A few weeks ago I met with my son’s advisor to discuss his academic progress as he nears the end of the tenth grade. She was generally positive about his college prospects: “His grades aren’t perfect, but his standardized tests are stellar, and he’ll get great recommendations,” she said. “Besides, he’s a boy.”
I knew what that meant, thanks to discussions on this blog. “I have mixed feelings about that,” I told her. “I’m happy for anything that will help Ben, but…”
“I know. I have a daughter.”
Paying for college, it turns out, may be easier for us, too. Ben is a passionate and committed baseball player, who has played Little League since elementary school on his high school’s varsity team for two years now. He’s strong, accurate, and focused—and left-handed, which makes him extra valuable on first base and as a pitcher. A baseball scholarship, we’re told, is a distinct possibility.
And so I read David Moltz’s article on sports subsidies in Inside Higher Ed with mixed feelings. Not that baseball is as high on the roster as football, but a subsidy is a subsidy.
As parent, I’m thrilled that my kid may get preferential treatment, for whatever reason. But it’s not fair, and I don’t see how any of this — gender balance, or sports — has anything to do with education. I don’t see how taking money away from already-struggling academic programs and pouring it into athletics, or turning away highly qualified girls to give places to less qualified boys, promotes learning and intellectual achievement. I understand the argument that making a university more “attractive” helps draw in more “desirable” students — but why aren’t the most desirable students the ones who are the most focused on delving into their subjects with the best possible teachers and resources? What is the point?
But I still hope my son gets into a good school, whether he deserves to or not, and that he can afford to go there because of a subsidy. I am his mom, after all.