School Overload

January 29, 2016

I don’t know how school administrators and local boards of education do it. Every year, pressure increases on them to improve student performance in core subjects, while every year, lawmakers and government agencies try to make schools the place to solve, or at least respond to, more of society’s problems.

Expanding definitions of disabilities have required expanding public school responses. School employees now must be trained to respond to a myriad of student allergies. Schools have been made the place to address drug abuse, bullying, sexting, drunk driving, sudden cardiac arrest, seat belt use and much more.

This would be okay – in fact, it would be really good because it would solidify that the local school is the center of each and every community. But if schools are not given the resources to both improve student academic performance and address every threat to student health and safety, then no more should be asked of schools.

Right now our Michigan Legislature has dozens of bills that would make new demands on local schools. Most of these bills, on their own and in a vacuum, would be good – like the requirement that schools provide curriculum and professional development in warning signs for suicide and depression, and the requirement that students be certified in CPR before they graduate high school.

But until schools are given more time and money to perform current mandates, it’s time for legislators to put new bills in their back pockets and for government agencies to back off.

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.