Early Learners

January 26, 2016

The good news is that the minimum number of pupil instruction days required for public school students in Michigan increases from 175 to 180 for 2016-17. The bad news is, Michigan public school students are still sitting in the back of the school bus.

The U.S. is in the lower half of the world’s nations in the length of school year for secondary school students, and Michigan is in the lower half of U.S. states in the length of school year. So just about anything the Michigan Legislature would consider to facilitate earlier starts to the school year as well as longer school days and weeks of instruction would be good for today’s students and our state’s future.

Among bills now pending in the Michigan Legislature is Senate Bill 567 that would remove the prohibition on public schools from beginning instructional days before Labor Day, except that classes could not be held on the Friday before Labor Day.

Some will be critical because this could put classes in conflict with double session sports practice days and large, all-day cross country, golf, soccer and tennis tournaments that are now common in Michigan school sports in late August; but these so-called conflicts would have positive effects:

These “conflicts” would tend to reduce the number of days of two-a-day practices that are much less in favor today with increasing attention to the health and safety of student-athletes.

These “conflicts” would tend to reduce the frequency of students playing in contests before they have attended any classes, which is far from ideal philosophically and a frequent cause of practical problems – including participation by ineligible students and resulting forfeits.

Students are engaged in school sports, marching band, cheerleading and other school-related activities throughout most of August, and they are much more eager learners then than later in the school year. Schools should be allowed to let them learn in the classroom then, not just in extracurricular activities.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.