Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A Badge of Inferiority

Iowa, the New York Times reports, might allow “schools with high poverty levels to drop down to lower athletic divisions.” [1] If it does, it will join Minnesota, Oregon, and Colorado. The State of Washington “will introduce the idea next year….” 

What would be the reason for such a move?

“An hour before kickoff at a game this month at Hoover High School, the opposing football team, Indianola High, pulled up and unloaded the large video monitor that would let its coaching staff analyze plays, moment by moment, throughout the game. The coaches at Hoover High, where most students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, would have to make do with watching the old-fashioned way. Another loss, a Hoover student told the principal, seemed imminent.

“Indianola ran 84 yards for a touchdown on their first play, the running back shedding Hoover’s smaller players like a video-game villain. The game ended in a 35-7 loss for Hoover, to no one’s surprise.”

It turns out that during “the past decade, Hoover High and Des Moines’s four other large public high schools have a cumulative record of 0-104 against rivals with more affluent student bodies from the Polk County suburbs, according to figures compiled by The Des Moines Register.” What’s more, they don’t do much better against other schools from affluent areas. And so, the question is being asked: “What if the poverty level of a school’s student body was used to decide which teams it played?”

While this solution might make high school sporting events more competitive, it represents acquiescence to a systemic problem: public schools are funded locally, and the resources a school has depends on its location. Simply put, the rich kids are allocated more resources. 

It might be suggested that this problem could be alleviated by restricting the technology permitted in high school sporting events to that which is accessible to every school. But that misses the point.

When it comes to education, a sporting event is important in its own way, but it is not the most important issue. The disparity in resources exemplified by high school football in Iowa represents a deeper and more serious problem.

There simply is nothing more important to the health of a republic than education. But in our republic, there is nothing more sadly neglected. That the quality of a child’s education should depend on his geographic or economic circumstances is simply unconscionable.

A plan must be developed to ensure equal funding for the education of every child in the United States. It can be administered locally, but it must be funded on the federal level. No child should grow up with a badge of inferiority for any reason, including his economic circumstances.