Integrated Learning

July 1, 2016

One of the positive aspects of life that school sports and other after-school activities do better than most everything else is to build a sense of community. Another is to teach teamwork. And both are mostly missing in the world of individualized, online learning.

It sounds good to advocate for personalized, learn-at-your-own-pace “curriculum” (one can hardly call it “instruction”), but that model misses so much of what education is supposed to help a civilized society accomplish.

Benjamin Riley, founder and executive director of Deans for Impact (, makes this point in his May 18, 2016, Opinion on EdSurge (, “Bursting the ‘Personalization’ Bubble: An Alternative Vision for Our Public Schools.” Mr. Riley advances four principles:

  1. Teachers – not technology – should be the primary designers of students’ learning experiences.

  2. The experiences that teachers design should emphasize the social aspect of learning.

  3. The experiences that teachers design should be informed by learning science.

  4. Teachers should primarily use technology to identify social learning opportunities.

Mr. Riley concedes that these four principles are just a sketch – an outline for a different conversation than that which currently dominates education reform. “But there is one point on which I’m unyielding,” Riley writes: “We begin to forge the character of our country in our public schools. At a time when I feel our nation pulling further apart, I hope we start thinking and talking more about how we might move closer together, and promote the integration – rather than the personalization – of our learning experiences in public education.”

It is not Mr. Riley’s point, but it is mine, that school sports – including the requirement that participants be full-time students in the schools they represent on interscholastic sports teams – promotes the integration of the learning experience which is critical to shaping the character of our country.

The integration we speak of is developing the whole child through direct interaction daily with a diverse student body and a wide variety of curricular and extracurricular activities. This builds students, schools and society.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on 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.