Every school will tell you that academics are more important than sports. After all, it is a school. Even the most sports-minded principal will ban an athlete from playing football if his grades are too low, but no one would ban a student from class because his athletic performance was poor.
But take a look at the pages where schools are mentioned in the newspaper. It’s almost all because of sports. (OK, there’s also crime, but let’s not go there.) Even in Massachusetts it’s really a joke to expect the same kind of coverage for the math team as the paper gives to the football team (or, in the case of Weston, as it gives to the swimming and golf teams). Yes, yes, I know that participating in an athletic team can build all sorts of virtues, from persistence and cooperation to sportsmanship and planning, but it’s still not what the mission of a school is all about.
And then we get to the arts. Weston has first-rate theater and music programs, an excellent Art Department, a very successful dance team, but what kind of coverage do they get? I was reminded of this issue in a post by Adam Gaffin in this morning’s Universal Hub:
Writing on the Herald site, Tai Irwin contrasts the Globe’s coverage of the Massachusetts High School Drama Guild Finals — which it sponsored — with its Sunday coverage of high-school athletes. The final tally:
Athletes: 16 pages of coverage.
Drama kids: Zero.
The excerpt from Tai Irwin is telling:
… The message is very clear: although Westford, Nauset, and Weston received awards, and many students were singled out for theatrical excellence, once again it’s sports that matter most, even to the exclusion of intellectual and artistic activities. What a great thing to tell our kids, over and over again. Never mind the brain pursuits — the science fairs and business/educational coops, and never mind the arts, dance, music, drama. The thing that is going to solve all our problems and nurture all our values best is sports. …
I couldn’t say it any better myself. So I won’t try.