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One Guy’s Opinion by Guy Thompson - Common Sense


It is no secret that people love sports.

They fight over them. Endlessly, it seems.

They follow them as if the sports (or more specifically, the teams) were religions. They buy loads of clothing, cups, hats, car accessories, and teddy bears, as long as the items have the right team and the right player number on them. (In full disclosure, I have a sport or two I follow just as eagerly.)

And going to watch their exalted team play in person is not cheap. Assuming there is money left after the tickets are purchased, there the cost of getting there. Parking (you’d be surprised.) Food costs that are real eye openers. And, of course, stuff with the team’s mascot, logo and player numbers on them.

After all, it’s all stuff a true devotee of the sport must have.

Without a care in the world, we pour billions of dollars into sports each year.

Therefore, I propose we use our passion for sports to improve education in America. It is, like all ideas of this sort, very simple.

We hold a draft.

Potential Kindergartners will be ranked based on scouting reports done at the preschool level. Imagine, if you will, scouts going from preschool to preschool, clipboards in hand, seeing which kid is fast in math. Quick on her feet in writing. Able to stack colored blocks without blinking an eye.

They take these scouting reports back to school districts and make their recommendations. “You want Johnny, who is incredibly sharp when it comes to not running with scissors.” “I suggest we take Susan in the first round. She will add a lot of depth to our math team.” “We could really use a power player in our reading comprehensive area. We need someone like Paul or Mary. They have a lot of drive.”

Exciting, isn’t it?

Parents would certainly find this thrilling, knowing that their son or daughter is being courted by specific schools. True, there may not be much of a choice if their child is drafted by a specific school. There would also be a chance that the school would be far away.

But those are fairly minor downsides. If your kid has the skills that schools are seeking, you know it’ll be a top school, one that has a chance to make it to the playoffs of the Spell Bowl or the Academic Team finals. Parents, think of all of the perks of having your child in the finals at the Great American Think Tank playoffs. I bet you could get great seats thanks to having your son or daughter on that team. Perhaps the schools will evolve like most sports have – a minor league system that will train the students before they hit the big leagues. Elementary schools, then, will be associated with specific upper level schools, let’s call them “High Schools.” Perhaps there would be a middle step in there between the two. (Not quite sure what they would be called, though.)

Within these farm schools, students’ skills will be honed. Those who lack in one area, say math or science, can be brought up to speed over the course of, oh, I don’t know, four or five years, before being called up to the next level. There, at these, let’s call them “Middle Schools” for now (sorry, that’s the best I can do), they will begin to refine their talents. Coaches and managers at this level will work with each student to zero in on his or her best skills and begin that look at what position is best for them once they called up to the big leagues – High School. (Yeah. That probably needs a better name, too. Something with a bit more flash to it.)

Once the student has made it to this level, there are a few givens, based on the sports model. For instance, many will begin to show signs of specialization. In most sports, players don’t tackle every position. They become really good at their spot. Students, then, would have the opportunity to specialize, taking both general classes and classes that interest them for future careers, once they’ve had to retire from the school system.

Like many sports, I see the failing of this system in being that many careers in the school leagues will stop after relatively few years – 13, or so – when they should keep going.

During their years in the upper leagues, students will, based on the sports model again, gain a fan base. A following of people who will watch what they do, living vicariously as the student wins or loses.

If the education system would restructure itself to follow the sports model, in no time at all, the public will be more than willing to pour its money into education, buying the jerseys of their favorite student or paying scalpers so they can be sitting courtside for the Science Fair finals. True, the public may be asked to pay to upgrade some schools so that classrooms now have luxury skyboxes and a jumbotron. I, for one, would be okay with that.

The only thing that worries me about this whole setup? The rabid fans who show up shirtless and the team name or player number painted on distended bellies. I’m hoping we can skip that part.

(I would like to thank Colin Chaulk from the Ft. Wayne Komets for putting the image of teams scouting students in my head.)