JUXTAPOSITION


I found interesting a juxtaposition of articles in the newspaper about excessive classroom size in Eugene, and bonuses paid to Oregon football coaches 3 seasons ago.  The University (UO) paid $688,000 in bonuses, $490,000 for an insurance policy that was supposed to cover their cost, but apparently didn’t, and finally accepted a settlement of $242,000, lawyer fees not stated, meaning it cost UO at least $936,000 that year for football staff bonuses.

They didn’t win a national championship.

I knew Eugene was a big football town, but I underestimated how big. The head coach makes $3.5 million; the rest of the coaching staff altogether makes another $3.5—before bonuses.  The Science Factory, a small children’s museum near Autzen Stadium, gets a significant portion of its income from renting space on their lawn for tailgaters during home games. That’s “trickle down.”  For $7, a child can spend several hours in the exhibit hall with a lot of cool exhibitions.  Plus, there is a planetarium show where kids and parents learn about the night sky. They can find the North Star, which escaped slaves knew 150 years ago, and which very few Americans can find today.  Yet, 40% believe in astrology, and some wonder how Trump might become president.  Education matters.

For “$29 and up” (well into three figures for decent seats), one can see the Ducks play my alma mater Colorado in football this year, stay 3 hours, likely longer, because TV timeouts have lengthened the game considerably.  Parking is a minimum of $10, a mile from the stadium.  I don’t know what food costs. You won’t learn about the night sky, except that we light it up so much, wasting electricity, because we light the sky and the ground, that many have never seen the Milky Way.  Football may be played any night of the week.  The concept of “school night” has disappeared, along with the stars.

The local school district had many complaints about classroom size, a surrogate measure of educational quality.  I find that interesting, because when I was young, our classes had about 30 students.  Research has shown that large classroom size doesn’t mean bad outcomes.  Granted, it is a different world today.  We didn’t have cell phones when I was in school.  The teacher’s rule was law, and if we disobeyed, our parents believed the teacher, not us.  We had standardized tests, but they didn’t count for promotion.  “A”s were given for results, not effort.  We lined up for polio vaccination in school, rather than cite medical or religious reasons not to get it.  We all knew somebody with polio. Science eradicated the disease.

Diversity is prominent today, along with a change in gender dominance.  I grew up when boys were better students.  Schools didn’t push girls as hard.  Today, girls are pushed to excel, and do, but boys in general are falling behind, an unfortunate observation I made where I volunteered.  Parents question exam grades and the difficulty of the material.  I tutored a student in chemistry, whose parents were teachers who felt the material too difficult.  It was analytical chemistry for high school.  We learned how to write, both the action and the content.

Back then, however, we called one black student integration.  We had bullying, fights, and more deaths in motor vehicle accidents.  Gays were quiet.  They must shake their heads today when they hear that being gay is a choice.  Back then, you stayed quiet. Smoking cigarettes in the bathroom was bad; we didn’t know what transgender was.

We liked our sports, too, but we didn’t worship them.  Our football stadium seated maybe 1000, not the 12,000 a town in Texas is going to build for $60 million. Goodness, the whole city of Wilmington couldn’t find a venue that sat 12,000.  It was only football, for heaven’s sake.  We didn’t have a state basketball or football championship.  We didn’t rank our sports teams nationally, and there wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American team, because McDonald’s had barely opened restaurants.

Sports at colleges weren’t big business.  There was a time when freshmen couldn’t play varsity, only on a freshman team.  Athletes didn’t leave early for the pros.  In 1971, Roger Staubach was MVP of the Super Bowl and made $50K a year.  Now, the average salary is twice that per game, called by “Business Insider” magazine as “Poorly paid.”

We can find money for a new stadium, and for the world track and field championships—in Eugene—the whole state is going to have the lodging tax increased.  Thirteen of the $100+ million cost will go for trophies and a gala gathering place, but we don’t have money to house the homeless, get meningitis vaccine for students, or hire more teachers.  Additionally, the UO blew nearly a million buying out the contract of the last president.

Some still say that children are our future, but state of the art stadiums trump state of the art schools. I see license plate frames with “Duck Athletic Fund Supporter.”  I have never seen one with “UO Scholarship Supporter,” or “Eugene Public Schools Donor.”  People have the right to send their money where they wish, of course.  It’s America.  It’s just that football stadiums are used fewer than a dozen times a year and schools 180 days a year, often more.  Furthermore, football is harmful to the brain, and I haven’t heard of any significant changes in the game.  Schools are built to increase the intelligence in the brain.  Our priorities are backward.

Lack of support of public education is part of both the dumbing down of America, an anti-science agenda supporting for profit and religious schools.  The Other Side calls higher education “liberal bastions.”  There are plenty of conservatives in those schools, but liberal arts tends to mean liberal thinking—the search for truth, new ideas, and extolling intelligence.  Instead, the Republican standard bearer is bashing two and not offering anything regarding the third.

I’m perhaps a cantankerous grouch, but one who embraces the changes in the world, questioning changes that I don’t think are improving it.  Those families and groups who support education tend to have children who are successful in life, success being defined by a career that is considered honorable and important.  We all know the stereotypes who succeed; their families believe with education an individual has a strong chance to succeed in life.

Football

72,788 NCAA Players

16,175 Draft Eligible

256      Drafted.

The NCAA says the probability is 1.6%, but when compared to the number of NCAA players, it is 0.35%, and being drafted does not guarantee playing, let alone succeeding. 

We need to pay teachers appropriately, making teaching a profession many aspire to become.  Let’s expect much from our teachers, but give them training, support and respect they deserve.  We should make teaching a profession the best and brightest aspire to become. We’re running out of time to fix the problems that will end humanity in a century or less.  Education may or may not succeed; nothing else comes close, not even a national championship in football.

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