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Deemphasize Sports In School

September 10, 2012 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 90, ISSUE 37

Schools do need master teachers (C&EN, Aug. 13, page 28). However, varsity sports have become more important in public schools than academics. Smithsonian magazine (September 2011) reported that students in Finland don’t start school till age seven, don’t take many standardized tests, but exceed U.S. students in mathematics, science, and language. Finland does not have varsity sports. Children in Finland play sports, but in clubs not connected to the schools.

U.S. public schools are centered around the sports schedule. One Indiana high school has a full-time secretary to manage times for competition and the referees’ contracts.

Scientific American (August 2012) states, “Parents are the essential root of scientific literacy.” It is difficult to teach mathematics and science when parents encourage students to excel in sports.

Master teachers need parents who make mathematics and science more important than varsity sports.

By James F. Jackson
Carlisle, Ind.



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Eric Grunwald (September 15, 2012 2:23 AM)
I do not agree with Mr. Jackson’s claims regarding varsity sports at all. To suggest that a reduction or elimination of varsity sports would benefit STEM education in America without providing anything more than a reference to an article that does not even mention varsity sports is bad science at best. At worst, it disparages all the academically successful students who, through participation in varsity sports, have improved their time management skills, become increasingly proficient at goal setting and achievement, and have truly learned the merits of teamwork. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that all of these attributes of participation in varsity sports are sought out by potential employers of graduates of STEM programs. Maybe readers of C&EN would be better served by a diatribe on the perils of excessive internet surfing or videogame playing than by the perpetuation of the mythological conflict between sports and academics.

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