I was gearing up to write a scathing piece that lambasted the Georgia Assembly for their reckless disregard for students and educators and their blind loyalty towards Jeffersonian, state-controlled philosophy. I was going to refer my readers to the folly that took place in Georgia over the past few weeks, with the Georgia senate teeing up a disastrous bill, SB 167 that would have set Georgia's reform efforts back at least 8-10 years, and would have not only voided any set of standards conceived out of state, but would have also put to rest any chances of cloud-based education and digital learning being implemented in Georgia's schools. When you have the author of the bill unable to cite examples of inappropriate Common Core Standards, you see why this was reckless and a breach of politicians' fiduciary responsibilities. But enough said there - at least common sense prevailed at the end of the day when the bill was effectively killed for now by the Georgia House.
What I want to write about is something far more serious - ethics and morality. You might have heard about four University of Georgia football players who were arrested for theft and deception and then subsequently allowed to practice by Coach Mark Richt! The sports radio stations in Atlanta were talking about this all day, and I heard one talk show host saying unequivocally that these players should NOT be suspended or removed from the team. I had to call into the station. I said it was a "privilege" to play college sports, especially under a full or partial scholarship, and that they committed a crime and should be suspended indefinitely. Another call echoed my sentiments, but then a woman (probably a mother) phoned in and accused us of not having ever played a college sport and that these kids deserved and were entitled to a second chance!
At this point, I was about ready to explode. To use a Percy Jackson metaphor, my gut was ready to unleash a tidal wave on this woman! First, let me say that this woman has probably experienced criminal behavior in some way, either herself or via a loved one. She may even be the mother of a college athlete who has faced disciplinary action. And she couldn't be more wrong.
First of all, I was a Division I baseball player. I went to an Ivy League school and they do NOT offer athletic scholarships. I was listening to the radio hosts talking about mistakes - this wasn't a mistake. A mistake is being late to class or handing in an assignment late. A mistake is not being arrested for a misdemeanor! What does this say about society when a college coach allows these students to practice the very next day??? How about these disciplinary options?
- Suspend the players for the rest of the season
- Void their scholarships and kick them out of school
- Lose one year of athletic eligibility
Any type of arrest, once proven guilty, should be grounds for serious punishment. These kids can still go to college, they can apply for financial aid just like any other student. They can alternatively transfer to a junior college or some other institution after a period of time. But for this female caller to shrug this off like playing a college sport is some irrevocable entitlement is not only ignorant, but not something a parent should ever say in this situation. I can hypothesize that this woman never had any control over her children. She taught them that when you do something wrong, you don't have to get punished. So when these children grow up, they know no boundaries and never worry about being responsible for their actions. And when discipline doesn't exist in the home, how can we make it work outside the home?
Ethics and morality must be integrated into the school environment at all times. If we do not make this a priority, then we will continue to see spoiled, misguided college athletes who lack a moral compass making bad decisions and expect their coaches to look the other way. Student athletes should be bound by the same disciplinary code as non-athletes. I hope we see more outrage on Coach Richt's poor decision to look the other way. We need a Common Core of Ethics and Moral Behavior, because this incident is deeply troubling on so many levels. May it be used as a teachable moment for all children.