Ranking the U.S. in soccer, education

If you think the U.S. is bad at soccer, “we’re even worse in education,” writes Fordham’s Brandon Wright.

This paper earned an A- for a UNC athlete

UNC athlete paper.

A University of North Carolina “student” earned an A- for this “final paper” in a special class for athletes.

See jocks run — but not read

Some college athletes play like adults, but read like 5th-graders, reports Sara Ganim for CNN. Tutors help them, as long as they can play.  Then they drop out or graduate with a degree they still can’t read.

At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 60 percent of football and basketball players admitted in 2004 to 2012 read at the fourth- to eighth-grade level, reports Mary Willingham, a former tutor for the athletic department.  Eight to 10 percent read below a third-grade level, according to her research.

Some were enrolled in “laughably lax” African-American Studies classes. Professor Julius Nyang’oro now faces fraud charges: He was paid $12,000 to teach a class that never met. 

It’s not just UNC, Ganim writes. About 10 percent of University of Oklahoma athletes in revenue-generating sports read below a fourth-grade level, according to Oklahoma Professor Gerald Gurney.

At most schools, seven to 18 percent of football and basketball players read at an elementary level, a CNN investigation concluded.

Intensive tutoring can close the gap by junior year, said Robert Stacey, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington.

Former and current academic advisers, tutors and professors say it’s nearly impossible to jump from an elementary to a college reading level while juggling a hectic schedule as an NCAA athlete. They say the NCAA graduation rates are flawed because they don’t reflect when a student is being helped too much by academic support.

“They’re pushing them through,” said Billy Hawkins, an associate professor and athlete mentor at the University of Georgia. “They’re graduating them. UGA is graduating No. 2 in the SEC, so they’re able to graduate athletes, but have they learned anything? . . . To get a degree is one thing, to be functional with that degree is totally different.”

Some universities refused to cooperate with CNN, but others provided more details on football and basketball players’ SAT or ACT scores and other data.

Many black male athletes end up with no degree and few job prospects, writes Isiah Thomas, a former pro basketball player now working on a master’s in education at Berkeley. “Only 65 percent of African American basketball student-athletes graduated in 2013,” writes Thomas and co-author Na’ilah Suad Nasir, an associate professor of African American Studies and Education.  Berkeley’s graduation rate for black male basketball players in 2013 was 33 percent.

Lacrosse to the future

The Medicine Game, which airs on PBS tonight, is the story of two brothers from the Onondaga Nation who are determined to play lacrosse for national powerhouse Syracuse University. Over six years, they struggle to rebuild their friendship, rescue their dream, and understand their identity and culture.

‘Angry Arab’ mascot stirs controversy

In the California desert, where farmers grow dates and a town is named “Mecca,” Coachella Valley High School named its teams the “Arabs” back in the 1920s. The mascot was a turban-wearing horseman carrying a lance. Later, the mascot lost his horse, but gained a scimitar and a fez. Seeking a tougher image, the “angry Arab” was adopted in the 1950s.
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The sneering, hook-nosed “Arab” may be history, reports the Desert Sun. An Arab-American group has protested“orientalist stereotyping”  and circulated an online petition demanding the “offensive” mascot be changed.

However, the group has offered to let the school keep the “Arab” name, reports the Sun. “What we are looking for here is a compromise that removes the stereotyping of Arabs and positively portrays our heritage and our contributions,” said Abed Ayoub, director of legal and policy affairs for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

One of the Arabs’ chief rivals are the Indio High’s “Rajahs,” represented by a turban-wearing Indian prince, notes the Desert Sun.  Other local teams are the Palm Desert High “Aztecs” and the Palm Springs High “Indians.” The Indians’ mascot was designed with help from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

Perhaps the CVHS Arabs can bring back the dashing horseman. It’s a stereotype — all mascots are stereotypes — but a positive one.

The mascot joins belly dancers at halftime shows, Ayoub’s letter complains. Will this survive the compromise?

Unsafe in any sport

Students must wear helmets to play soccer, field hockey and lacrosse in Princeton, New Jersey schools, reports EAG News. Bubble soccer

The helmets, which cost $35 to $70, may not prevent injuries, says Joanna Boyd, a concussion specialist at the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey. “It’s the speed, it’s the angle, it’s the kind of hit it is.”

Protective gear can encourage aggression, some say. “I’m concerned that the players who are better padded will be more emboldened to do things they never would have thought to do before,” said Marc Block, a longtime soccer referee,told Newsworks.  “My sister referees women’s lacrosse, and as soon as they told everyone to start wearing those metal eye cages, the number of sticks to the head went up very quickly.

