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One school gets the glory, the other is forgotten

Wignall's World

Mark Wignall

Sunday, September 02, 2012    

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IN 2005, six members of the 'brand name' high school's Manning Cup squad were actually transferees from other high schools whose names had never enjoyed the light of glory.

Two were transferred from Pembroke Hall in grade nine, two from Edith Dalton James in grade 10, one from Mona High in grade seven, and one from Clan Carthy in grade eight.

In 2007, that same brand name high school found itself at the mercy of a bigger brand name high school. At that time, the bigger brand's football success was in the ascendancy and it was able to snatch four sixth formers who were established football stars. The bigger brand name was also able to secure two transferees from Pembroke Hall and Hydel.

In 2007, 10 of the 11-member Manning Cup squad of the more popular school were boys 'imported' for the main purpose of playing football.

In 2010, the bigger brand name was again on the hunt for talent and this time it sought those boys who had demonstrated their special talent from primary school days but who had just arrived at high school in grade seven. Immediately on arrival in grade seven they were transferred.

Two from Calabar, two from Hydel, one from Portmore, one from Tarrant, and three others from schools that many parents wish their children would never attend. In 2010, nine members of the bigger brand name's Manning Cup squad were imported for the main purpose of playing football.

In 2009, another brand name high school in Kingston had 64 per cent of its full Manning Cup squad as originating from other high schools, most of them schools which had never basked in the glory of either a Champs or Manning Cup win.

In 2011, that same brand name high school was on steroids in its recruitment drive. Just under 60 per cent of its full Manning Cup squad were from schools like Mona High, Hydel, Waterford, Meadowbrook, Ardenne, and Trench Town and others not so well spoken of in terms of either athletic glory or scholastic achievement.

Sports is now big business here and especially in the USA.

At the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre the Professor and Chairman in Plastic Surgery, a highly specialised field is paid US$1.75 million per year.

The Professor and chairman in molecular genetics, another field requiring lengthy, specialised training is paid US$611,600 per annum.

At the University of Texas Health Science Centre at Houston the professor, chair in orthopedic surgery is paid a healthy US$1.2 million.

An even healthier situation exists at the University of Texas at Austin where the head coach is paid an annual salary of US$5.27 million!

In a choice between turning out on the field and conducting research in the lab, what is the poor boy to do?

In March of this year the Principal of Spaldings High spoke out very boldly against the policy of 'importation' on a programme on NewsTalk 93 FM. He mentioned, among other things, his negative experiences with the practice, and how he almost lost his star athlete Simoya Campbell, the favourite to win the 800 & 1500M races at 'Champs'.

He didn't say which were the brand name 'sports oriented' high schools attempting to steal her, but I have a fair idea of which ones would be in the line-up.

In one year, five members of an all-conquering Manning Cup squad represented Jamaica in the under-17 World Cup. The myopic would say, good for them and great for the school. I would find it difficult to deny these youngsters their sports successes, but the question that is hardly ever asked, or, is being asked loudly by only one man, Dr Lascelves 'Muggy' Graham, former ace footballer for St George's College and Jamaica (1960s) is, what of the other schools from which these boys were 'snatched'.

The politically correct answer is, it were the boys or their parents who requested the transfers. The reality is, there are schools in the system where recruiting is an active part of school policy, but more active is the denial that any such policy exists.

What is the purpose of a high school education

The world's most famous track athlete, Usain Bolt, attended the then little known William Knibb High School in Trelawny.

Bolt was a natural in track, and quite probably was approached by recruiters from Kingston and St Andrew-based brand name high schools. Were this so, and had he taken the bait, William Knibb High School would not now be seen on Google as Usain Bolt's high school and the glory and attention would have been showered on the school which arranged the importation.

The sad thing is, these brand name schools in their sports recruitment policy (which is not a policy they know anything of, they will say) are socio-educational parasites, simply because each year their main purpose seems to be to suck the lifeblood out of the lesser-known schools.

Let us accept one fact. Not all students attending high schools will excel in both sports and academics. Not many will excel in sports. The vast majority will not be A- students.

