It's time for a revolution in this country. For far too long we have labored under the crushing weight of state-endorsed sports-obsession. For too long we have suffered from the oppression of the elitest athletic groups in our schools. Our schools are supposed to be places of learning. They are supposed to be sanctuaries of education. But they have been dominated by the political sports faction until the ideals of education have been all but extinguished. Yes, there are instructors who emphasize learning over athletics but they are in a constant struggle with the athletic director and his cadre of brown-shirts for funds and support. What is the first thing that catches your attention as you approach a high school? A life-sized picture of the school's sports team mascot! What's the first thing you see when you enter a high school's front door? Trophies! Cabinet after cabinet of sports trophies! Why? What message does that send?
The goal of high school is to produce quality sports teams and teach us that athletes are more important than students and education. This fact is evident by the way student-athletes are given preferential treatment; they are issued and required to wear special coats so that everyone can identify them and recognize their authority. The priviledged student-athlete gets to do pretty much as they want. If a student athlete shows up late for school it's no big deal. They have reserved parking spots. Regular students have to find their own parking. To keep the masses indoctrinated, the school sponsors monthly "Assemblies" where the student athletes are introduced one by one --by the principal --as they enter the auditorium as if they were royalty. They have reserved seating in the front row. The masses are forced to listen as the female auxillary, a group of surreal female clowns, sing the praises of the privileged class. Because of the obvious privileged status bestowed on these "athletes" by the administration, everyone wants to be a member of the privileged class but they can't. The jocks and the female auxillary are the most popular members of the student body and most likely to be elected as class president. The yearbook, a tome produced by students 10 times smarter than jocks, devotes over a quarter of its contents to the athletes and their accomplishments. There are pictures hung in all the halls of this year's star athletes. There are glass cases with shelves and shelves of their trophies and accolades. The school mascot's sole purpose is to cheer on the athletes. The school has an official song they sing about the athletic students and their daring exploits. The school website's primary focus is sports teams and scores. School is all about the jocks and the cheerleaders. And the rest of us can go to hell.
High schools have three major components. Sports teams, a marching band, and cheerleaders. The purpose of the sports teams is obvious: to demonstrate the superiority of the ruling class. The band serves two purposes. Most importantly it heralds the arrival of the privileged class as they arrive at games. Secondly, it gives purpose to those students who weren't allowed to join the elite class. It allows them to be near the top and delude themselves into believing that they "belong". The cheerleaders perform a similar utility. They are the propaganda wing of the sports party. They sing the praises of the jocks at school "assemblies" and at games. These three units comprise the essense of what high school is. Together they form an interlocking arrangement of status and privilege designed to exclude the educated.
Another indication of how necessary sports are to high school is their use as a connection between the school and former students. After students graduate and move on to real life, they join booster clubs and athletic associations, political organizations focused on the continuance of the status quo. Through these legitimate organizations, members contribute money to expand the schools' sports programs. You don't see any Audio/Visual clubs after graduation, do you? And what about the importance of televised high school football games? And the next day's commentary in the town newspaper? If sports weren't the most important part of high school, they wouldn't receive this kind of news coverage! You don't see the Chess Club or the Drama Club on TV, do you? Yes, sports are integral and the reason schools exist in the first place. And being a member of the football team (or a cheerleading female clown) is clearly far more important than being educated or getting good grades!
I don't understand this culture of ignorance. Less than 10% of the school body ever belongs to the privileged class. Yet we all go along and accept what's shoveled out at assemblies. We all just accept that we're second class citizens and that's just the way it is. We're so accustomed to our position and stature that we don't even question this insanity!
WHY do we have to attend assemblies to praise the jocks?!
WHY are sports so important to the school?!
WHY is fully as much real estate devoted to the playing fields as to the school?
WHY is more money spent on athletic gear, field maintenance and lighting, and athletic programs than on books or lab equipment and computers?!
WHY is the school's sign board only used to announce school games?!
WHY is sports more important than learning when most of us aren't included?!
It's time to end this insanity and take back our schools NOW!
Restore Our Dignity! As non-jocks, the school administration has already identified us as the lowest-level student, good only for federal grant money, and we have already settled to the bottom of the student stratification scale. But it's not enough that we've been relegated to the bottom rung of society. The administration wants to drive home the jock-superiority lesson and extinguish the last shred of our self-esteem by subjecting us to that mandatory daily humiliation: gym class.
Gym class is where jocks hold court and for people like me, it means one thing: shame. First there is the daily indignity of being chosen last for some random game and then there is the hour of abuse by my team mates as I stumble and fail to meet their expectations. And finally, there is the sense of helplessness and impotence as I try to escape this hopeless situation but am firmly and indignantly denied.
Yes, I was always picked last. I don't know why. As far as I know, I was as graceful as any clumsy teenager. But I was probably much less enthusiastic. Although I didn't have strong feelings one way or the other, I had no real interest in playing. Our coach, a sullen, pot-bellied man, showed no interest in our class and just wanted us out of his hair as quickly as possible.
At the start of a typical gym class, as the crowd of us boys waited expectantly in the gym, he would drag himself out of the coach's office and announce which game we were going to play that day. He barked out the names of the two boys he always named as captains and ordered them to choose sides and then play until the bell rang. Then he dragged himself back into his office and closed the door. I don't know how these two boys came to be recognized as our default team captains but they somehow always were. They were the loudest and toughest. They're probably car salesmen today or managers at Ace Hardware.
I can say, without reservation, that I am an expert on the dynamics of high school team choosing. As the person always chosen last, waiting and hoping every day that maybe this day I might be chosen 23rd or 24th maybe instead of dead last, I have had plenty of time to examine the process. Boys waiting to be chosen for one team or another may be loosely classified into three broad groups. First there is the golden group, the boys who are always assured of being among the first five or six names called. You know who they are: the popular guys. The guys with mustaches and girlfriends. Then there are the average guys, guys who would be friends with someone like me, who probably had never been chosen last in their lives. And then there was the small group of us kids who squirmed in agony as the names were called: the friendly artist kid, the kid who always wore a coat, even in summer, the stoner guy, and me.
The choosing was more of a popularity contest than an ordering of skill level. The friends of the team captains were always chosen first whether they had talent or not. Then the most enthusiastic, pick me! pick me! boys were picked up one by one. And then the remainder was scrutinized for any overlooked proven performers and then it was just a matter of luck. And argument.
The choosing of sides always went on until the only kids left were us. And neither team captain wanted any of us and they argued bitterly over having to accept any of us but grudgingly picked us, one by one, until only I was left. It's hard to describe how embarrassing it was to be forced on a team that didn't want me, every single day. To be chosen last, and only chosen at all because the choosing had to go on until no one was left. To be utterly unwanted and despised.
I wish I could say that we four untouchables had some sort of comradery and found solace in each other as a way to endure our shared shame but it wasn't like that. Each of so desperately wanted to avoid being chosen last that we would have gladly sabotaged each other to avoid that fate ourselves. That's the way it is when you're in high school.
End mandatory humiliation now! Take back our schools and restore academic achievement as our goal!