Archive for September, 2017

“Take a Knee or Take a Seat” Policies in Public Sports Likely to Create a Turmoil

September 29, 2017 1 comment

Earlier this week I was distressed over what I viewed to be the extreme attention being diverted to the question of the NFL players’ decisions to stage various forms of protest in response to President Trump’s inflammatory and needless tweets regarding an action a second string QB took over a year ago. But now I am starting to see that the President’s actions might result in a net benefit. Why?

First and foremost, it is calling attention to the righteousness of the rationale for Colin Kaepernick’s initial protest. As noted in an NYTimes article by Kaepernick’s teammate and fellow protester Eric Reid, the reason for the initial protest had nothing to do with the flag, the National Anthem, or the troops. It was about racism. Here are the key paragraphs from that powerful article:

I approached Colin the Saturday before our next game to discuss how I could get involved with the cause but also how we could make a more powerful and positive impact on the social justice movement. We spoke at length about many of the issues that face our community, including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system. We also discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the N.F.L., to speak for those who are voiceless.

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.

It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.

Articles like Mr. Reid’s and respectable news outlets like the NYTimes made a concerted effort to keep the nation’s attention on the real reason for the protests. Posts a post on social media also helped reinforce the core message of the protests… a message that is reinforced by this picture:

But not everyone in our country believes the protests are “appropriate”, and some school districts, as noted in Politico, have gone so far as to ban any kinds of protests at this weekend’s football games. In response, lawsuits are likely to follow. Here’s the synopsis from Politco’s Morning Education feed:

The principal of Parkway High School in Bossier Parish wrote in a letter that the school “requires student athletes to stand in a respectful manner” during the anthem, and that those who don’t comply could be kicked off the team. A picture of the letter was posted to Twitter by Shaun King of the Intercept and was retweeted thousands of times. Another district official told the Shreveport Times that potential punishments range from “extra running to a one-game suspension.” The school’s Facebook page was flooded with angry comments, as well.

The ACLU of Louisiana issued a statement calling the Bossier Parish school officials’ threats to punish students who protest “antithetical to our values as Americans and a threat to students’ constitutional rights.” Marjorie Esman, the executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, told Morning Education in an interview that “the Supreme Court has been very clear that schools, government officials, cannot suppress a student’s right to protest – even on a team, even during a game. To refuse to salute the flag, say the pledge, all of those thing – they are protected by the United States Constitution.”

But the constitutional right to free speech does not seem nearly as important to the so-called “strict constructionists” of the Constitution as, say, the right to bear arms. And while the school district is seemingly unlikely to prevail in any case brought against it, as long as the reason for the protests remain clear and in the forefront, the general public will be reminded that racism still exists in this country and the hatred that underpins that racism is poisoning our discourse as citizens, our democracy, and our well-being… and MAYBE those who chose a course of love over hate will let their views be known by electing officials who share that perspective.

“Professionalism of Kids Sports”, Athletic Fees in Public Schools Create a Two Tiered Athletics System Where “Amateurs”, Poor Children Lose

September 29, 2017 Comments off

I was deeply saddened and full of nostalgia when I read “What’s Lost When Only Rich Kids Play Sports“, Linda Flanagan’s Atlantic essay. In the essay she describes the experience of a poverty stricken female athlete who came of age in the early 1970s an benefitted from her participation in athletics. She laments the loss of that kind of opportunity today, noting that the cost of participating on an organized sports team has created a two tiered system:

…the fruits of America’s fixation with youth sports are largely concentrated among children with means: According to data recently released by the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society program, household wealth is the primary driver of kids’ athletic participation. Compared to their peers whose families make more than $100,000, children ages 6 through 12 whose family income is under $25,000 are nearly three times as likely to be “inactive”—meaning they played no sport during the year—and half as likely to play on a team sport even for one day. “Sports in America have separated into sports-haves and have-nots,” said Tom Farrey, the executive director of the Sports and Society program.

