Let's not sacrifice our schools for a fleeting moment

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

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Mr James Moss-Solomon has again highlighted an issue that should be of grave concern to the country but which, we fear, is not getting the requisite attention and action, especially from school administrators, parents and guardians who are responsible for nurturing students.

Mr Moss-Solomon, in an article published in this newspaper yesterday with the kind permission of online publication Public Opinion — which is populated with thought-provoking columns — revisited the issue of sports being given primacy over education at our high schools.

That matter was thrust under the public spotlight a few weeks ago before the annual Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Championships after a dispute at Calabar High School between a physics teacher and members of the school's celebrated track team.

Much has already been said about that issue which, we are told, is not yet over as the teacher has retained an attorney.

Mr Moss-Solomon, though, has described as unfortunate the decision of some traditional boys' schools to bend the traditions that made them famous and respected in pursuit of sporting prowess.

“Gone is the veneration of Jamaica scholars, Rhodes scholars, leaders in every possible profession,” he argued. “They are replaced by the glory of sporting activities that do not produce the commensurate success to sustain their alumni for life.”

He reminded readers that former Jamaican football Captain Dr Lascelve “Muggy” Graham has, over many decades, argued about schools “buying” athletes and whether or not the practice in any way enhances the academic prowess of those students.

“So let us avoid the senseless defence of a practice that produces only one star per 1,000; and one superstar per 10,000; and destroys the opportunity for extra-curricular physical engagement in schools for the general population,” Mr Moss-Solomon wrote.

“The burning desire for victory at all costs must be recognised in many ways as a flame that consumes instead of protecting the young minds with whose nurture we have all been entrusted. Parents, teachers, alumni, communities must recognise their roles as part of a broad introduction to lifelong skills, not just nine points at Champs,” he added.

Mr Moss-Solomon is, of course, absolutely correct. We are not here advocating that schools should give up competitive sports. After all, sports should instil in youngsters discipline and the life lesson that it is not whether you win but how you play the game.

However, sports cannot, and should not, replace focus on academics. For even with the attractive economic earning power that several sporting disciplines offer today, the cold, hard fact is that only a few of the athletes who represent their school in either track and field, football, or basketball advance to the professional level.

In September 2017, another of Public Opinion's columnists — who uses the pseudonym The Laird — pointed out that the jobs that are now in high demand are computer programmers, mathematicians, those who write software or code, the masters of algorithms, physicists, and computer maintenance engineers.

This is a reality that adults charged with growing and guiding youngsters need to recognise.

Yes, the exceptionally talented sportsman or woman will emerge, but let's not sacrifice our schools for a fleeting moment of entertainment.

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