LETTER: Don't put athletics before education

To the editor: It’s time to step-up. Our education has been put on the back burner to rest for far too long. Our standards are low, our priorities are skewed and our schools are failing. We cannot stay this course thinking that Michigan nor America as a whole can continue to lead in education, if that is even true at this time. I feel there are great changes that need to be made in our education. Compared to the world, we are not very competitive educationally. We are becoming less influential and producing a lower quality of student than other countries in the world. If you don’t believe me watch the documentary “Two Million Minutes” for a good perspective or simply ask one of the many exchange students that come to Evart for their opinion on our educational system versus theirs. You will realize that our emphasis is no longer on academics and is putting our schools at a grave disadvantage. I say that and everyone will look to Lansing. Though Lansing plays a part so do parents, school boards and voters. We do not prioritize academics. Let me give a huge example that will cause many to be up-in-arms, but note what YOU are prioritizing and what is most beneficial to the future of our students. Years ago due to now outdated medical concerns, kids not showing up for non-required education and fiscal limitations; schools reduced their year and took a three month hiatus in the summer (Reference: http://www.slate.com/id/2170230/). School is now required and the medical concerns are no longer present yet we continue to neglect the academic importance of our students by giving them three months off causing a greater hindrance at the start of the new school year. As I said, many will think this is foolish and unimportant, but let’s look our new educational emphasis for a better view. The new American education system values athletics over academics. This is our emphasis and will be our downfall if continued. If you don’t believe me, read the paper. The last few weeks have had articles reporting this trend (Articles are from the Osceola Edition of the Pioneer). On June 29, 2011: Coach Sims is talking about the summer baseball season and has this quote, “…when your kids also have basketball on Mondays and Wednesdays and football plus baseball, that’s a lot to put on a kid during the summer.” Despite all those sports going on during the summer, Coach Sims adds, “My plans for next year is to have open fields on Sunday nights…” Sports practices for school continue all summer. Coaches see that as important and parents must as well or their kids wouldn’t be there. The board must also or they wouldn’t have it. That’s not Lansing, that’s us. This isn’t a bash on sports, nor Coach Sims. I appreciate their dedication. We must have the same dedication to our education. Sports all year reflects our values and provides us with a lesson. Here’s the lesson, “while athletics may be important enough to play all year, academics apparently are not.” Why should they be? Let’s ask a football player and basketball coach. On June 29, 2011: Football player and senior captain Brady Hasse has this note about summer football workouts, “If we didn’t’ have any summer workouts like this, I don’t think we’d be fit to play football during the season. We wouldn’t know all the plays and wouldn’t be strong and have enough endurance.” On July 6, 2011: Evart’s basketball coach, Matt Alexander says this about summer practices, “…it’s definitely important to keep the guys in a basketball mentality. If they pick up a basketball November through March, put it down and don’t pick it up again until November, it really hurts. They have to play basketball all year long.” Did you note why they see football and basketball during the summer as important? If they don’t then they won’t be ready for the next year. They’ll forget the plays and they won’t have the strength they need to make it through the games. Now apply our athletic lessons to academics. Students take three months in a row off. They don’t read much, don’t focus on math and forget what they learned before. In September, teachers now have to spend their time rebuilding the foundation that was taken away during that time. What a waste! We need to step up. Other countries spend way more time than us on academics. They focus on a raised standard rather than lowering it for those who can’t make it. They are getting ahead and we are falling way behind. Yes, Lansing should give more money, an entire article in itself. But we can’t wait for something that may never happen. School boards need to make quality teachers a priority and change their calendar. Take extra time off from Thanksgiving to New Years and give one month off in the summer. But they are scared to do it because parents will raise the biggest voice of discontent. Parents, you need to step up. Talk to your board members and let them know that academics are important. Write to your congressman and let them know that you will not vote for them if they don’t help out our schools. I’m not trying to bash all decisions of parents, school boards or Lansing. There are many good ones. This is one to make our education and our students more successful and competitive in the world, not simply with the school down the road. Step up and do what’s best rather than the lower standard our country has come to expect.

Layton Dutton Evart