And this separation is the result, in large measure, of the “professionalization of kids sports” as described in this paragraph:

Also pushing poorer kids out is the professionalization of kids’ sports: Time reports that the business of kids’ sports has grown 55 percent since 2010, and is now a $15.3 billion industry. Driving that growth is the perception that a child’s athletic achievement might improve her college prospects, lead to an athletic scholarship, and lend some prestige to the family name. Well-off-enough parents invest in specialized camps, leagues, equipment, and travel teams, while children from families without the financial resources or time—competitive kids’ games are often played across state lines, devouring weekends for parents as well as players—fill out dwindling town leagues. On top of these factors, schools with shrinking budgets are dropping physical education or requiring kids to pay for their school teams. Seventy percent of kids leave sports entirely by age 13.

This thoughtful… and very sad… essay understates the impact of athletic fees and school and community budget cuts. The cuts to town budgets, particularly in poverty stricken communities, lead to the abandonment of town funded athletic fields, the closure of playgrounds, and the inability of the communities to sustain YMCAs or churches that once provided indoor play spaces.

I came of age in the late 1950s and attended HS in the early 1960s. As a youngster the town I lived in had well equipped playgrounds, empty lots that we converted into playing fields, and affordable “amateur” teams offered by the YMCA and the churches. My HS had a robust intramural program as well as a wide array of team sports with varsity and JV levels. There were church basketball and softball leagues and community organizations and businesses supported “amateur” Little League teams, basketball leagues, and parks. As a child growing up in that time, I felt like the community wanted the children in town to have a good life even if they were not exceptional athletes.

During my 35 year career as a public school administrator I witnessed the erosion of local support for public parks– particularly in poor communities— and the demise of intramural athletics and the institution of athletic fees due to budget constraints. Both of these phenomena denied opportunities to those “amateur level” students like me to participate in organized team sports and discouraged children raised in poverty from even considering participation in athletics. And the “professionalism” Ms. Flanagan describes was a contributing factor to this trend. Why? Because one of the rationales public schools use to justify athletic fees is the fact that parents are accustomed to paying for their child to participate in athletics and one of the rationales town’s use to allow their play spaces to fall into disrepair is that “no one uses them”. In short, the virtuous circle that existed in my youth, where the public saw organized athletic activities and parks designed for those activities as something worth paying for, has been replaced with a vicious circle today where sports is a frill for all but the extraordinarily talented or those with money.

The solution offered in Ms. Flanagan’s article, a de facto reliance on philanthropy, falls short of the mark. What is needed is a communitarian movement to restore broad public funding to ensure that all children have the same opportunity to benefit from participation in sports, for such widespread participation will help restore opportunities for children of all economic levels to get to know each other and learn from each other. As Ms. Flanagan writes:

A two-tiered system of youth sports—one in which the wealthy play on pricey private clubs and the less well-off are limited to uncompetitive community programs—also undermines one of the quieter virtues of team sports: They can be places of organic integration, where economic and racial differences are supplanted by ordinary friendship and the collective desire to win.

As an “amateur” high school athlete I can attest to the benefits of community sports, for it was in intramural athletics, church leagues, and playgrounds that I experienced “…organic integration, where economic and racial differences were supplanted by ordinary friendship and the collective desire to win“.  I enjoyed cheering for our varsity basketball team as they won the championship in my senior year… but I experienced pure joy when I took the floor myself in church leagues, YMCA leagues, on intramural teams, and on the playgrounds in our community where the nets were replaced with a phone call to the recreation department. It saddens me to know that kids like me today do not have that same opportunity.

Diane Ravitch Dissects DeVos’ Cold Reception at Harvard and Provides Withering Assessment of her Agenda

September 29, 2017 Comments off

I am re-blogging Diane Ravitch’s post from yesterday regarding Betsy DeVos’ visit to Harvard with an emphasis on one point: 

DeVos agenda of charter schools and school choice… is a flimsy, hard-hearted response to income inequality, poverty, and underfunding of schools that enroll students with high needs.

Source: Despite Stacked Panels, DeVos Gets a Cold Reception at Harvard–from Students and Protestors

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