Remember these things as you read the following story...
This morning, on the way home from Church, we saw a string of bouncing teens holding up poorly written signs advertising a car wash to raise funds for a sports team. We assumed it was for football since that is the sports-god around here.
Aside from the signs (with their guilt inducing appeal to community loyalties), and the fact that a combination of our exorbitant property taxes and the parent's pocketbooks can't seem to finance the sports scene around here, our initial reaction was "at least they are working hard" (and at least the girl's were not wearing bathing suits, as far as we could see).
Then we got to the next major intersection.
Standing on the medians were two men (probably fathers) and on the corner one very sober and uncomfortable looking adolescent. They were all holding signs and cups. The signs said "Please Donate to Our Team" or something like that.
There was no name of the team (I presume I was supposed to know it) and the "our" was most likely meant to include you and I. These sports teams belong to the whole community, right?
The irony of the whole situation hit me.
We are told that our kids should play team sports because they will learn how to work hard, push themselves, work in a team situation, they will gain self respect and responsibility, yada, yada, yada.
Irony. Ten miles closer into Houston you will see people standing on the medians with other sorts of signs, cups in hand. Or brandishing spray bottles on towels while they offer to wash your windows for a buck. Or even the grown ups waving large colorful signs, and dancing to unheard music while they advertise for a nearby business. All of these people struggling to make ends meet.
Yet, here on the corners of our relatively affluent neighborhood they stand, signs and cups in hand, imploring help from passing cars. Apparently, the publicly funded school sports teams need extra money* to buy whatever (uniforms, equipment) and rather than have the kids come up with a plan to WORK for that money, we teach them to stand on a corner and BEG for it.
It is all too easy to imagine the sight of that adolescent, cup in hand, as some sort of foreshadowing.
And what about all the benefits of school sports?
Persistence? Well I suppose. Patience? Yes, definitely. Practice? Practicing what?
Success mindset? Don't think so.
Let's try a few other words. How about ENTITLEMENT, HANDOUTS, MISPLACED PRIORITIES.
I have a sinking feeling that my property taxes are being wasted at the local schools.
Can I ask for a refund?
But seriously. I could (or someone could) write a book on all the implications of this scene, and all the causes that lead to it:
- Why do after school sports trump after school jobs?
- Why can't kid be found to mow lawns, spread mulch, power wash the walls, chop the wood, move the rocks? When and how did these become jobs for adults?
- *What do kid's learn from having a $58 million football stadium built for them?
- Where do they go from there? To university life, where things are handed to them again. And then to REAL life where it all has to be paid for, whether in the form of student loans or in taxes.
- And student loans! Another form of handout, especially since so many can't ever pay them back.
- Actually, if we are questioning the value of high school sports, we need to question the value of college sports. Often the high school sports are touted as the way to get the kid into college, but what is end point of college sports? To feed into professional sports? Life time fitness? Money? But if college sports bring so much money into the universities, why do tuitions keep increasing at such astronomical rates?
- What about the FAITH we put in institutions to form youth into mature individuals who are self reliant enough to support themselves and generous enough to share with others?
What about an antidote? I have two ideas as a start. One serious. One MOSTLY serious.
1. Read this book as a family. His story is inspiring. His mother is remarkable.
2. Learn to sing this song and teach it to your children (said with tongue in cheek...sorta):
Cap In Hand by the Proclaimers
Another irony: this song comes out of the birthplace of Adam Smith, author of The Wealth Of Nations, and lyrics describe Scotland's descent into socialism.