy economy and little hope of another construction boom anytime soon — could drive out not only illegal Latinos, but legal ones as well.
So that’s why you might see some emptier fields at Arizona high schools very soon. And a lot of white people griping about why the gym isn’t as clean as it used to be.
You might not remember the name Terrence Philo Jr., but you might remember his story.
At his Pleasantville (N.J.) Middle School basketball team’s end-of-season banquet, Terrence’s coach invited him to come to the end-of-season banquet for a special moment. Then, in front of 25 teammates and parents, the coach gave Terrence an award: the “Crybaby Award,” complete with a trophy depicting a baby, and a nameplate misspelled “Terrance.”
The coach claimed it was supposed to be some sort of honor for Terrence’s play and vocal participation, but Terrence wasn’t in on the joke. The 13-year-old was so embarrassed, he refused to come back to school that Monday, and his father said Terrence didn’t even want to go outside. The bad-joke award got national attention, and the coach who issued it, 24-year-old James Guillen, was fired, though he kept his job as a special education teacher.
That was 2004.
Six years later, Terrence Philo Jr. is back in the news again. It would be nice to say that the traumatizing incident strengthened the honor student’s resolve to treat others well and put himself in a position to help others.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that.
From the Press of Atlantic City:
A Pleasantville teen who made national headlines six years ago for being awarded a “crybaby award” by his middle school basketball coach is accused of leading police on a chase – and now faces assault, gun and drug charges.
Police say an officer was injured while trying to arrest Terrence Philo Jr., 19.
Police told the newspaper that a Pleasantville officer saw someone, later identified as Philo, attempt to rob someone with a gun. The officer chased Philo as he sped away in a car, and the officer crashed his car into the back of Philo’s vehicle after Philo hit a parked car. He ran away, but another officer and a police dog tracked Philo down in a closet at a nearby home, where he was arrested. Police said they found a loaded .357 Magnum and crack cocaine in his car.
Without knowing what’s been going on with Philo over the last six years, it would be a real stretch to say that the “Crybaby Award” turned him from honor student into alleged criminal. Just like how you can’t say for sure that Michael Costin Jr. grew up to abuse drugs, alcohol, and his 23-years-his-senior girlfriend because his father was killed by another hockey dad in a notorious 2000 case.
However, it’s safe to say that, in each case: it didn’t help.
The words from a family therapist, spoken to USA Today in 2004, about the “Crybaby Award” incident sound haunting now:
“It’s an awful thing to have done to a teenager, just totally uncalled for,” said Michael Popkin, a family therapist and author based in Atlanta. “One of the harshest things you can do to a kid is to publicly humiliate them. It’s bad enough putting him down one on one, away from the team. To set him up like that and then cut his knees out in public is a huge blow.” …
Whether the boy suffers permanent harm from the humiliation depends on how strong he is emotionally and how much his friends, family and teammates support him, Popkin said.
By the way, Guillen is still teaching special education in Pleasantville. The Press did not appear to contact him (and I haven’t either). But one wonders what he thought when he heard of “Terrance” Philo Jr.’s arrest.
While in the United States, budget cuts force the reduction or elimination of school sports (more on that later), Malaysia is going the opposite way. It’s going to require students to pick a sport and play it, no matter how big a nerdlinger the kid is.
Actually, reducing nerdlingerness appears to be the motivating factor behind the policy.
From The Star, a Malaysian English-language newspaper:
Sports activities will be made compulsory in 10,000 schools nationwide starting next year and each student will be required to select a game of his or her choice.
Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said this meant that sports would have a separate syllabus and would no longer be part of the co-curriculum activity as is the current practice.
“Schools will be provided with more sports teachers while allocations will be increased to improve the infrastructure as part of efforts to bring glory back to sports,” he told reporters after closing the Pahang Umno convention here yesterday.
He said a committee has been set up to look into the revamp besides looking into ways to credit those who were active in sports.
“By giving additional marks to them, it would help to encourage them to excel both in sports as well as academically,” he added.
Stating that sports were good for mental as well as physical health besides inculcating leadership qualities, Muhyiddin noted that parents nowadays stressed too much on academic achievement.
In comments recorded by another English-language newspaper, the New Straits Times, the deputy prime minister describes a world that sounds like bizarro United States:
“Right now, sports events are held only for several months, usually in the first two or three months of the school year. There are times when parents themselves are unaware that the school sports has been held,” he said.
It’s safe to say that not knowing when school sports are held is not a problem for American parents.