Education Editorial: Grades and athletics

By: Bill Bosher - email

In the mid 80's, wealthy Texan and later Presidential candidate, Ross Perot, initiated a hotly debated "No Pass, No Play" policy… Students had to pass in order to participate in high school athletics.

While the law remains in place, many changes have been made as schools try to "game" the system. The focus is on students passing English and math… not electives that reflect little rigor and no impact on basic skills. At the college level many critics are highlighting the commercialization of athletics.  The president of Ol' Miss said that commercialized sports are a destructive force in American Higher Education and economist Andrew Zimbalist calls college athletes "Unpaid Professionals".

While having coached in high school and played ball in college, I am a big fan of athletics and the role that it can play in the lives of young people and schools. But there must be a balance. As Richmond and Henrico are engaged in raising the requirement to participate to a 2.0 (C), young people and adults, parents and teachers, must remember that school is about academics… skills and knowledge.

But there are some cautions. While athletics are clearly not the primary reason for schools, they are the primary reason for some young people coming to school. While I would agree that students should not participate if they are failing, sports are the motivation for some to pass. Perhaps you should analyze the grade point averages of athletes and compare them with the non-athletes. You may be surprised! Lastly, don't make it more difficult to play ball than to get a driver's license…the later is clearly a greater distraction.

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