BALL OR BANDS: FOOTBALL VS. MUSIC AS AN EDUCATIONAL AND COMMUNITY INVESTMENT
In a perfect world, all school extracurricular activities would be fully funded. But with all indications being that future education funding will be significantly reduced, it’s painfully clear that we no longer live in a perfect world. As a result, school and community leaders as well as parents will be forced to determine how to allocate increasingly scarce extracurricular dollars, particularly in the areas of athletics and the arts.
These decisions must be made with the recognition that America’s economy has changed from one based on industrial might to one driven by technology, creativity, collaboration and innovation. What does this mean as applied to educational funding and priorities? How should it impact efforts to structure schools and educational curriculums to prepare our children to succeed in this rapidly changing and increasingly competitive world economy and integrated global community?
To successfully meet these challenges, parents, education policy makers and community leaders must be fully informed to enable them to approach these difficult decisions with a more thorough understanding of the issues and impacts these activities have on educational and community outcomes.
In Ball or Bands, author John R. Gerdy offers a thoughtful, thorough and clear-eyed comparative analysis of the educational value of football versus music programs in providing our children an education worthy of the 21st century. Drawing on relevant research and data, but also his extensive experience in both worlds, Gerdy poses a host of questions:
- Should our educational institutions be sponsoring activities that deaden and destroy brain cells and impair brain function?
- Should we continue to invest significant resources in football rather than, for example, music, which strengthens and develops neural connections and enhances brain function?
- Which extracurricular activities garner the best educational return on investment?
Ball or Bands helps provide context, insight and information to help education and community leaders, as well as parents, approach these important questions about extracurricular funding with a clearer understanding of the educational and societal “playing field.” Despite the fact that some of the answers may be uncomfortable or inconvenient, we should welcome this discussion and analysis because, if we approach it honestly, the end result will be better schools serving our children and communities more effectively. In the end, isn’t that what we all want and what our society needs?
AIR BALL: AMERICAN EDUCATION’S FAILED EXPERIMENT WITH ELITE ATHLETICS
John R. Gerdy has seen nearly every side of athletics. He is the son of a high school football coach; he was an All-American and professional basketball player and a legislative assistant for the National Collegiate Athletic Association; and he served as an associate commissioner for the Southeastern Conference.
In Air Ball: American Education’s Failed Experiment with Elite Athletics, Gerdy brings all of those perspectives to argue that the American system of school and community athletics is broken. But he is no mere naysayer. He offers a bold, progressive blueprint for reforming athletics to meet our country’s educational and public health needs.
Given higher education’s historic role of providing leadership in our society, the initiative to restore a more sensible balance between athletics and education must begin with the reform of big-time college athletics. Despite widespread public skepticism regarding higher education’s ability to change the system, Gerdy argues that the opportunity for reform has never been better. Using a provocative mix of research and thoughtful observation, he argues that, for the first time in the history of American higher education, the critical mass of people, organizations, and outside pressures necessary to drive and sustain progressive, systemic reform of the college athletic enterprise are in place.
SPORTS: The All-American Addiction
John R. Gerdy knows sports inside-out. He has been an All-American Basketball Player whose college jersey was retired. He was briefly a professional player. Later he served as an associate commissioner in the NCAA’s Southeastern Conference, and as a legislative and ethical advisor to the NCAA and the Knight Commission. Currently he teaches courses on sports administration.
Now, in Sports: The All-American Addiction, he brings his insights and observations together in a radical, critical evaluation of the impact of sports on American life.
This book argues that our society’s huge investment in organized sports is unjustified. Ardent boosters say that sports embody the “American Way,” developing winners by teaching lessons in sportsmanship, teamwork, and discipline. In fact, Gerdy writes, modern sports are eroding American life and undermining traditional American values essential to the well-being of the nation and its people. Like a drug, this obsession allows Americans to escape problems and ignore issues.
Gerdy asks tough questions. Have sports lost their relevance? Is it just mindless entertainment? Is our enormous investment in sports as educational tools appropriate for a nation that needs graduates to compete in the information-based, global economy of the twenty-first century? Do organized sports continue to promote positive ideals? Or, do sports, in the age of television, corporate sky boxes, and sneaker deals, represent something far different?
Boldly making his case, Gerdy detects five causes for alarm. A violent, win-at-all-cost mentality exists. A greater number of spectators are idly watching the few elite athletes. An athletic culture that is anti-intellectual systematically creates “dumb jocks.” While bridges, inner-cities, and schools are crumbling, tremendous sums of tax dollars vanish to wealthy owners, millionaire players, and to college athletic programs. Studies show that sports are no more effective in promoting equality than any other American institution.
Can organized sports be restructured? The author concludes with a series of daring suggestions for change.
THE SUCCESSFUL COLLEGE ATHLETIC PROGRAM: THE NEW STANDARD
John Gerdy first explores the history and role of athletic programs within higher education institutions, and how that role is evolving. He then offers a philosophical rationale for setting a new standard against which the success of college athletic programs should be measured. Rather than focusing on the level of funds generated, or on the number of championships won, this new standard offers a basis for determining how successful a college athletic program is in helping the institution meet educational goals. Gerdy identifies and develops the three fundamental principles upon which this new standard should operate: First, that college athletics is, first and foremost, about the student athlete; second, that coaches and athletic administrators are, above all else, teachers and educators; and, finally, that athletics is a part of, not apart from, the higher education community. The author concludes by outlining specific changes that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should make to implement this new standard. Gerdy also looks at what the future could hold for colleges and universities willing to adopt athletics as a tool for meeting the institution’s broader objectives.
SPORTS IN SCHOOL: THE FUTURE OF AN INSTITUTION
In this collection of essays, leading national sport authorities including journalists, coaches, athletic directors, and varsity and professional players themselves, talk about what is wrong with sports education today and how it can be improved. Each contributor considers whether public expectations – that sport promotes character development, physical fitness and positive educational and social values – are being met in today’s reality.
By exploring these long unchallenged notions, the writers ask tough questions like: is a coach or parent screaming at a 6-year-old for missing a fly ball a healthy way in which to introduce a youngster to sport?; just how does an athletic scandal or the low graduation rate of student-athletes positively contribute to the image and educational mission of a university?; what does sport really represent in the age of television, corporate sky boxes and “sneaker deals”?; and how has organized sport become more about the egos of those who coach and administer the programs than about the personal development of those who participate in them?