To balance the budget, a Massachusetts superintendent cut all non-academic activities. Saugus schools will offer no sports teams, cheerleading, bands, clubs, student council, nada. The public is howling. Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe wonders if a town’s quality of life requires tax-funded extracurriculars.
One news story quoted a Saugus High senior who plays on the soccer and lacrosse teams. “If there is nothing to do after school,” he said, “I’ll probably just go home and do homework.” At the risk of uttering heresy, I can’t help wondering: Would that be so terrible?
. . . Whatever the merits of team sports or cheerleading, they are not essential to a high school education. Math and English are. Yet how many American communities muster even a fraction of the fervor for math and English instruction that they lavish on their high school sports programs? While Saugus High boasts a championship hockey team, 47 percent of its 10-graders performed at the two lowest levels — “needs improvement” or “failing” — on last year’s statewide English exam. On the math exam, it was 56 percent. How often do parents and students ever take to the streets to protest academic mediocrity?
Saugus spends $6,700 per student. Plenty of California schools manage to offer sports and marching band — but not small classes — on that kind of budget.