Jan 03, 2012 Herm Card Uncategorized
In the last week and a half I have been accused of not understanding sports, having something against cross country, being a bad journalist, being rude, butting in, having poor research skills, having a bad attitude, not grasping meaning, and a few more things. I have also been congratulated for my willingness to make a point, showing respect for my critics, my good writing, my respect for athletics and a few other complimentary things.
All of these things stemmed from the preview of an article that I had not yet written.
Remember — my column is about education, not about sports per se. Sports only enter into it as they apply to the greater education picture. Athletics is one of many opportunities for students to succeed at a task — to reach a goal, improve themselves mentally and physically, and perhaps excel in the process. Sports, music programs, arts programs, academic programs and anything else offered to students are the backbone of a school and a huge factor in the well being of a community.
Besides the obvious benefits to the participants, teams and other school groups donate time, money and effort to help others. They volunteer at missions, outreach centers, food banks, hospitals, animal shelters and other places where the less fortunate are cared for. They do good things. They make us proud. They represent family, school and community in the best possible way. They do this because they have learned a key concept — a concept that parents hope to instill in them and that teachers, coaches and others try to enhance. The concept? Respect. Respect for others and respect for themselves.
People who undergo the same artistic or physical challenges tend to understand each other’s passion, and from this grows mutual respect. This is implicit within the context of all such activities. Competing athletes often train together just as musicians and other artists work together to improve themselves. The more difficult the task, the deeper and more genuine the respect.
The thing with athletics is that it is generally the most visible art form, and ultimately evokes the most passionate and sometimes controversial responses. Competition does that, and anytime someone is keeping score, things are magnified. Athletic events are pretty much the only form of public performance where it’s acceptable for the spectators to yell and scream during the action. It’s one of the few activities where spectators dress almost as part of the team as a means of encouraging them.
So, when I happened across a sweatshirt bearing a slogan that struck me as being disrespectful in the broad spectrum of a society that shows great care for its weak and honors its dead, I pointed it out. As I see it that is my obligation as a parent, educator and journalist.
I have no doubt that the slogan was not used to display animosity or extol violent behavior. All artists and athletes find ways to motivate themselves and their peers and I am sure that its intended use was motivational within a team concept. But, athletic context aside, the lesson here is that perception is reality. People react to what they perceive — and when there is no context to change that perception, the slogan becomes simply the words “Trample the weak and hurdle the dead.” Thus, regardless of the source of the slogan or its intended use, it loses its motivational essence and takes on an unintended negative meaning. To the general public, it shows a lack of respect — to self and to others.
I promised in the preview in last week’s Eagle, the district’s response to the slogan would be part of my article. The district’s administrative action (which partly provoked the responses I received) was to prevent as much as possible the slogan from being used to represent the district and its educational philosophy.
Responsible administrators did what they felt necessary to preserve their overall high standards. That’s their job, to make informed choices for the greater good — as do parents, teachers and coaches. They did the right thing. That’s what makes education work.
I wrote this in a previous article, and it applies here as well: Education is itself a team effort — it is the combined talents of students and parents and teachers and staff and administrators on all levels and, ultimately, it is their teamwork, dedication, respect, responsibility, fitness, practice and perseverance that make us all winners, regardless of the score.