Forget math and reading; athletics are what really matter. Would any educator actually say that? Would any parent? Apparently, yes, some would. Staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert discusses the situation in the New Yorker in September 2013.
- In talking about U.S. high schools, Kolbert makes an extended comparison between sports and math. It might appear that she is presenting a zero-sum argument—that sports programs flourish precisely because they rely on time, energy, and resources that could otherwise be devoted to math. Is that indeed what she is saying? Summarize her argument succinctly and accurately.
- Kolbert presents statistics as well as other kinds of evidence to support her argument. What other evidence does she present? How well does she balance the types of evidence that she uses? Explain your reasoning. Which piece of evidence is most persuasive to you? Why?
- Kolbert states that her argument centers on “the culture and its priorities,” and she infers that in the U.S., high school without sports is unimaginable. Can you imagine what high school would be like without sports as “the core culture”? How would social life be different? How would everyday routines be different? What kinds of activities might become a central focus? Give your imagination (or your memory) a workout.
- Kolbert presents a case from journalist Amanda Ripley’s book about Poland, which succeeded at improving students’ test scores dramatically in less than a decade despite having far fewer resources than the U.S. to invest in education. The Polish schools have no sports teams, and “there was no confusion about what school was for.” Do you think U.S. schools should de-emphasize sports in order to bolster academics? Use Kolbert as your They Say and present evidence from your own experience. If you were schooled outside the U.S., your experience may provide an important comparison.