Extracurricular Programs Must Be Heard

December 17, 2012

A team assembled by our Governor has brought forward the most thoughtful and comprehensive proposals to overhaul public education our state has seen in a long time, perhaps ever.

Nevertheless, there is little evidence that the hard work has included more than cursory attention to the extracurricular programs that create a point of connection for students and a sense of community from small towns to urban neighborhoods across our state – programs that provide motivation for students to stay in school, like school and do better in school, and for parents, boosters, friends and neighbors to invest in that school.

Some may argue that the neighborhood school is as anachronistic as the nine-month school year.  While I’ve long and often criticized the school year as too short, I continue to advocate for neighborhood schools.

I’ve seen too much harm to students educationally and to communities economically as a result of sending students hither and yon for their schooling.  And the so-called innovations have been resegregating public education every step down this ill-advised path.

The mantra “any time, any place, any way, any pace” may be a catchy phrase to describe where reformers wish to take public education in Michigan.  It may also be the wrong direction for students, communities and ultimately our state, taking us back to a time when students dropped in and out of schools without much accountability.

As for our little piece of this – emotion-charged extracurricular programs – we’ll do our best to maintain a little order, some respect for rules and responsibilities, and a sense of fairness and equity.

There are many days in many places where 40 or 50 or 60 percent or more of a high school’s student body is participating in extracurricular athletics and activities.  They are not unimportant to the education of those students and to the quality of life in those communities.  Even if they haven’t been consulted during recent planning, extracurricular programs will be heard from during the coming debate.

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.