Before beginning, I think it is important to point out that I do realize that I've only got one side of the story. Yet I think the situation is compelling and probably worth talking about.
On Wednesday nights, before they meet for their activities, I have been doing group tutoring with any of the Young Women who are interested in participating. Mostly math, but other things too. We have open enrollment in our city for public schools, so several of our girls go to a high school miles from here. Over the past few years, this particular high school has gained a well-earned reputation for having excellent sports' programs. The demographic of the area also lends itself to a fairly academic school as well. Generally high test scores, plenty of money and the football program have led to a general belief that it is the "best" high school in the city. Because of the open enrollment, parents all over the area put their kids on waiting lists to get in. The school is then able to have a large degree of discretion over who is allowed in. So naturally, as some schools cycle downward, this one is doing just the opposite.
From an LDS perspective, the high school is smack in the middle of the highest density of Mormons in our city (still, admittedly, not high). Coupled with the school's reputation, many local LDS parents try to get their kids into the school.
Now that you have some background I'll get to the point.
Some of the girls I tutor on Wednesdays attend this school, and each has a different math teacher. All men. All on the coaching staff at said high school. And every Tuesday this fall they each have a sub. A sub who doesn't have a clue about high school math.
The girls complain at length about this. They have heard that the coaches hold a day-long meeting every Tuesday in order to watch tape and to strategize. If not, this whole, all-the-football-coaches-are-sick-every-Tuesday thing seems terribly coincidental. I asked the girls if the teachers prepare ahead of time for their absences, and if they are especially helpful when they return.
They laugh and express the opinion that when these men are teaching, they are only halfway interested anyway, and that it is impossible to get the time of day from them unless you are an athlete, or dating one.
Again, one side of the story, and not an unbiased viewpoint. I'm just sayin'.
But what, exactly, am I saying? I guess it is that I'm frustrated about a school culture that allows athletics to take such heavy precedence over academics. I am especially frustrated that it happens to be the school that "everyone" wants in to. I'm frustrated that the girls (and other kids in their boat) don't feel like they have anyone they can express their anger over the situation to.
Make no mistake, if they did complain, it is hard to believe that anyone who could fix the situation would pay attention. Their team just took state, again. This year with a perfect record. Such a high school triumph gives a class bragging rights forever. Or at least it seems that way. ChrisW and I went to a high school that hadn't had a decent football team in a decade. And every year, for a seminary fireside, they would dig up some nearly thirty year-old to come and talk to us about what a spiritual experience it had been taking state in the mid-eighties. Really.
So I guess if my girls cared about football, or really lived in that community with the other kids, or were having a more "traditional" high school experience, then they wouldn't care for a moment about being immersed in a culture that glorifies a certain type of kid to the detriment of others. And make no mistake, even at schools where they work the hardest at keeping priorities straight, students with athletic ability end up with a (too often undeserved) lion's share of popularity and veneration. Sometimes because they work very hard, yes, but also because they were just born with a certain type of body or set of skills.
When our public schools go out of their way to further advantage that percentage of students already highly advantaged, are they really providing a free and fair public education?