DayeTime: Lessons learned outside the classroom

This week we are leaving the field of politics and the grown-up world and visiting the carefree world of high school athletics.

One reason is that we are releasing the All-Parish and All-District football teams. Another is that it is a welcome relief from politics.

I completely agree the No. 1 job of schools is to teach students those things they need to know to succeed in life. I also contend that life is about a lot more than math facts, historical dates and events, spelling and punctuation and the periodic table of elements.

In fact, it can be argued that for some exceptionally talented student athletes, learning to read a blitz may be more important to their future than reading Hemingway or Shakespeare.

However, even for those gifted few, they should develop a relationship with Papa and the Bard and other great writers.

I did not participate in sports in high school, although I probably racked up more yardage on the football field than the starting halfback -- marching up and down and around and around at 10 15-minute halftime shows each season carrying a baritone horn (or euphonium, for the musically astute).

I tackle this subject mainly because there are issues that may come up in the next year or so that could raise the old “academics vs. athletics vs. the arts” argument in the Avoyelles Parish School System.

Let’s face it. The arts lost that debate a long time ago. This parish is fortunate to have high school band programs at Avoyelles, Bunkie and Marksville. Those programs aren’t as vibrant or popular as they were 40-plus years ago -- not just here, but almost everywhere.

The main problem with maintaining a successful music program in high school is the lack of an elementary music program. Even if the school district had the money to support an elementary band program, I’m not sure there is enough spare instructional minutes in a day to carve out a band class to give the young musicians the foundation they would need to have a successful and enjoyable high school band experience.

If money gets tight, or tighter, I hope the APSD does not yield to a knee-jerk reaction to cut non-academic programs.

There are many lessons to be learned on fields, diamonds, tracks and gym floors that cannot be learned in classrooms, labs and study halls.

I’ve probably said it before, but the fact of life is that a main reason for dropouts in high school is a feeling of hopelessness.

Students may not be good in math, may not be fast readers, may not be able to retain the minute details needed to score high on history tests.

If all they have to show for their years in school is a series of C, D or F grades, they often decide things won’t get better and there is no use sticking around.

That isn’t a smart decision, but we’re talking about youth in their mid-teens. Making “not smart” decisions is almost a requirement at that age.

If a school can offer that student a chance to excel at something -- anything -- then it should.

If he is good at writing, drawing, photography, music, drama then have electives where he can succeed.

If he can run like the wind, throw a ball a country mile, knock the ball out of the park, sink 3-point shots all day or work miracles in the track-and-field events, then don’t pooh-pooh those achievements by saying he should study harder to get on the honor roll.

Just like the kids in a large family, each one is unique with special gifts, talents and attributes. However, they all have one thing in common -- they’re ours.


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