They key ought to be to expose our children to the best that a well-rounded education can give and that includes exposure to classroom instruction and honing a sound body on the field. Most of our high schools have excellent sports programmes and coaches but, once the pressure of recruitment is applied to a 'no name' school and it is picked dry of all of its sports talent, the coach is automatically demoralised, as he has to begin all over again the process of identifying talent and bringing it up to speed. If within another six months he produces another track or football hopeful, the parasites strike again and he is left totally deflated.

In writing in the New York Times of March 15 of this year, Gary Gutting said in relation to tertiary education, 'By lowering academic standards for athletes, universities help to marginalize the intellectual enterprise.'

Most of our brand name high schools are fully sold on the idea and reality of 'a healthy mind in a healthy body'. Unfortunately, a few of them remain unconvinced that the stock of students they receive in grade seven (first form) ought to be the stock from which both their athletes and scholars will emerge.

One suspects that as the coaches go on a raid, the head of the school administration conveniently plays the three monkeys, 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.'

While there must be a place for the student who is a natural athlete but is slow at his academics, it cannot be fair that a student athlete at a brand name high school, who desperately wants to turn out for his team while balancing his studies, often finds himself thrown aside because ready-made talent was imported and space on the team become restricted.

In reality, the heads of these schools become mere pawns in the hands of the coaches as the school scores higher for sporting prowess than for academic achievement. And once the sporting victories pile up, the easier it becomes for the schools to attract funding from its past students organisations.

I can recall the case of a coach at a no name school trying to work wonders there, all to no avail. As soon as he brought athletes to the forefront they were snatched. A few years later he left and joined a high school which was big in the business of importation.

In short time be became a 'champion coach', not because he was doing anything different but because he had a ready-made stock of star athletes.

Many high schools will deny that importation exists there, but my research indicates otherwise. It waters down what ought to be the full high school experience, where every school begins on an equal footing. With importation we consign some schools, the 'no name' ones to a lack of exposure and a shot at their own bit of glory, while concentrating the successes only on a few schools, mostly in Kingston and St Andrew.

Makes one wonder who is in charge at these schools. The coaches or the headmasters.

It would be interesting to hear from the schools as the names are brought out. That will be next.

When politics make us all fools

It seems that as the days roll on it is becoming more difficult for this PNP Administration to convince us that it has any sound idea as to the way forward.

Hardly anything is being said apart from the fact that our agricultural output is woefully inadequate. In plain language, we cannot feed ourselves. If we cannot feed ourselves and we have to rely on others to do it (borrowed funds) we are one of the following- children, pets or mendicants.

Many bold-faced lies are usually bandied about during election campaigns. Some are now beginning to haunt the ruling PNP, who like a four-footed canine, barked at the car, chased it and as the car stopped, the panting animal could only respond in the only way available to it; it soiled a wheel.

If we were searching for examples from our big brother to the north on how to approach political campaigning, we would be mortified and plainly scared at the yawning at abyss into which the US Presidential campaign has sunk.

First, it has been somewhat accepted that Barack Obama, an African American, won the last elections in 2008. What seems too terrible to absorb among many white voters is that he actually occupies the White House. Oh, dear me, when is he going to leave by the back door.

The GOP or Republican party has stirred up the ants nest of quiet racism and it doesn't seem so quiet anymore. Bold faced lies, distortions and coded barbs tinged with racism are being hurled at the Obama Administration, but moreso, Obama himself.

I was pleasantly surprised at Condoleeza Rice's speech at the GOP convention where some thought that maybe she would have ripped into some foreign policy failing of Obama and give the many bigots on the RNC floor something else to chew on.

Not Rice. She was the picture of decorum and as a polished African American academic and policy specialist, her speech made the Republicans seem more like angry school bullies brought to their knees by someone so much unlike them.

The venomous WASPS could learn a thing or two from Condoleeza Rice. One, she is miles ahead of them in simply showing that America is better than what the GOP has made it out to be.

Two, she taught them the power of a solid intellect artfully mixed with simple good manners. Third, there was no way in which she was going to rag on her 'brotha' especially where it was undeserved and, in front of that bunch of angry biting ants.

Our politicians should borrow something from Dr Rice, but one suspects that that they are too busy planning how to bamboozle us into voting for them at the next elections.

Ah, the only true success of the PNP. Winning elections.

observemark@gmail.com

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