When you’re watching the sweet sixteen, elite eight, final four, and championship game, keep in mind that many of the players are not getting a decent education that will allow them, upon graduation, to thrive in the workplace and be leaders in their communities. These players, many of them black, are being exploited by the universities that employ them but do not educate them. They are generating big bucks for the schools and thrilling entertainment for the (mostly white) students, faculty and alumni and receiving little in return besides a shot at playing in the pros.
Racially Correct, Educationally Corrupt
Which is more than a little ironic, because American universities are the epicenter of racial correctness. They fancy themselves oases of enlightened tolerance in a wasteland of prejudice—a bulwark against intolerant white Republicans. Yet universities recruit thousands of young blacks to play football and basketball and then graduate without being able to read and write at a collegiate level. Instead of elevating the academic competence of these under-educated athletes, universities let them “get by” in sham courses, with the connivance of “academic counselors.”
And it’s not just the Big Ten, but also prestigious schools like UNC at Chapel Hill (see below) and Harvard. As a graduate student at Harvard, I was a teaching assistant in an American history survey course. One of my students was a football player from South Boston who was built like a refrigerator and unfortunately wrote like one too. I got tutoring help from him, but the truth is he should never have been admitted. Tragically, a couple of years later he was caught plagiarizing a paper and expelled. Go Crimson—please.
Many African Americans and working-class whites would be far better off if universities required that all varsity players first pass a rigorous test demonstrating college-level proficiency in math, reading, and writing. Obviously this reform would have to be phased in over several years. It would put salutary pressure on thousands of high school students, parents, coaches, teachers and school administrators to make sure kids were really learning in grammar school and high school. People come up with all sorts of excuses for low academic achievement, but a primary cause is lack of urgency and effort. Which is why poor Asian immigrants excel academically despite many disadvantages.
Explicitly tying athletic achievement to academic success would work wonders. After all, we are talking here about remarkable and admirable young men and women who have the poise and discipline to excel at big-time sports. In college they should be able to read and do math at an 11th grade level, not just an elementary school level, which is the case for quite a few of them (see below).
UNC at Chapel Hill: 18 years of Academic Fraud
Last year an independent investigator hired by the prestigious University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill prepared a 131 page study showing that over an 18-year period at least 3,100 athletes (and likely many more) took sham “paper courses” that required little or no work in order to boost their GPA and maintain their academic eligibility to play football and basketball. Rumors of the scandal had been circulating for several years; top administrators resisted an investigation for as long as possible. Most of the “courses” were in the African American Studies Department. Quite a few people in the university knew about the academic fraud. An e-mail exchange reveals how an “academic advisor” could secure the necessary grade for a “recycled” (plagiarized) paper:
Crowder: As long as I am here I will try to accommodate as many favors as possible. Did you say a D will do for [name of basketball player]? I’m only asking that because 1. no sources, 2. it has absolutely nothing to do with the assignments for that class and 3. it seems to me to be a recycled paper. She took AFRI in spring of 2007 and that was likely for that class.
Boxill: Yes, a D will be fine; that’s all she needs. I didn’t look at the paper but figured it was a recycled one as well, but I couldn’t figure from where! Thanks for whatever you can do.
The courageous individual who blew the whistle on UNC, Mary Willingham, was for five years attacked by the UNC administration for her trouble. She is bringing a whistle-blower suit. According to CNN, Willingham “said that she had worked with dozens of athletes who came to UNC unable to read at an acceptable level, with some of them reading like elementary schoolchildren.” Of 183 players she surveyed, 60% read between 4th and 8th grade level, and 8-10% read below a third-grade level. No wonder UNC needed “academic counselors” to help athletes stay in school.
UNC Is Far from Unique
If you think UNC is unusual in this respect, I have two big white buildings at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue that I would like to sell to you. CNN tried to survey 38 colleges about the SAT and ACT scores of “revenue generating” athletes and got responses from only 21. Based on that survey, which is very probably skewed in a positive direction, 7-18% are reading at an “elementary school” level – i.e. 4th-grade to 8th-grade level. So, it seems likely that 25-35% cannot read at an 11th grade level necessary to do college-level work.
Universities: Athletic Sweatshops
Universities are highly culpable for exploiting athletes while failing to provide a decent education. If the liberals who dominate both universities and public education were serious about improving the lot of working-class Americans, they would end this charade and require students who wanted to be involved in big-time collegiate athletics to pass a test showing they can work at a collegiate level.
Copyright Thomas Doerflinger 2015. All Rights Reserved.