I was hit in the head — quite hard — by a field hockey stick when I was in high school. The girl walking ahead of me decided to practice her golf swing and whacked my forehead on the back swing. Just think what might have been …

‘Just Move’ stamps declared ‘unsafe’

The U.S. Postal Service will destroy the entire press run of “Just Move” stamps because of safety concerns, reports Linn’s Stamp News.
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Three of the stamps in the 15- stamp series show children performing a cannonball dive, skateboarding without kneepads, and doing a headstand without a helmet. That’s unsafe, according to members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.

Michelle Obama, who’s been trying to encourage children to be more active, has popularized the “Just Move” slogan. She was set to take part in a first-day ceremony for the stamps — until someone decided kids need a helmet to do a headstand.

The campaign will need a new slogan: If you’re swaddled in protective gear and supervised by a certified adult, move. But be careful.

I keep looking for evidence this is a hoax. So far, nothing.

Hit & Run, which has pictures of all the “Just Move” stamps, finds more safety horrors: The baseball player isn’t wearing a helmet!

And what about the kid cartwheeling without a P.E. teacher’s supervision? The rope climber might fall!

Are we free to gambol?

High school sports support academics

Schools with strong athletic programs have higher test scores and lower drop-out rates, write Daniel H. Bowen & Collin Hitt in The Atlantic. Amanda Ripley’s cover story, The Case Against High-School Sports, is a lot of hooey, they argue.

Success in sports programs creates “social capital” — or reflects the fact that it’s already there, they theorize.

The success of schools is highly dependent on social capital, “the norms, the social networks, and the relationships between adults and children that are of value for the child’s growing up,” wrote sociologist James Coleman.

The need to build trust and social capital is even more essential when schools are serving disadvantaged and at-risk students. Perhaps the most promising empirical evidence on this point comes from a Chicago program called Becoming A Man–Sports Edition.

In this program, at-risk male students are assigned for a year to counselors and athletic coaches who double as male role models. In this partnership between Chicago Public Schools, Youth Guidance, and World Sport Chicago, sports are used to form bonds between the boys and their mentors and to teach self-control. The usual ball and basket sports are sometimes played, but participants are also trained in violent sports like boxing at school.

Applicants were chosen by lottery.  According to a 2013 evaluation, the sports program “creates lasting improvements in the boys’ study habits and grade point averages. During the first year of the program, students were found to be less likely to transfer schools or be engaged in violent crime. A year after the program, participants were less likely to have had an encounter with the juvenile justice system.”

If schools dropped sports teams, middle-class kids would have opportunities to play sports out of school, Bowen and Hitt conclude. Affordable access would be limited for low-income students.

Is it time to give football the boot?

American high schools care more about sports than academics, charges Amanda Ripley in The Atlantic.

football

Last year in Texas, whose small towns are the spiritual home of high-school football and the inspiration for Friday Night Lights, the superintendent brought in to rescue one tiny rural school district did something insanely rational. In the spring of 2012, after the state threatened to shut down Premont Independent School District for financial mismanagement and academic failure, Ernest Singleton suspended all sports—including football.

To cut costs, the district had already laid off eight employees and closed the middle-school campus, moving its classes to the high-school building; the elementary school hadn’t employed an art or a music teacher in years; and the high school had sealed off the science labs, which were infested with mold. Yet the high school still turned out football, basketball, volleyball, track, tennis, cheerleading, and baseball teams each year.

Football at Premont cost about $1,300 a player. Math, by contrast, cost just $618 a student. For the price of one football season, the district could have hired a full-time elementary-school music teacher for an entire year. But, despite the fact that Premont’s football team had won just one game the previous season and hadn’t been to the playoffs in roughly a decade, this option never occurred to anyone.

Without football, Premont focused on academics. There were fewer fights. Eighty percent of the students passed their classes in the first sports-free semester, compared with 50 percent the previous fall.

Now out of debt, Premont brought back baseball, track, and tennis.

Competitive sports dominate childhood for higher-class families, writes Hilary Levey Friedman.

Powderpuff football is sexist, dangerous

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Powderpuff football is sexist, divisive and dangerous, according to the principal of a suburban Boston high school. Newton South Principal Joel Stembridge canceled the school’s annual girls’ flag football game, which pits juniors against seniors.

On The Corner, Andrew Johnson links to a screenshot of principal’s e-mail on Acculturated.

The principal lists the five reasons why the tradition was ended, such as injuries and “destabiliz[ing] our normally supportive, welcoming, intimidation-free school environment.” The gender-specific nature of the game also resulted in its cancelation.

“In terms of gender politics, the name ‘powerderpuff,’ which most students still call the game, inadvertently serves to mock the hard-fought struggles of female athletes to be taken seriously and, we think, perpetuates negative stereotypes about femininity and female athletes,” the e-mail read.

In addition, the game “does not include the whole school” or “celebrate the diversity of interests of our students, nor does it encourage appreciation for the skills and/or expertise developed here at South.”

By this logic, Newton South should cancel varsity football too.