Monday, February 20, 2012

Homey Does Play Dat

All Through The Night - US Elevator (mp3)
Black Crow - Greylag (mp3)

We’re on the cusp of turning our public schools into a buffet line at the K&W.

Thanks to Tim Tebow -- yes, one more thing we can blame on the guy -- lawmakers in Virginia are about to move forward on a measure that’s been heavily debated in Tennessee, Indiana, and other states. The law will allow home-schooled kids to participate in public school activities and sports.

Don't kid yourself; mostly this is about football. And then mostly about sports in general. But it also covers debate, mock trial, orchestra, chorus... anything that’s an afternoon activity, basically.

Unfortunately, because we know the world of politics and obsession revolve solely around sports, and because we know Tim Tebow is the fluffy endangered white seal pup of conservative activists, you can be damn sure lawmakers haven’t actually thought about the actual or potential long-term ramifications of their law. They just want to save other baby seal pup quarterbacks from dying of neglect out in the frozen home school tundra.

Unintended Consequence #1: Classes
If a home-schooled student has the right to try out for and participate on a public school’s athletic team, what kind of sensible legal line will prevent these kids from cherry-picking specific academic courses? Perhaps the parents have concerns about the English curriculum but have heard great things about the chemistry and calculus classes. If the kid can play football and join the drama club, why not just show up for 4th Period Math and 7th Period Science?

This won’t happen right away. But once you put a crack in this dam and let home-school families treat parts of the public school experience like a buffet line, it seems inevitable.

Unintended Consequence #2: Private School Kids?
Is there a legal difference between the rights of a home-schooled kid and a private-schooled kid? I’m not sure there is. Both families pay taxes, supposedly, and both have the same rights to a public education, and both have chosen a different route. But if the home-schooled kid can now participate in sports, why not a private-schooled kid?

If this law passes, it will only be a matter of time before a kid attending a small private parochial school with limited athletic offerings petitions to join a public school football team or some other squad that his own school can’t field. And once that barrier breaks down, a lot of budget-crunched private schools will start contemplating whether they could survive just as well by removing athletics from their offerings and just busing interested students to their respective zoned schools in the afternoons.

Unintended Consequence #3: Cost
The Virginia bill acknowledges that opening this door will have unexpected costs for public schools, and it attempts to address this problem by charging fees to students who wish to participate. This will be the first big leap into making standard what has already become de rigeur in a number of public schools: charging add-on fees for “add-on” activities like music, arts, and athletics. If you think the bake sales for the marching band are bad, wait until each student on a public school team has to start paying several hundred dollars, maybe even into the four-figure amounts, in order to cover transportation, pay for coaches, and contribute to the upkeep of fields and courts.

Unintended Consequence #4: Big Loophole
Ever heard of a student who became ineligible to play a sport because he or she was failing out of school? Well, you won’t be hearing about that much longer after this law passes. If a student is failing out of school because he or she doesn’t do any work, or can’t read, or is just plain incapable, instead of failing, they’ll become home-schoolers!

If we’ve learned anything about schools and sports, it’s that more than a few coaches are willing to bend and break any rule possible if it gives them a competitive advantage. What better way to keep Bubba and Calvin playing than to keep them out of actual classes and just call them “home-schooled”? They can stay at home all day and master their skills at Call of Duty and Madden 13 and “Deadliest Catch,” and all they have to do is show up in the afternoons in pads and keep playing for you. This, my friends, is a dirty coach’s dream.

And if they’re out of zone? One nice big apartment should comfortably house at least a half-dozen boys and an XBox. Problem solved. Hell, this part happens now, but at least they have to sit in classes and pretend to give a shit... until this law passes.

Unintended Consequence #5: Education Revolution
The sky is not falling. I’m not playing the part of Chicken Little here.

In the nerdy circles of educational philosophy and revolution, the #edchat types who wonder when schools are at long last going to finally rethink how they operate and what purpose they serve, the Tebow Law will create a hole in the once-immovable brick wall. Once a school becomes a buffet line, the entire system must inevitably adjust to the new realities.

If parents and students become empowered to choose their activities (and, by connection, their teachers/coaches/advisors), then suddenly a democratization has entered into the teacher evaluation concept. If your students become free agents, your job becomes about finding ways to prove your value to them. Same with coaches.

The system would have to change. Adaptation would require seismic shifts.

Granted, this part is a stretch, and we’re talking a decade or more down the road, if ever. But if World War I can begin with the assassination of an arch-duke no one gave a shit about, then a national educational reinvention can start with something as poorly-considered and pathetically-motivated as The Tebow Law.

Stranger things have happened. Just ask Tim.


cinderkeys said...

If your students become free agents, your job becomes about finding ways to prove your value to them.

As for everybody!

troutking said...

Good post, Billy. Not the lighthearted break from work I was looking for but still...