Education priorities

background: some years ago, the Michigan (L&Ses) changed the way public schools were funded. Previously, each school district was largely funded by property taxes on the residents of that district. The “reform” had all the money from various sources funneled to the (L&Ses) in Lansing, where they then distribute the money to the school districts. This facilitated cutting education funding, so the money could be used “for other priorities”.

Faced with squeezed budgets, school systems adopted several cost cutting measures, including cutting shop classes and driver’s ed. Another tactic, as parents would not allow athletics to be eliminated, the way shop and driver’s ed were, was to charge participation fees for their spawn to play sports, to help cover the costs for equipment, facilities, and transportation.

One of the metro Detroit school districts has announced it is dropping the sports fees. The money they get from Lansing is relatively fixed, so, being a zero sum situation, something else is being cut, so the spawn can play sports for free, but, of course, what is being defunded, to shift the money to sports, is not being talked about publicly.

And people wonder why the spawn of Shiny-land are so ignorant.


Google search shows that 2% of HS athletes get college scholarships. That is a miniscule payoff for so much time,energy, and money devoted to athletics. I grew up that way, sports were vastly overemphasized. I’d say that society would be better off with our HS’s budgets going toward putting out more technically and mechanically trained young adults than trained as athletes, but what do I know, lol ?

Still remember some conversations with a coworker who was convinced her son was going to get a football scholarship to M or MSU. I seen him play once, and was flabbergasted that she could come to that conclusion based on his play. Nice kid, and luckily for him he was pushed academically, because he never played a second of college football, let alone hit the big stage in Ann Arbor or E.Lansing.

I think the Greek philosophy of strong mind, strong body needs to be the blueprint for HS sports in America, equal or greater emphasis on the strong mind part. I will say that it is great to be able to be physically active as an oldster, so sports were not a total waste.


And how many that do get a college athletic scholarship, actually learn anything and come out with a useful degree, vs the charade of enrolling them in classes where they aren’t required to do any coursework, to maintain “NCAA academic qualification” to play sports? How many of those kids are cheated out of an education, because they play football or basketball well, so are given a pass on actually learning anything all through high school and college?

So schools cut out practical training electives like wood/metal/auto shop. They cut life skills like driving. I have relayed the story before about my coworker, whose spawn were attending Livonia Public, a middle class metro Detroit burb, asking for driving school recommendations. I binked in disbelief, as driver’s ed was a core class at Kalamazoo Public, 50 years ago. Everyone took it. Now, not even an elective. No money. But football? That is now apparently deemed necessary. This is Shiny-land. Must keep the mob diverted with circuses.

Did you ever see “October Sky”? It’s a fact based film about a handful of high school students in a West Virginia mining town. The main character did not want to be a coal miner after high school. The usual way out of the town and a life in the mine, was a college football scholarship. He tried out for football, even though he really wasn’t interested, and was pounded in the tryout. Coach told him he had no future in football.

He showed some interest in rocketry. One of his teachers went out of her way to order in the books he needed to feed his interest. He and his friends ended up earning college scholarships by winning the National Science Fair.


Have not seen “October Sky”, will have to check it out.

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Magnificent movie with powerful themes beyond education, mostly on poverty and parenting.

My Dad knew the Kentucky kid from his own days at Cape Canaveral. Mom said that she was relieved that brother and I found other expressions for our scientific interests than compounding and testing rocket fuels.

We once accidentally shut down LAX for a half hour when our “What if we send send up a cluster of mixed large hydrogen and oxygen meterological balloons with a cherry bomb ingniter at their center on a cold day will it create a rain cloud” experiment went off course (winds change direction as you ascend). We did get a nice fire ball but the condensation did not chill enough for a cloud. We were thrilled when newspapers blamed Caltech students testing out a New Years Rose Bowl stunt…

Mom was wrong about the relative dangers as our hydrogen production also produced chlorine gas that we only appreciated just barely in time. We shifted from salted water electrolysis to hydrogen peroxide decomposition. Buying the hydrogen in tanks we thought of as cheating.

david fb


When I was in High School, the electives I took included electronics, drafting, computer programming, chemistry, and physics.

I wondered, since the city of Farmington has decreed that playing sports has to be free, did they charge lab fees for STEM classes?

Turns out, they charge fees for a lot of classes. Chemistry and physics lab fees run $10-$15 per year. Math classes have fees, plus calculator rental, if you don’t buy your own. Believe it or not, Debate class fees run $80-$100/year. Unlike Livonia Public, Farmington Public still offers driver’s ed, $80 fee. Electronics classes, like I had: $10 fee.

But, priorities say playing football has to be free.

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OMG the memories. A friend and I used to take dry-cleaning bags, fill them with hydrogen (produced in a bucket by mixing lye with aluminum and water), and send them aloft. We used a cigarette as a timing fuse (string tie postcards or cherry bombs or whatever to the balloon, light the cigarette and let it burn down until it burns the string, presto). Used to pre-address postcards back to ourselves, but only a few ever made it. The “fireworks”, of course, produced much giggling even if it was out of range by the time it went off.


I’m going to stick up for high school sports. Or at least a slightly idealized version of them.

First off, playing sports in high school promotes physical fitness, something that is incredibly lacking amongst adults in the US (myself included). We have an obesity epidemic, and promoting physical activity is one step along the way to improving that situation. Teach kids and teenagers to enjoy physical activity, and it may stick with them for a lifetime. Don’t teach it, and that will stick with them.

But there more than just the physical activity. Most of the headline sports are team sports: Football, basketball, baseball, softball, hockey (field or ice versions). Even more individual sports like tennis or track and field or golf are bundled into a team setting. That team work is a useful skill throughout life.

