I am continuing my reflections for Advent, which is the four-week period before Christmas. This week I look at the sort of example that we are setting for children. Dr Lascelve Graham has been writing extensively about the whole business of buying athletes at the high school level. He argues quite correctly that it not only gives unfair competition, but it is unfair to the other students in the school who are unable to enter the school on academic performance.
To recap from my column last week, "Getting bad or got bad", Roman Catholics remember the sinful world that Jesus Christ entered, which was the reason for his coming. It occurred to me when the column was published that some might have been confused about the difference between Advent and Lent. Both seasons - not only Lent - are times of reflection and confession. Advent is about preparation for the arrival of Jesus and we symbolically re-enact the coming of Jesus at Christmas. The preparation for the coming of Jesus is in recollection and confession as is done in Lent, which is about Jesus' agony in the garden before He died for our sins.
My column of June 7 this year, "Corruption in high school sports", was written in support of Dr Graham's position. One reader who argued that what I wrote did nothing to enhance the argument of Dr Graham amused me. Dr Graham was the first person to e-mail me to express thanks. Today I write about it in the context of Advent. What example is being set to students with this talent-buying business? Is it really about giving poor youth a chance? How could it be, when there are poor youth with academic ability that could benefit even more?
It seems to me to be about money, but not only from overseas alumni who give donations to their alma mater. In my opinion, it is also about the local agents for the low-standard universities in the United States of America who need to advertise their colleges but cannot afford advertising. So they need students who will enter the athletic competitions who place first, second or third. This in turn becomes newspaper headlines which are splashed around the world, giving free advertisements to the colleges.
How do they get top athletes who can make newspaper and TV headline news, when in the USA athletes can have their pick of the best universities? The answer is to get them from the Third World where poor teenagers are longing to get a chance to go to America or Canada. So they have their agents who are paid to deliver these athletes to them, and how do the agents do it? By scouting out runners all over Jamaica.
The school "wins" when the publicity brings in money from alumni, the student "wins" when he gets to go to a high school and a foreign-based college, and the agent "wins" when he is paid by the foreign-based college on delivery of the athletes. And up to now all of this is perfectly legal, but is it moral? And when you teach youngsters that it is all right to win in a dishonest way, then do we wonder why there is so much corruption in Jamaica and why it continues literally from the days of the pirate Henry Morgan?
The coach of the Jamaica College football team lost his temper at the Walker Cup finals and had to be restrained. But although the coach's behaviour was inappropriate, was he speaking the truth when he accused the match officials of dishonesty? Many seem to be content to stop at disciplining the coach for his behaviour, but do not want to investigate further. Why? What is there to hide? And if the coach was speaking the truth, then shouldn't we also look at the way things are done in schoolboy sporting competitions? If the JC coach's inappropriate behaviour brings about fair play, then he is a pioneer.
In November 1970, I was a prefect at Jamaica College. At that time there was an annual high school science competition which was called the "Science Exhibition", and was held in the National Arena in November every year. One prominent high school for girls won although they did not prepare an exhibit. Their "exhibit" was a Jamaica Defence Force helicopter, which was flown to the Arena and hauled inside by male soldiers who also explained the exhibit. That was 42 years ago. As I wrote last week, things are not getting bad. They got bad a long time ago.
Just as with the buying of athletic talent, the science competition incident gave the impression to youngsters that it is perfectly all right to cheat to win. And it was also perfectly legal: no law was breached at all. But morally, it was an outrage. And again my concern is the bad example that was set to teenagers, which continues to this day. I am sick and tired of the attitude that "everyone is doing it, so what's the big deal?" We keep sweeping dust under the carpet; the dust continues to pile up then penetrates the carpet until it reaches the surface. And simply finding a church to go to at Christmas is not enough. Repentance is needed.