For the last several weeks I have been “volunteered” to assist an individual in babysitting a young junior high school kid. At one time in my 29+ years upon this planet I would have jumped at the chance to help watch the youth of our country. But I have reached a point in my life, where I usually wait to be “volunteered” by others – when it comes to sacrificing my free time babysitting the future clueless, hellions and thugs our Quad City school systems flip into the social structure like pancakes from a griddle. Still this one is a particularly bright young kid despite his friends’ and the school system’s attempts to dumb him down. His mother is constantly fighting with his decreasing study habits while his father (a big -yet mostly negative- influence on the young mans life), is a sometimes likable yet sometimes you want to rap his head with a hammer individual. The father is a poster child for the very subject I am about to address. Like many young boys (and girls) of his age, this boy has bitten into the frenzied American pursuit of athletic/entertainment trophies over the reading, writing, arithmetic and science pursuits afforded by our public schools. And like most young men and/or women that seek athletic agendas over scholarly curriculums – his grade points have started to drop. The concentration I have noticed that schools, some teachers, administrators and parents have put on the athletic/entertainment endeavors of these young boys and girls has made me even more wary about the decline I see in our public school systems.
The decision to chase athletic and entertainment careers are both extremely alluring and baiting when you look at the outlandish rewards involved for those that succeed. Yet those that actually find the high reward superstar success in those fields are a low percentage. And in the case of athletes, most that are successful are winding down their careers at about the same time the average individual is coming in to the peak of their potential. Most of those that lack superstar ability have even shorter careers. It is not uncommon to find many athletes, average or superstar, in a quandary because their career was cut short by injury. Nor is it uncommon to find past superstars and many non-superstar athletes, still trying to feed their egos and/or living expenses as hucksters or traveling sideshows because they neglected their scholastic pursuits over their athletic and/or entertainment pursuits. Thus when their short athletic career is over they have no real life skills to reenter society. Some even end up as modern tragedies that adorn the headlines and gossip sections of our media.
I can remember as a young boy and above average athlete the coaches and teachers stressing how important it was to pursue my normal school studies. My parents, my immediate family and surrounding family friends also stressed the importance of education. I do not really think that the basics of that have changed. I listened, though not as hard as I should have. During high school, as my interest in non-scholastic events increased, my grades fell off drastically to mostly B’s and a few C’s. I allowed myself to get too distracted by the allure of sports. It is easy to do. The school systems like young boy and girl athletes and what they bring to the table. Plus if you want to be noticed or a leader, and especially if your family has come from more humble beginnings – as mine did, being successful in sports is a method of attaining those goals. I think both school personnel and parents understand this and try to exploit it in an attempt to keep the kids in school. I am not sure that either exploits it very well. Another goal in excelling in sports is the boy-girl attraction especially when it comes to male athletes. Excelling in high school sports activities for young boys has become the equivalent to the male peacock that fans it feathers to attract a mate. Which only serves to increase the lure of sports achievements over scholastic achievements. Another problem I have noticed with young boys that center their school years around their athletic achievements is that many of them find ways to not study and still get through the school system. More than one young athlete I have known has used various girlfriends to do their homework. It can often be noticed come test times. Yet they still manage to get through the school systems. Some of the more physically gifted athletes even carry the same scholastic avoidance habits into college.
I am not saying school athletics are a negative thing. Just the opposite, I think school athletics are a very positive thing. I just think that too many students that abuse the athletic programs in search of the wrong goals or for goals that they will never achieve. I do think young girls understand the importance for school study better than young boys. I do think too many parents, teachers and school administrators put way too much emphasis on the school athletic/entertainment programs. I think that the system needs to demand more from these students, especially physically gifted athletes, when it comes to their scholastic habits. As I have talked to the kid (and some of his playmates) I have noticed how totally unaware of the very nature of the sports they seek to attain glory in. As I considered the their lack of understanding of the very basic structures of sports, I came to a realization that at their ages I also had the same lack of perceptions concerning the framework of sports. Nor do I remember any teachers or coaches ever explaining just how much influence the school basics of math/geometry, science, reading, writing and other communication skills have on the very structure of all the sports I have always loved. But not just sports, the basics of school are the heart of your everyday life, even your love life. Perhaps if the teachers, coaches and other adults in my life had been more explanatory in explaining how the basics of school studies were the very foundation on how to excel in sports; Maybe I would have spent more time with my books and less time in the gym. Sure my biceps would have been smaller but maybe I would have had more A’s than B’s and C’s on my report cards. And from talking with this young man and his friends I have not seen any better impression of how the basics of school studies are at the heart of excelling in any sports activities. Perhaps the adults in their lives should find better ways to tie the two programs together in the minds of the children they are raising. And maybe a better understanding of their geometry lessons will at least slightly reduce the amount of clueless, hellions and thugs endangering my vehicles parked on the Quad City streets (and wherever else I park my vehicles for that matter) with their errant throws/kicks of baseballs, footballs and soccer balls.