There are two philosophies about how to coach a Little League baseball team. One is that you let all kids play in every game, no matter how good or bad they are. After all, it’s just a game and, though it would be nice to win them all, it’s far better to let every player participate and have fun. It also means that there will be no self-esteem issues, since everyone gets to join in.
The other philosophy is that only the players who are more apt to provide a win for the team get to play. Coaches often send in weaker players only if the game has been wrapped up, or if there is no chance of pulling off a win late in the game.
Most coaches, parents, and psychologists would prefer the first philosophy. It’s only a kids’ game and it is far better to have fun with it than to take it too seriously.
But there comes a time, usually in high school, when student athletes must try out for the team, and only the better players are put on the field or the court, because by then, it’s more about the school, the team, and even the game than about individual players. After all, a lot of school pride and recognition comes from having a winning team.
And so it should be with academics.
When Pres. George W. Bush introduced his education policy to Congress back in 2001, the lawmakers passed his proposal, calling it the No Child Left Behind Act. The theory was, and is, that all children deserve an equal education and we must do whatever is necessary to provide that education for them all, regardless of ability or inclination to learn.
It sounds good. It sounds fair. It sounds like the right thing to do, at least on the surface.
But let’s face it; it’s not the right thing. It hasn’t worked and it isn’t working still. It not only has failed to provide equal and quality education for the underachievers and disadvantaged, it has gone a step further and diminished educational opportunities for the average and above-average students.
We must ask ourselves the basic question: Why do we educate our children in the first place? Ultimately, it is hoped that a better education will lead to better opportunities in the future. More education means better jobs and higher earnings.
Those assumptions are borne out by statistics. Students who stay in school and graduate earn more money over a lifetime than those who drop out, on the average. And students who graduate from college have a higher average salary than those who do not attend post-secondary schools.
But a good education is not only for the benefit of the individual. It is also for the good of society. That is why society pays for it. Even adults without children must pay school taxes, because all of society benefits from a well-educated public.
Bush’s No Child Left Behind program forces teachers and administrators to spend so much time, effort, and money trying to squeeze as much education as possible into those students who are not likely to ever contribute much to society that those more likely to learn are cheated.
Let’s face it, some students are going to end up in jail, on drugs, or become a burden on society. Some girls will become welfare mothers and baby factories no matter how much we attempt to rehabilitate them or educate them for the mainstream.
Our educational dollars and efforts would be far better spent helping the average and above average students develop their skills so that they can become productive members of society.
And that’s not to say we forget about the underachievers or those with mental disabilities. Of course we don’t. We do what we can, but we must realize there is only so much we can do without pilfering the resources used to educate the mainstream, those who will benefit most.