The battle rages on: Sports vs. education

by Glenn Kaplan

In high school, I had a history teacher who worked exceedingly hard to impart his vast knowledge upon students. Every night and most weekends, Mr. Chotiner worked long hours, grading papers and painstakingly developing lesson plans. With his Ph.D. and years of experience as a professional educator, he made a solid $32,000.

Man-child Kevin Garnett dunks a basketball, rookie quarterback Peyton Manning throws a football, and idiot Albert Belle hits a baseball. None of them contribute to the growth of our society or the education of the children who will one day become senators, congressmen, and presidents. Collectively, these athletes will make in excess of $100 million over the next few seasons.

This is counter-intuitive. Who is more important, educators or athletes? If one was to formulate an answer to this query based on salaries, the level of media attention, and societal investment, the answer is clear, albeit misguised. And the lesson? Build more stadiums, acquire more franchises and build fewer schools.

But why? Why do we insist on investing in astro-turf and not the minds of the nation's youth? Where are our priorities, our heads? Why is our collective conscious out drinking a beer, eating a dog and watching a ball game when it could be at home, helping our children with their math homework?

The answer is as baffling as a Greg Maddux curveball, but one must step to the plate and give it a shot.

A few years ago, Elihu Harris, then mayor of Oakland, shelled out millions of taxpayer dollars in order to entice the Raiders back to the Bay Area. At the same time, the Oakland public school district was in the midst of a teacher's strike and in fiscal ruin. A year later, with the Raiders in town, Harris was soundly re-elected. Sports, nothing more than a form of popular entertainment, beat out education in the minds of the voting public.

Glory in knowledge takes patience and time, but reveling in sports is immediate, easy. We, as a society, want to be distracted, to avoid problems and to be entertained. Our highest priorities are the touchdown and the home run, not the A+.

Unfortunately, this attitude does not bode well for our nation's future. It is imperative that we start paying attention to what is important, to what really matters. Mr. Chotiner counts, Kevin Garnett does not. Yet the latter makes 100 times more per year than the former.

As a solution for this obvious inequity I suggest that any player or owner making more than, let's arbitrarily say $3 million a year, should have the remainder of his or her salary donated to compensating teachers and improving schools.

Athletics are fleeting, but the mind endures.

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Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 10, November 20, 1998

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