Posted by: The Amoeba | August 6, 2008

JUNIOR VARSITY BLUES

According to today’s [6 August 2008] local paper, which I could stand to read for about 30 seconds on the bus TheBus this morning, the State of Hawaii’s Department of Education has been persuaded to make a mandated US$1 million in public-school budget cuts someplace other than the sports programs, which they had originally targeted. In Mr. Dave Reardon’s opinion, this is A Good Thing.

Sure it is. For elevating the blood pressure of amoebae.

Public school teachers here in, um, Paradise have the lowest pay in the United States, measured in terms of purchasing power. And a scheduled pay raise has been blocked over a dispute between the Governor and the teacher’s union over who is going to pay for a legislatively-mandated drug testing program. For the teachers, of course, not the government. Or the kids. Or their parents. Want to see a drug-testing program go away, real quick? Propose that parents/guardians have to be tested as a requirement for enrolling a child in school …

Say what you will about the No Child Left Behind program, but by its measures, a frightening percentage of Hawaiian school children are being left behind. Mostly in the most money-poor schools, of course. Like it or not, a significant infusion of resources is needed to stem this tide. Just ask anyone who has looked for more than five minutes at the strong correlation between student performance and the personal and institutional financial resources available to that student.

Instead, the word is cut. The public schools are too expensive, We the People are told, We need to cut programs, cut staff, cut whatever and wherever We will allow.

And what program is it that We the People of the Great State of Hawai‘i refuse to allow to be cut?

Junior varsity sports.

Junior [expletive deleted] varsity sports.

As a career option, sports is an abysmal choice. Let’s see. The National Football League has 32 teams. Each team pays 50 players each year (I think it’s actually 53, but I’ve rounded off for simplicity). Let’s assume that the average player has a five-year career, which means that, in any given year, each team is looking for 10 new employees. The NFL has a monopoly on the American football gridiron industry. Thus, there is a grand total of 320 paying jobs available in the United States for gridiron players each year.

Let’s say there are 128 NCAA Bowl Championship Series (formerly Division 1A) college gridiron programs. (I haven’t bothered trying to count; see TheBus, supra.) In each school, there are 100 players on the team, a quarter of whom are seniors. (Again, I’m simplifying, leaving things like redshirt freshmen out of the equation.) These schools thus provide 32,000 potential applicants for jobs in the NFL each year.

If you’re one of those applicants, you have a 1% chance of getting a job. And that is after spending four years at a college/university studying gridiron. Can you imagine what the odds are for a second-team linebacker, or point guard, or shortstop, or (heaven help us) gymnast, at Hekawi High? You wish to help your kid make a million dollars, you’d almost be better off investing in a weekly Powerball ticket. (NB: I said almost.)

So what in pluperfect hell are we doing spending what we’re constantly told are scarce education dollars on sporting activities that offer so few job prospects? Not to mention that the activities abuse children via catastrophic sport-related injuries, illicit recreational and performance-enhancing drugs, gang crime, and the development of character an entitlement mindset.

Oh. I get it. Where does everybody in town go on a Friday night these days? To the local high school gridiron game match. To see Junior play. To support the home team. For a night’s entertainment – if you can call fighting for a parking place and a seat entertainment.

So. We the People are sacrificing the future of our children for the sake of a night out.

Shouldn’t we be [deleted] ashamed of ourselves?!?

Of course, exercise is a good thing, especially given the morbid obesity of so many American children these days. For that, we used to have a school-wide daily calisthenics regimen. Chinese school children have done this for decades. Americans, today? You must be kidding. Somebody would sue

Those of you who follow Quilly’s blog know that she is an accomplished elementary-school teacher, with a decade of documented qualitative and quantitative success in teaching financially- and culturally-disadvantaged children on her curriculum vitae. But after a year of education-system hell here on O‘ahu, she is working elsewhere.

I think that no progress will be made on improving the primary and secondary education system in these Untied States until every teacher, in every system, public or private, similarly walks away. Thereby closing the schools, all of them, and keeping them closed until we have completed a national dialogue about our schools and what is needed, at all levels of society, to get them working. So our children don’t have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars a year to our universities to learn what they should have learned, for “free”, in junior high school. Before the last American job departs for China, where people are willing to ensure that their children are properly and effectively educated.

For what it’s worth, I would close all private schools permanently. The proper and effective education of children – all children – is the common property and concern of every American. Persons of means who recognize this deserve to be treated with respect and consideration – which, sadly, I don’t think they receive. It’s almost like they were teachers … and if I were subject to the kinds of abuse I’ve seen people get, just for having the (mis)fortune to be successful, I’d probably retreat behind a guarded wall too. But I will be God damned if I permit a system where a privileged few gather disproportionate educational resources to themselves, and toss everyone else into slave shacks.

We can afford that even less than we can afford to be spending Our money on the junior varsity.

   – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2008 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

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Responses

  1. Our local schools have huge budget cuts this year. Buses are being curtailed, school meals are being taken away and class sizes are being made bigger with less teachers.

  2. A friend of mine just emailed me one of your articles from a while back. I read that one a few more. Really enjoy your blog. Thanks

  3. And they’re trying to restore the voucher system to allow the private schools to cherrypick the best-performing kids out of the public system down there too, right, Brian?

  4. Florida is big on vouchers and charter schools, but the mandated state testing takes so much time out of the school year that the kids are memorizing answers rather than learning. But football is the true passion of schools in the South.

  5. In order to think, one has to have the tools (including memorized facts) to think with. In order for the tools for thinking to be any good, one has to learn to use them. American schools lurch between teaching kids how to make bricks but giving them no straw, and giving kids plenty of straw but no recipe for making bricks. Hello??

  6. I have problems with the premise, and I think you’ll understand what I mean. Those who are more fortunate should not send their kids to private school, because sending them to public school shows that they value the investment in the entire community and nation’s resources. But with kids falling behind because of budget cuts to essential learning programs, the best hope for a child to get ahead and possibly cause a positive change in the future is for them to buy out of the failed system. Which makes them less likely to understand the needs of public schools when these future councilmen are voting on the school budget. But if they remain in public schools, they will likely grow up unprepared to handle the resources they have been given, possibly causing problems that affect not only them, but others who would have been employed by them.

    And I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m saying we’re all damned precisely because you’re right.

  7. who needs a night OUT?

    we really need to spend more time IN
    with the fam
    actually interacting
    such as speaking to one another

    but
    im sure
    this would never fly
    its so much easier to ignore your family
    from the sidelines of a game
    than it is to ignore them in the kitchen…

  8. Brig, you describe today’s education dilemma succinctly and accurately. Add to the equation the number of parents of kids in public school who view the schools as the enemy (another brick in the wall), who think the schools should do nothing with or to their little darlings except keep them out of their hair for as much of the day as possible. Practically by definition, private-school parents are making a major investment in their child – including investing the school with permission to actually do something to educate / discipline Junior. The private schools cherry-pick such people – who, naturally, are usually the ones with enough money to make that investment (rather than, say, have every adult in the family working 16 hours a day at minimum wage in order to make enough to pay off at least some of the bill collectors).

    All this leads to a fragmented society. And fragmented societies fall.

    Dude? Too true.

  9. All societies fall. And yet, each society seems to believe that they will be the first to continue on forever.

  10. Ambrose Bierce defined Historian with the words: A broad-gauged gossip. Thus reflecting our ability to use the past as trivial entertainment rather than as a body of work from which We might (horrors!) actually learn something.


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