Education writers rarely examine high school sports, but something is happening there that might help pull our schools out of the doldrums.
In the last school year, a new national survey found, 7,667,955 boys and girls took part in high school sports. This is 55.5 percent of all students, according to the report from the National Federation of State High School Associations, and the 22nd straight year that participation had increased.
Despite two major recessions and numerous threats to cut athletic budgets to save academics, high schools have found ways not only to keep sports alive but increase the number of students playing. We have data indicating sports and other extracurricular activities do better than academic classes in teaching leadership, teamwork, time management and other skills crucial for success in the workplace.
Coaches may be the only faculty members still allowed by our culture and educational practice to get tough with students not making the proper effort. They have the advantage of teaching what are essentially elective non-credit courses. They can insist on standards of behavior that classroom teachers often cannot enforce because the stakes of dismissing or letting students drop their courses are too high.