Columns & Blogs

Improvements in grades start at home

Players in the NCAA tournament were no doubt eager to read about the discussions regarding academics and tournament eligibility based on graduation rates.

They’d have read about them when the debates started, but what with travel and practice, they didn’t have any time.

Here we are in the most travel-heavy month of the college sports season — other than, well, all of college baseball — and there’s talk on one hand of expanding the tournament and talk on the other hand of basing eligibility on academics on the other.

Man, those hands must be tired.

Graduation rates make for a nice talking point, and it’s a nice thought, but it’s also little misguided.

A degree isn’t as relevant as education, as desire, as attention spans, as integrity or as wanting to go to bed at least a wee bit more knowledgeable than when you got up.

Look around. People who own business have degrees are running them into the ground. Our “public servants” have degrees, and that does us what?

You can talk to degree-holders who you wouldn’t hire and talk to the degree-free who you’d promote over yourself.

A degree seems as much a certificate of attendance and memorization as it is a measure of any actual learning. In more cases than people want to admit, a degree doesn’t indicate a true level of education and learning and knowledge.

Way back when, after linotype but before the Web, I worked at my hometown’s morning newspaper while in high school and took an interest in photography.

Our chief photographer was superb, and he started teaching a photo class at the YMCA.

Me: “Should I take that class?”

Photographer Bil Bowden: “The class can show you how to do it, but I can show you how to get it done.”

That has stuck with me since my junior year of high school as a metaphor, in part, for what’s wrong with education and educating.

The best learning often comes from listening and watching and paying attention to good examples, which educators overlook.

Of course, the biggest problem with education isn’t state governments or misspent SPLOSTS or three dozen bickering city council members or arguing school boards or stagnating superintendents.

And the biggest problem with education is parents.

Period.

When Carror Wright came back to Bibb County to Southwest as its head football coach, I thought about asking him what in the name of fun on Friday nights was he thinking.

Forget arguments or interpretations. Facts are facts and stats speak for themselves, and I wondered why he’d want a job at a school with a bad reputation — despite those working hard to change it — and bad winning percentage.

Bibb County public school athletics don’t struggle because of administration, coaches, facilities or a lack of athletic ability. Bibb County public school athletics struggle because of some sorry parents.

This isn’t news, except to those sorry parents. Many of those who show up at games are socializing or whining, not supporting. They grumble about coaches and winning but give coaches no work ethic to instruct.

They don’t see that most of these great Bibb County athletes who are so poorly coached — note the sarcasm — aren’t getting in college or aren’t staying in college.

Careful about directing the blame. Schools and teachers try to inspire. Do parents? And students have to want to learn, have to do something with their lives.

The most mediocre school and barely competent teachers are still better than what way too many Bibb County kids deal with at home.

Whatever a school and teachers accomplish — if the kid is actually in school — in seven hours is erased in 15 minutes at a home where knowledge is dismissed, where intellectual laziness is acceptable.

When parents demand more — OK, in many cases, anything — from their kids, schools will get better. Scores will rise. Depressing statistics will improve.

Academic progress is huge. It’s just that: progress. And that standard that might be better for this college sports argument, since so many things can happen to fog a graduation rate.

Sure, the college athletics and admissions process can use some tweaking and upgrading.

But having students more prepared for higher education would help all those figures and improve perceptions immeasurably, and that preparation starts at home long before anybody thinks about college.

At least, it’s supposed to.

Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or mlough@macon.com

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