Tough Love

October 9, 2015

A young Korean woman has lived with my wife and me for two years and will for two years longer. Grace is a graduate of the international school in China where our son and his wife were her teachers; and since living with us, she has graduated from Lansing Community College and moved on to Michigan State University.

Having this student in our home and a son and daughter-in-law as educators in China, living with my wife who once was in charge of refugee resettlement for a large agency in mid-Michigan, and my serving for seven years as president of the board of the Refugee Development Center in Lansing, makes me understanding of and sympathetic to international students.

However, I expect that is not the reputation I enjoy among those who work for student exchange organizations and even among some in our schools who work with the increasing number of international students who are enrolling in Michigan’s secondary schools. They probably view me as an advocate for more restrictive transfer rules for international students, especially regarding F-1 visa students and nonpublic schools.

Guilty as charged. Indeed, I do advocate for higher standards for exchange programs, more vigorous oversight of student placements and more equal application of rules, regardless of the type of visa the student has or the type of school in which that student enrolls.

It is because I see great value in our interaction with people from other nations that I want to assure international student exchanges remain popular in our schools. Nothing jeopardizes the future of international student exchange more than sloppy or shady placements of international students, including last-minute dumping of students by agencies, athletic-related direct placements by agents, and school districts loading up on international students as backfill for declining local enrollments.

As some youth escape brutal hardship in war-torn or impoverished countries and more well-off foreign students stampede to the U.S. to attend U.S. secondary schools, colleges and universities, it will require high doses of tough love. If problems related to athletics increase, so will the chances that all international students will lose all opportunities to participate in varsity level sports in this state.

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.