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Academic Value of Non-Academics
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Jay Mathews notes that 67 of the 100 most challenging high schools in the U.S. (as rated by the Challenge Index, which rewards schools for the number of students taking Advanced Placement and IB tests) do not have football teams.
Are football teams bad for the academic culture of a high school?
In an article for Education Next, June Kronholz looked at how participation in extracurricular activities boosts academic achievement.
And a study conducted by Jay Greene found that high schools that devote more energy to athletic success also tend to produce more academic success. As Jay Greene wrote
The path-breaking sociologist, James Coleman, was not a fan of high school sports. He thought the culture of athletic prowess swamped the culture of academic success. Schools should get rid of sports and channel that competitive spirit into inter-scholastic academic contests, like Quiz Bowl.
But James Coleman also believed that the enhanced social capital produced by church attendance was key to the success of Catholic schools. The adults would get together at church, share information about their kids and school, and thus be better positioned to work together to improve their school academically. The adult culture of academic success could prevail more easily if the adults were better connected with each other by seeing each other on a regular basis at church.
But maybe high school sports are the secular equivalent of church. Perhaps Friday night football is an event, like church, that gathers parents, allows them to share information about their kids and school, and more effectively work together to improve their school.