Athletics in American Schools

School Administrator, August 2015

Amanda Ripley’s study of American education’s place in a changing world doesn’t deal so much with organized athletics, but it was her pointed attention to that subject, comparing the obsession with sports in this country’s high schools with what she discovered overseas, that most fascinated me about her 2013 book The Smartest Kids in the World.
Ripley elaborates on that angle in her article, “A League of Our Own”, in a theme issue that addresses the state of interscholastic athletics, including the heightened attention being given to head injuries and treatment among high school athletes.

The school leaders in the countries Ripley studied don’t need to worry about managing athletic budgets, hiring coaches with a background in education, dealing with protests over racist team nicknames and refereeing parent disputes relating to sports. A superintendent in Maine this year lost his job over a disciplinary matter involving the girls basketball team. The superintendent of a county district in Arkansas resigned in March in the wake of public furor over the firing of the basketball and softball coach. A new superintendent in New Jersey spent his first three months of 2014-15 consumed by locker room hazing allegations.
Superintendents aren’t yet at the sad and shameful state of university presidents who can be found spending ridiculous amounts of time dealing with sports matters.

As Ripley discovered, the dynamics of high school athletics and academics are peculiar to our nation’s pre-collegiate education system, both public and private. It’s a subject that receives scant attention, and we’re just scratching the surface by raising some important questions here. I’d welcome hearing from our readers on all sides of this one.

Jay P. Goldman
Editor, School Administrator
Voice: 703-875-0745
Twitter: @JPGoldman