by LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs
(CNN) - The first "cup" was used in hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.
That joke's been circulating on the Internet for years. And while it is funny, it's also an embarrassing observation about our past carelessness. But before we start congratulating ourselves about how "advanced" we are now, we should make note of this one little factoid: For much of the country, high school football practice started last month, and for much of the country, high school classes start next month.
Given where our high schoolers rank globally in reading, math and science, that is essentially putting the cup before the helmet in the 21st century.
Here again are the numbers: 14th out of 34 nations in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Again - 25th in math. No wonder we keep saying we're No. 1; there's a chance many of us can't count much higher than that.
But it's not just sports. School bands, orchestras, and dance groups head back a month prior to school starting.
To add to that, every kid who participates in an extracurricular activity is probably practicing/exercising/conditioning all summer as well, but is that a bad thing?
It's been shown in multiple studies, a high schooler who shows such focus can help them with academics. During the Olympics, ABC had a segment where it showed 80% of women who are successful business women (CEO's, etc) were in team sports because it promoted a strong self-esteem and helped them learn to work with others.
The problem I have is when the extracurriculars take up far too much time or the parents expect more out of the extracurricular performance than academics. My father, an avid sports fan, always pushed the books before practice and made it no secret that if we started to fall in our grades, we were out of band and/or sports.
Yes, sports is emphasized and at times (more often than should) is placed higher than what is learned in the classroom, but it really boils down to the parents to make sure their children understand the benefits, balance, and advantage of being in both.
My point was that as long as some areas in the US hold football and cheerleading as, or more, important than classroom academics football practice has to of necessity start earlier than the formal semester. If all students approached academic excellence with the same enthusiasm as those who try out for HS athletics the US would rank #1 across the board in all academic polls. Why isn't this happening? I could offer so many many reasons!
Because sports are more important than academics, of course! Most kids in America are more interested in throwing balls in baskets, etc. than learning. If we are serious about academics, we should get rid of sports in schools. This is how it is in most parts of the world. In Germany, sports are played in local clubs, not in the schools. German schools are more focused on academics, imagine that. We have way too much emphasis on sports and not enough focus on academics. Think about it!
Also true in Italy. We had an Italian exchange stay with us last year. He was surprised about the emphasis on sports on the school. sports in Italy are club oriented.
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Apples and oranges.....So in a high school of say 3000 students, maybe 100 will turnout for early conditioning...Maybe half will play ball for a varsity team that school year. If they are lucky, there may a paid staff of five. The team plays its first game maybe during the second week that school is open for fall semester. So you really need extra time to get the boys in shape, teach them how to play the game, and what plays the team will run. When school starts is up to the local or state board and has nothing to do with the football team. Oh, and remember, summer
school is just ending when football
practic e begins.
Not apples and oranges at all. What happens if these players don't get the extra time they "need" to play well? Answer: Their performance on the football field suffers. What happens if these students don't get the extra time they need in order to not be ranked 14th out of 34 nations in reading? Answer: THEY DON'T LEARN HOW TO READ. Clearly, one of these is a larger travesty than the other. If you're going to start something early, shouldn't it be the thing that – Oh, I don't know – MATTERS IN LIFE EVEN ONE SCINTILLA???????????????????
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at email@example.com