I happen to recall vividly one of my college assignments. We were broken out into groups and each group ran a simulated business. Given expected economic conditions for each game period, we had to make decisions about spending, investing, budgeting, staffing levels, and trying to learn what other groups were going to do. My group went through a few cycles, then one other guy and I got fed up with our group. We asked permission to leave our group and form another, even taking the handicap of having to start from scratch. We ended up making more than any other group in the simulation. But we did not receive the best grade for that portion of the course. The professor explained that one part of the simulation was learning to work together as a team. You don’t always get to pick who you work with, and you need to learn to make the best of what you have. We effectively failed on that portion of the assignment. After a little conversation, we did talk our way into a slightly higher score by raising the entrepreneur angle. There are times in business when you do need to walk away from a situation, and that’s what we did. But we also had to concede that there was a point there.

Anyway, team sports foster the concept of team work. There are precious few other ways to get that lesson at a practical level other than sports. (Some of them being something like band or orchestra or choir or theater - I happened to be a band geek in high school. Still can seamlessly switch between 8:5 and 6:5 strides for marching.)

But I certainly agree there can be an overemphasis on certain sports - football being the usual culprit. Thinking about my son’s high school, football games charge $20 admission for parents. Basketball, $5. Baseball, nothing. I suspect most high schools around the country are similar.

There’s got to be a balance in there somewhere between sports and practical training (shop, home econ, etc) and fine arts and more pure academics. Skipping everything but the purely academic is just as wrong as overemphasizing athletics.



We went down the road to Robert’s house. We were age 11. We put a hole in a tennis can and poured in some gasoline. Then we put the ball back into the open end of the can and lit a match. We had a cannon. What we forgot was it was autumn. We started a fire in the gutter of the street among the leaves. Robert’s mom looked out the window in agast. We were sent home and Robert was in big trouble.

We canned that idea.

The sports stuff here is our generation endlessly holding down taxes.

Really nonsensical. It has not worked. We have a ton of debt local, state and federal. We need to get real about doing things for our nation.

I get there might be some military folks here. I am talking econ. We keep asking the country to cut off her nose to spite her face. Dopey stuff.

I don’t think this is true at all. Certainly not in today’s world. Take a high school with 2400 kids (typical size around here), they have a football team, 150-200 kids try out, 40 are selected for the team. Those 40 go to practice a few times a week after school and get plenty of physical fitness. There’s also a baseball team, and a soccer team, at different times of the year mostly. Usually most of the kids that tryout are from the original pool of 150-200 kids that tried out for football. Another 40 are selected for baseball, and another 40 are selected for soccer, many overlapping (for example, my son played soccer, football, and baseball in 22-23 school year, he didn’t play basketball, tennis, track). So in the end out of 2400 kids, maybe 150 or 250 of them at most get the advantage of physical fitness from the school sports. The rest (90+% of the students) go home everyday after school and play video games or whatever.


And just about any televised college athletic even, you are bound to see the commercial that says about 2% of college athletes go pro.

HS athletics is important but has become too dominant is some places. True story, when to HS with a kid that basically slept through class, did just enough to academically qualify for the wrestling team. He loved wrestling. He won district and regionals all the time and maybe finished 3rd in state his senior year. Fast forward almost 12 years, see this guy in the hospital where I’m doing my residency training. Hey, what are you doing here? Visiting family? Nope, just started medical school. Jaw hit floor. If not for sport, no telling what would have happened.


Different aspects of being, whether atheletic, sexual, intellectual curiosity about math, literature, scientific reality, spiritual experiences…normally come to maturity at different times in different persons. Our schools fail to reflect this and that is one of their major problems.

Many kids I have helped over the years would have been far far better off if they could have taken a year or two away from classrooms and instead worked in reforestation planting trees, ranch handing, operating farm machinery, or aquaculture; others would might will have thrived after a few years of doing mostly music, dancing, and other performing arts, etc…

Athletics fits into that same realm. But that kind of flexibility in schooling requires good management rather than procrustean beds. We are a long long ways away from that.

Team sports definitely attracted far more than its fair share of money and class time than made sense in comparison to physical education focused on games and activities that help all young bodies to take joy in living and thrive into the future such as dancing, biking, cross country treking or jogging, and (perhaps most importantly) using your body safely and efficiently to carry weights such as babies and bags of cement mix, push and pull cars and sledges, climb ladders while hauling tools, back pack with real weight…

I was lucky to have lived within a family culture and activities such as boy scouts that did all that. Team sports were OK by me, but I and many of my friends, especially the girls, would have much better off and been happier with a lot more dancing and a lot less basket and baseball.

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But that’s just the varsity team. There’s also a JV team and maybe a Frosh/Soph team as well. The same goes for basketball and baseball and volleyball and all the other teams.


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“True story, when to HS with a kid that basically slept through class, did just enough to academically qualify for the wrestling team. He loved wrestling.”

I have the utmost respect for wrestlers, such a grueling sport. I can definitely see how your friend could channel all of that discipline and dedication that wrestling demands into the academic challenge of med school.

Sometimes I guess I’m too hard on myself, and HS athletes. There are definitely good habits that get ingrained if a kid wants to succeed in sports, and those habits carryover to real life. I put myself thru school as an adult while working, and it was all about discipline. Unfortunately, I did not apply myself academically in HS, so i don’t like reading or hearing about a “sports uber alles” attitude from the HS administrators across football crazed America ( and I like football, lol ). But it’s all good, they are still very young when they graduate HS, they have time to turn it around if they need to.


That would be CrossFit.

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Yes, that would be cross fit! Did not know what that meant during recent years until now when I read your post and decided to really know what you were saying.

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