Stomping on School Spirit


112776354832_300x250Even today, many decades later, I still get e-mails about the big Thanksgiving Day high school football game between my alma mater and whichever school it was that was supposedly our fierce rival. I’m not sure what they were our rival for or why students at my school (at the time, one of the worst in The City), thought rooting for a football team was important, but there it was and there it is still.

Iowa, I gather, is no different — or perhaps even worse. School officials in Waterloo, for example, have seriously curtailed the sort of antics kids at games can engage in. Signs and body paint are verboten, as are chants targeting the other team or school. “One of our main objectives is to teach kids to respect each other,” said Sharon Miller, a school district spokeswoman. “The behavior of a few was getting beyond the bounds of what can be considered respectful.”

Eric Alderman who plays football for Waterloo West High School thinks the restrictions result in more timid fans. “The rules seem unreasonable,” he said. “They’re not doing anything but hurting the school spirit.” I’m not sure, really, that prowess on the football field is what should be boosting school spirit, anyway — why not be proud of your school for giving you a good education?

In Harlan, meanwhile, things have gotten so bad that administrators require young children who “run amok” to sit with their parents at games. Superintendent Bob Broomfield explains that “maybe that’s old-fashioned, but I feel adults need to be in charge, preferably the parents.” Call me old-fashioned too, but I think that if kids can’t behave themselves on their own, then, yes, their parents need to keep them close and under control.

I’ve always felt that schools give too much emphasis to organized sports at the expense of academics; if the kids can’t even behave properly and respectfully, perhaps it’s time to eliminate competitive team sports. What do you think?

Photo: jmalpass