I am not a football fan so I am skipping the signing day fanfare today. (Our sports department is covering it in great detail, including a list of the live webcasts from area high schools.)
I have often wondered why there are no big celebratory signing day ceremonies for students admitted to great colleges on their academic records rather than on their sports records. (I did go to one such event at a local charter high school, and it was very inspiring to see the excitement of the students as their names and colleges were announced. But there were no cameras except for those belonging to parents.)
A DeKalb parent sent me this interesting note about today’s hoopla:
I’m a DeKalb parent and resident and had an idea I thought might be fun to float on your blog. I’ve been watching all of today’s football signing day hoopla (also a sports fan), and I can’t help but wonder what good an academic signing day might do in our high schools. I just watched the webcast from Tucker High School, and it is obvious that a ton of work went into this event.
There’s a live web feed, the auditorium is full of students and families, videos and music are playing on a big screen, someone (football coach?) is waiting on stage with everyone’s papers to sign, and the kids are called one-by-one to come up on stage. The kids are accompanied by their parents and often extended families, who are proudly wearing their child’s chosen school gear, and, well, it’s just a big deal.
Why doesn’t anyone do this for academics? It’s certainly a more attainable goal than football scholarships. If an event like that inspired just a few kids, wouldn’t it be worth it?
The DeKalb parent raises good questions, as does another reader. This email was among the many I received last week on my column about the Finnish model of schooling:
In a quick Internet search I found no Finnish school at any level, including university, which has organized athletics or athletics departments. Athletics is separate from the education system so students go to school to learn, not to play sports. Perhaps that should be pointed out when discussing the success of the Finnish education system and when comparing it to the dismal results in the United States.
I have found that throughout virtually the entire rest of the world athletics and education are separate. Universities have athletics but at the club level with very little participation by the university administration. Unfortunately, in the United States, the “genie is out of the bottle” and there is too much money involved at all levels for it to ever change.
I also note a great deal of hypocrisy from coaches and athletic administrators and nowhere is it more evident than in the current controversy in the public vs. private schools in GHSA Class A. When coaches justify having athletics in schools, they talk about the value of competition, the value of mentorship, the value of teamwork, the value of physical activity and they all look like choirboys when they discuss it.
They talk about how it’s not whether you win or lose but that you play the game. Now those exact same choirboys are complaining that private schools win all of the state championships and that it’s not fair. My position is that if it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, then it doesn’t matter who wins the championships.
In fact, if it doesn’t matter, then you shouldn’t even have championships to begin with. Thus, the hypocrisy. I will say one thing positive about athletics. It’s the last remaining true meritocracy in the United States. There’s no affirmative action or calls for diversity in athletics. If you’re good enough then you’re on the team. If you’re are among the best on the team then you play. What a concept!
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog