Friday, February 7, 2014
In the United States, our media are not allowed to report on or discuss exemplary student academic achievement at the high school level, so they don't do it. For example, in the “Athens of America,” The Boston Globe has more than 150 full pages each year on the accomplishments of high school athletes, but only one page a year on academics—a full page with the photographs of valedictorians at the public high schools in the city, giving their name, their school, their country of origin (often 40% foreign-born) and the college they will be going to.
The reasons for this media blackout on good academic work by students at the secondary level are not clear, apart from tradition, but while high school athletes who “sign with” a particular college are celebrated in the local paper, and even on televised national high school games, the names of Intel Science Talent Search winners, of authors published in The Concord Review, and of other accomplished high school scholars may not appear in the paper or on television.
Publicity offers encouragement for the sorts of efforts we would like our high school students to make. We naturally publicize high school athletic achievements and this helps to motivate athletes to engage in sports. By contrast, when it comes to good academic work, we don't mention it, so perhaps we want less of it?
One senior high school history teacher has written that “We actually hide academic excellence from the public eye because that will single out some students and make others ‘feel bad.’”
Does revealing excellence by high school athletes make some other athletes or scholar-athletes or high school scholars feel bad? How can we tolerate that? I know there are some Progressive secondary schools which have eliminated academic prizes and honors, to spare the feelings of the students who don’t get them, but I don’t see that they have stopped keeping score in school games, no matter how the losers in those contests may feel.
SAMPLE MEDIA COVERAGE OF HS ATHLETES
Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Signing Day Central—By Michael Carvell
11:02 am Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
“Welcome to the AJC’s Signing day Day Central. This is the place to be to catch up with all the recruiting information with UGA, Georgia Tech and recruits from the state of Georgia. We will update the news as it happens, and interact on the message board below.
University of Georgia’s TOP TARGETS FOR WEDNESDAY…AND RESULTS
Lorenzo Carter, DE, 6-5, 240, Norcross: UGA reeled in the big fish, landing the state’s No.1 overall prospect for the first time since 2011 (Josh Harvey-Clemons). Isaiah McKenzie, WR, 5-8, 175, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage: This was one of two big surprises for UGA to kick off signing day. McKenzie got a last-minute offer from UGA and picked the Bulldogs because of his best buddy and high school teammate, 5-star Sony Michel (signed with UGA). Hunter Atkinson, TE, 6-6, 250, West Hall: The Cincinnati commit got a last-minute call from Mark Richt and flipped to UGA. I’m not going to say we saw it coming, but … Atkinson had grayshirt offers from Alabama, Auburn and UCF. Tavon Ross, S, 6-1, 200, Bleckley County: The Missouri commit took an official visit to UGA but decided to stick with Missouri. He’s signed. Andrew Williams, DE, 6-4, 247, ECLA: He signed with Auburn over Clemson and Auburn. He joked with Auburn’s Gus Malzahn when he called with the news, saying “I’m sorry to inform you….. That I will be attending your school,” according to 247sports.com’s Kipp Adams. Tyre McCants, WR-DB, 5-11, 200, Niceville, Fla.: Turned down late interest from UGA to sign with USF.”
This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, of course, in the coverage of high school athletes that goes on during the year. I hope readers will email me any comparable examples of the celebration of exemplary high school academic work that they can find in the media in their community, or in the nation generally.