Mandate Mania

January 13, 2017

In the closing days of the last session of the Michigan Legislature, our public servants introduced many bills that had no chance of passage before the year ended and the bills died. Many of those legislative initiatives were to appease local constituents, and they were merely symbolic gestures.

Introduced during this session-ending period when style points matter more than substance were two bills that caught our attention.

  • House Bill No. 6026, introduced on Nov. 9, 2016, would have required public schools to demand at least two hours of instruction concerning sexual assault and sexual harassment prior to every student’s graduation.
  • House Bill No. 6052, introduced on Nov. 29, 2016, would have required public high schools to demand at least 40 hours of instruction on “sustainability and environmental literacy.”

These are not bad things, of course; but I’m concerned about the increasing burden on our schools.

Not all opponents of these bills should be cast critically. Regardless of the importance of the issues, there is a practical limit to what public schools can be expected to do – especially after their resources have shrunk and their school year has been shortened.

Personally, I would like all schools, both public and nonpublic, to teach all children a second language in early elementary school. I would like students to be “drown-proofed” before they reach middle school.

But I want not one of those things mandated without first removing an existing mandate under which our schools are being forced to operate at this time. No entity can do a good job at some things if it’s being asked to do everything.

I wish all members of the Michigan Legislature who have a mandate in mind for our state’s schools will pause to look for an existing mandate to sunset before proposing any new requirements.

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.