Schools are a place for learning and intellectual growth, right? Not always. Increasingly, schools are placing more emphasis on athletic excellence than on academic achievement.
Although many intellectuals may seem content with flying under the radar, they share the same yearn for recognition as their athletic peers–take it from someone who grew up in a household of athletes. The MVP trophies and 1st place ribbons were always hung up on the fridge first, not necessarily the report card. I learned that if I wanted my parents’ attention, and the recognition from my peers and school, I had to join a team. Not the debate team, but rather a sports team.
The time, energy and money funneled into different athletic programs is overwhelming, with some of them underachieving in conjunction with these generous assets. Take Science Olympiad: they won State three years ago, yet I doubt many of us know that. Their championship is outshined by the Wall of Excellence- a beautiful display of the athletic capabilities our school has to offer. Yet, our valedictorian is not celebrated at graduation or properly recognized entirely- they are just awarded a small plaque outside the main office.
We teach people what is important by the importance that we place on it. If the football game is loudly broadcasted over the megaphone at lunch, with posters plastered over all of the walls, we clearly think it’s important. But when the Debate Team gets barely recognized over the PA system, you know where the real importance lies.
Emma Johnson shares a similar distaste for this skewed emphasis. She is a dedicated member and Secretary General of Model UN at Lake Forest High School and has received an award at every single competition that she has been to since freshman year. Now replace the word Model UN with track and field- I’m sure you would see it all over the headlines, rather than a fun fact she casually shared with me over a cup of coffee.
Just this year, the Math Team is being recognized for their outstanding performance. On the walls outside of the math offices, plaques of past victories, runner-up recognitions, among other awards the team has received, are finally being commemorated. This recognition is long overdue.
Athletic achievement is more publicized often times because it is much more entertaining. I am all for math, but watching a bunch of people complete a math problem using a formula you have never heard of isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. But sports aren’t everyone’s thing either. These people work hard, just as hard as athletes, but in different disciplines. They stay up late, they train, they struggle, they sacrifice just as many things, and yet they are overshadowed.
People deserve to be recognized for how smart they are. Merit scholarships are very hard to obtain. They account for a large percentage of scholarship money (larger than athletics, actually), but internal satisfaction isn’t enough for some. These people deserve to receive recognition regarding their achievements, rather than be spoken down, with claims that they are bragging about their grades, ACT/SAT score, or AP score–they worked for that grade, they deserve to show it.
Athletics are important: I am a two sport athlete myself and love both. But are we prioritizing the correct qualities? We are all to blame for this distorted acclaim. Allow your friends to speak out, encourage attendance at clubs, discover academic passions, and applaud the accomplishments that your friends have made.
If we can find a balance, a balance of importance of both athletic and academic achievements, perhaps more people will find different passions in Model UN, debate team, Spanish club, or a certain subject area.
This also isn’t to say that athletic achievement should go unrecognized; you deserve all the credit you receive for your hours of dedication in perfecting your sport. Academic achievement, however, deserves a spot under the Friday night lights as well.