Athletics and Academics
In the current economic climate of the United States, public institutions are finding themselves having to make harsher and harsher budget cuts. Teaching positions are minimized, class sizes are increased, and fees are rising to nearly unaffordable regions. The English Department at a certain university or high school may drop from twenty-five professors to a dozen or so. It is the harsh reality of living in an era of economic downturn. However, even as the college school would lose more and more financial assistance from the government, athletic programs at schools continue to expand and provide more and more incentives for prospective recruits. This is symptomatic of a flawed philosophy in college institutions: the ability to perform athletic skills has more importance than the ability to think. This perspective not only jades the graduating classes but teaches the wrong principles for when a student needs to learn to cope with the adult, working-class world.
Supporters of school athletics argue that the programs teach teamwork and cooperation as well as instill in the academically gifted an elevated sense of self-esteem (Meier 2004). Those is opposition argue that those who are not engaged in athletics perceive the importance placed on sports as having a detrimental effect. The adoration placed upon the athletic people is not bestowed upon students who are academically gifted, leading to misplaced value and improper priorities. To find out the basis for why these groups have such divergent opinions about what should be the priority in school, academics or athletics, the researchers for the article “A Lingering Question of Priorities: Athletic Budgets and Academic Performance Revisited” (2004), investigated the future goals of students and examined how expenditures on athletic budgets effected, positively or negatively, the academic abilities of the student population in question.
The research was conducted in Texas, a state known for fudging the rules of school attendance requirements in order to build up stronger high school football teams (Meier 2004). As with any organization that has divergent goals, also called goal conflict, the two top priorities of the school world, namely academic and athletic, forces the leadership of that organization into a form of limbo wherein he or she must appease factions supporting both sides of the debate. Often, as the researchers found, this battle for priority leads to lack of functionality and continued disagreement between the two groups and gets nowhere closer to resolution.
The findings of the research by Meier were that within a single school, athletics would have a positive impact on the academics of that individual. However, when examining an entire school district, it was determined that there was a negative correlation between academic performance and expenditure on athletics (Meier 2004). This is due to many factors. Primarily among them is that for athletes, the sport is the priority rather than the academic. Consequently a football player will practice for a big game but will fail to study for a final examination. There is also the factor that in big sports town like the ones researched in Texas, teachers are encouraged to be more lenient on the star athletes. This provides the players with grades that they did not earn and thus when it comes time for standardized examination, the student finds him or herself ill equipped to perform.
These findings are not solely applicable to football. Schools that are invested in other sports basketball or baseball have a similar misplaced priority. It is estimated that at some schools, athletic spending has increased by 25% in the last decade, while funding has been cut in other departments (Sylwester 2004). Across the country, schools have been forced to make drastic decisions regarding their academic programs because of economic issues. Still, athletics takes priority and sport departments are given moneys even when math and language arts classes suffers, and music and art classes are being cut altogether.
However, not everyone agrees with the findings of Meier and his colleagues. Research conducted by David Larimore in 2007 argues the very opposite; that involvement in athletics increases ability in other avenues and instructs the individual athlete on how to be a better member of society. What Larimore determined was that athletics “build character in terms of teamwork, loyalty, and self-sacrifice” (2007). This research enforces the above-mentioned attitude that athletics encourages character development. Yet, even a biased research like Larimore’s was unable to affirm that athletics increased the individual student’s achievements in academics.
In response to the allegation that most athletic departments were given financial priority over academics, an Ohio University coach stated that it was athletic involvement that kept alumni interest and insured charitable donations from the community (Sis 2011). A promising athletic team, according to the sports enthusiasts, provides moral support for the students and encourages outside people to become interested in the achievements of the school or university in question. The Meier group found no correlation between athletic success and academic success. Rather the opposite. Students heavily engaged in sports were less likely to do well academically. Students not engaged in sports also suffered because of the social stigma of being non-athletic.
Larimore, David (2007). “Non-Economic Societal Impacts of Intercollegiate Athletics.” The
Sport Journal. United States Sports Academy.
Meier, K.J., Eller, W.S., Marchbanks III, M.P., Robinson, S., Polinard, J.L., Wrinkle, R.D.
(2004). “A Lingering Question of Priorities: Athletic Budgets and Academic Performance Revisited. Review of Policy Research,” 21(6), 799 — 807. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.
“Sis, Boom, Bust: The High Cost of College Sports.” (2011). PBS.
Sylwester, Mary Jo (2004). “Athletic Spending Grows as Academic Funds Dry Up.” USA Today.
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