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What can Academics learn from Athletics?

I have been a student, athlete, teacher, coach, athletic director, administrator and parent.  I have benefited from an excellent education with terrific teachers and have experienced the best times of my life in the athletic arena. But I am confused by how our society places higher prestige on athletics than it does on academics. Here are some examples I have experienced and some possible solutions.  Please note that some of my solutions are tongue in cheek, but hope this post will open deeper dialogue on this issue.

  • Mean income for professional athlete $1-5million a year: Mean income for a teacher $40-50K a year

I appreciate the talent of our professional athletes, know they raise significant money for their owners, and deserve what they are paid.  That being said, the profession that we entrust our children with to learn are paid peanuts in comparison.  The message our society sends is that a pro athlete is more important than a pro teacher. You invest in what you value.
Possible Solutions: 
  • Colleges offer same amount of teaching scholarships as athletic scholarships (for every football, baseball, hockey & basketball scholarship offer 1 to an education/teaching major)
  • Have a teaching draft, air it on ESPN (Education and Scholarly People Network) and pay all the best teachers $1-5million (after it is negotiated with their agent of course!)

  • Cutting athletic programs draws hundreds to school board meeting, while cutting a teacher draws a few crickets
I have seen this happen on a yearly basis. Tough economic times call for cuts in educational services.  School boards and districts spend a tremendous amount of time on this process and take it very seriously.  It has been my experience that when a teaching position is not replaced after a retirement, or is completely cut, little or no dissent takes place from the public (insert cricket sound here).  When sports programs are on the chopping block the local school board meeting is stampeded (you get the visual).   
Possible Solutions: 
  • Parents and community members should speak out when athletic programs are on the chopping block, but should also do the same when academic programs/positions are in the same situation
  • Research your school/district financial situation, be informed & get involved: NO cuts to education are beneficial to our children


  • Money & time spent on children's athletics vs. academics
When children are young their proud parents sign them up for youth sports.  Nowadays our kids don't play pick up games in the park, we drive them to a park and enlist them in organized sports.  Many parents spend thousands of dollars (through high school) on leagues, all-star programs, camps, training, coaches, etc.  It sometimes appears as if we were raising little pro athletes (John Unitas was a Hall of Fame QB) instead of normal kids (John Doe).  Parents get very involved as coaches, board members, officials and volunteers.  The village truly raises the child.  I believe these groups to be highly organized and effective, also good for kids.   I am just not sure why the same is not done for academics?  
Possible Solutions: 
  • Parents spend equal amounts of money on sports and academics: for every dollar spent on camps, league fees, extra training and coaching spend a dollar on tutor's, summer courses and enrichment activities
  • Each community creates a Youth Academic Club (YAC!) modeled after youth sports.  Parents can volunteer as tutors, learning coaches, teacher's aide's and school volunteers.  Money can be raised to support educational programs
  • For every game a parent attends, they should attend at least 1 school event (open house, school play, PTA meeting, school council meeting, etc.)
I truly believe athletics in America is extremely vital to the growth of our children.  I do not think we should lessen the value we place on the importance of athletics and sports.  I do believe, however, that we should make a societal shift to place greater emphasis on the importance of academic success.


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Comment by Anne Beck on November 24, 2011 at 12:05am

And by the way, this comes from a wife of a coach lol.

Comment by Bill Burkhead on November 23, 2011 at 11:35pm

Thanks Anne, I think a teacher draft would definitely be motivational! Thanks for your comment

Comment by Anne Beck on November 23, 2011 at 9:12pm

Loved this!!  Maybe if we had a "teacher draft" teachers would work harder, also.  Great Post!


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