Only in this country are athletics given such high priority. A class-action lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court in New York says that black and Hispanic students have far less access to teams and sports than other races (“New York’s Playing Fields Aren’t Level, Students Say,” The New York Times, Jun. 29).
I don’t doubt this is true, but I question if it is a problem. During the past two decades, New York City, like so many other cities across the country, has opened scores of small high schools in order to provide students with more personal support. The unavoidable downside is that most sports require large numbers of students.
In an ideal educational world, there would be no conflict between academics and sports. But in light of the dismal academic performance of so many public schools in New York City, I submit that academics should get priority. I don’t doubt the benefits of team sports. But they pale when compared with the benefits of a sound academic program.
Moreover, there is a difference between team and individual sports. Small high schools are still able to field students, say, for tennis and golf. I think these are far more likely to be pursued later in life than basketball and football. But given the obsession with team sports that characterizes this country, I expect the plaintiffs to prevail.
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