Monday, August 16, 2010

Sports and Pay-to-Play

Coach Brown is talking about the ACLU going after pay-to-play in schools. Snarky political commentary aside, his points are the usual ones and deserve repeating because the current climate of cost-cutting is driving schools to make some tough decisions.

First, PTP is illegal in California (specifically mentioned in law) because it prevents equal access to education. I'm not so sure equity applies here but we Americans have always had trouble with the decision of whether sports (as opposed to PE) are an integral part of school for every student or not.
BYU women's soccer team.

PTP changes the game to "support the GOOD teams." Freshmen sports will go first and then any sport whose attendance is "parents only." Football is way too important because of the "We need to beat Westside" factor and long term psychological investment of the fans in the team.

Parents and lawyers will pit girls against boys with the high-school version of the Title IX conflict. You can't cancel the 9th grade softball if you don't cancel the 9th grade baseball, even if one is undermanned and the other is full. Tournaments are out. Travel monies? Ha! (Forgetting that the travel costs are roughly the same as the cost of officials for home games - but home means you keep the gate. Decisions need to be made, but lawyers always suck cash and influence choices.

For many participants, sports provide "some of the most influential lessons they might learn in school." Very good point, bringing us back to the question of whether sports or PE is integral to education. I find that PE classes are pretty lame. Sports coaches talk about academics, morals, attitude, sportsmanship. Team building is important. PE teachers run classes that kids stand around in and tune out. 

You can make any number of correlations between the rise in importance of PE classes and the increasing emphasis on health education to the expanding waistlines of American schoolchildren, but I think there are confounding factors here. We need to overcome those confounding factors, though, and having the kids do half-assed archery, bowling, walking, pickleball, dodgeball isn't having much long-term effect.

I agree with Coach when he suggested that "physical education needs to reprioritized near the top," but I disagree that it should be "classified as an Advanced Placement style course." That's too much for PE. I can make a case (and have) for allowing a full season of a sport (including cheerleading) to count as a 1/2 PE credit. That makes sense in terms of time and effort.

That'll mean a loss of PE enrollment and at least one PE teacher would go. I'd be okay with that, but the Union wouldn't. It would also mean that the sports teams would experience a boom enrollment since most kids hate the standard pickle-ball games and would do most anything to get that PE credit playing a real sport.

That may be the real difference. The PE games and exercises are too varied and scattered and feel as if the teacher pulls something out of his butt for the day. No one has a chance to get truly good at anything and you have the ultimate in heterogeneous grouping. Sports, on the other hand, are "tracked." Contrary to most educational current demagoguery, students like homogeneous grouping and thrive in it.

Besides, coaches are cheaper than teachers. If it's just about the money, of course.


  1. "Besides, coaches are cheaper than teachers."

    Depends on the sport and the state, doesn't it?

    (Jonathan, just back from Texas...)

  2. I think we need to leave Texas out of this. They skew EVERY data set.

  3. Old joke (or outdated):

    Who is the highest paid government employee?

    Football Coach at West Point.