Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Acheivement. What's really important?

Somewhere in George Mason University, there is a student from a disadvantaged background. Maybe a broken home, from a poor neighborhood, or with a learning disability. But that student is exceeding all expectations.

They are thriving in the college atmosphere, mastering subjects nobody gave them a chance to even understand. They are stepping into leadership positions in prestigious organizations, defying the predictions of those who were certain they would amount to nothing in life.

Surely we would wish to honor students like this, who have overcome obstacles to acheive more than could every be imagined for them. We would write articles about them, take their pictures, maybe even make a movie about them.

Well, I don't know. I haven't read those articles, or seen the pictures, or heard of that movie.

But this is the reception being given to the George Mason basketball team. Truly they did better this year than anybody predicted. They deserve credit for their hard work and acheivement.

But still. They are a basketball team. They play a game. They have talent, and got lucky, and worked hard, but it's just play. I cheered for them, and cheer them. Having taken graduate classes at GMU, I think of them as "my team". But it's just basketball. It's entertainment.

But the blogs went crazy. People praising these boys left and right. You'd think this was the reason colleges existed. Tom Davis bragged about rushing off with other politicians to see the game -- but would he have done so to watch an underprivileged student participating in the state debate finals?

Would we all be so excited that a team from GMU was representing the state in a nationwide science competition?

I know, it's just basketball, it's a great story, we aren't trying to make a grand statement, it was just something nice to talk about for a change. And now I've ruined it, I guess.

But I worry that we lose sight of what's really important, and in the process we send the wrong message to the youth of america, especially those who don't have all the advantages. Maybe they need most of all to see that true academic acheivement is honored by society -- and I don't know how they could get that message, because we aren't sending it.


Hirons said...

Yeah, but it's the modern era and the basketball team's success is bringing the University 2 to 3 million dollars it didn't have or even counted on at the beginning of this year. So those simple basketball players have provided a benefit to all the students of GMU - even the poor disadvantaged honor student who will now have better facilities and is attending a university that at the beginning of the year was a stable regional school, which is now known on an international level like never before.

We can take pictures of the honor students 10, 15 or 20 years from now when they are captains of industry and bestow a multi-million dollar endowment upon the school they learned to love watching their basketball team reach the final 4.

Charles said...

That's true. A winning team like this will bring millions, not just from the tournament, but moreso from all the alumni who will now give to the school.

But it's not all about money. Or maybe getting money which benefits the students is a good tradeoff for the lack of recognition of true achievement?

(Yes, achievement is spelled wrong in the title).