What if academics got as much coverage as athletics?We have reached that time of year when we will be regaled by pigskin previews and prognostications galore. From high school to college to the NFL we will all read about the expectations of every coach from Podunk to Pittsburgh. And what will they say? There are phrases that can be predicted from the pedestrian to the pompous.
Lamar Local of Bluffort Head Reasonably Late College Creek High School will tell us that the use of the Double Wing Delaware Veer fits his personnel well because almost all of them can distinguish between left and right and Sly Slinger, moving up from an injury free JV season, has an arm that will be the envy of the conference if his teammates are not distracted by his Chinese double entendre tattoos. The defense is likely to be intimidating given a front line averaging 280 pounds that can move faster than most glaciers.
Coaches at all levels will be filled with cautious optimism even though they will play a “daunting schedule” which fortunately they promise to play one game at a time. Cliché after cliché will be hurled at us at a speed faster than a Tom Brady fifteen year pass. Fortunately, most coaches are reasonably successful in mastering the X‘s and O’s if not the complexity of English syntax.
But what of the toilers in the trenches of academe? Our purveyors of print information turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the teachers in the classrooms of America. Clearly the values of the larger society can be measured at the pro, college and the high school level by the inches of newsprint devoted to the predictions presented with the weightiness of a Papal encyclical. Do academics or athletics consume more ink? Let’s look for opportunities to see the views of teachers about the upcoming school year. It could go something like this.
Ida Amoeba is cautiously optimistic about her incoming Biology students and their ability to master the subtleties of the synapse and to realize that “asexual reproduction” is only two words. Patty Pythagoras has heard of a transfer student who can trisect an angle and most juniors should be able to calculate multiple discounts. Patty finds it remarkable that many of her seemingly dozing doltish students are remarkably adroit at calculating kilos. She thinks perhaps, for once, the grass is greener on this side.
Over in the Humanities wing Luke Literary is apprehensive about this year’s schedule as scouting reports suggest that the Portuguese Sonnets are likely to be especially tough this year. Despite the rough schedule Luke believes his students will be able to separate allusions from illusions and will like you know basically avoid “Valley speak.” Harry Herodotus, master of the ancient and the arcane, is the eternal optimist as he predicts that, unlike many in government today, his students will understand and appreciate the Constitution and that rights have concomitant responsibilities. [Oh, that it be true Harry!]
Principals and superintendents can tell us how changes in bus routes, new uniforms, where they hold Board meetings and new posters, initiatives and bits, bytes and white boards will produce students whose achievements will only be surpassed by the elite in Sidwell Friends School and other abodes of the arrogant and the affluent. And of course they will do all that despite the miserliness of the political class and the benighted taxpayers. While peppering the press with glowing releases, often having the clarity of good mushroom soup, the educrats have placed their explanations for low SAT scores and not achieving minimal progress underneath their desk blotters to be pulled out when the inevitable reality check has to be cashed.
Let’s see reports about the upcoming academic season offered at the level of gravity and the quantity of coverage that football gets. While the lessons of athletics and their potential for nurturing the growth of teamwork, responsibility and effort through gridiron competition are substantial,all must realize that successes in the classroom are of more lasting value and that wide knowledge matters more than wide receivers and that reading books must continue to be more highly regarded than reading defenses.