Degrees For Sports

Over on Jose Vilson’s blog, he recently wondered why we don’t give degrees in sports.  Before you judge, read his post for context.  Jose is a smart and thoughtful guy actually discussing a much deeper, and familiar issue.  As I wrote back to him, I realized my readers would get a kick out of the discussion too.

When I wrote a few years ago on the difference in school and learning, my take was not to further legitimize athletics; our society and economy has made that clear.  Those with “degrees in the sport” are busily entertaining us in March Madness as I write this.  God bless anyone with such gifts that their physical and mental synthesis on court or field might raise them from otherwise squalid conditions our society created and into which they may, or may not, have been born.  The rest, nearly talented but equally dedicated in their life’s pursuit of the sport, are on the bench, at the Y, or in the neighborhood.  I can’t imagine a ball degree would improve their daily happiness or well-being, unless we  realized a societal shift in which employers and our culture developed a deep understanding and value for the mental dispositions athletes develop that are transferable to improving self and society: perseverance, teamwork, leadership, hard work…all desirable dispositions.  I’m left wondering about the academic base necessary for a learning society.

Education is learning.  Schooling is the institutionalized, and increasingly flawed, way we’ve developed to encourage learning en mass.  Ultimately, it must come down to dialogue, like ours, between caring individuals, determined and dedicated to serve and help others see their passion and provide evidence of their ability to fill a need in the world.  That could come through an academic test or hard-earned success in your art (ala Bill Gates or pro athletes).  Think how different K-16 learning structures are (carrots and hoops) from graduate and post-grad work (dialogue and discourse).  This emphasizes the real difference we’ve created between schooling and learning.

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