Lascelve Graham | Forbes, JC and the power of predators
In an article in the Observer newspaper dated December 1, 2016, and titled 'No apology', Ian Forbes defended Jamaica College's recruitment of students based on their sports ability.
I commend him for acknowledging that apart from JC, many schools recruit heavily for sports purposes, including Wolmer's Boys' School, which was recently defeated 2-1 by JC in the Manning Cup football final. JC did not always admit to recruiting for sports purposes, although such action is not new. A number of schools that are involved in this practice deny doing so.
This forthrightness of Mr Forbes' is revealing. Mr Forbes implies that because other schools are doing it, that absolves JC. Does that follow? Isn't that like saying, since many people are beating the system, it is OK to do the same. Aberrant behaviour has become the norm.
Recruiting for sports purposes by schools is totally against the spirit of school sports. The schools know this, and that is why, until recently, it was done surreptitiously. It is indeed a sign of the times that JC can now brazenly beat its chest about its recruiting practices and get away with it.
Not even in the USA, the only country of note with a strong link between education and sports, could this happen at the high-school level! Even there, the educators do all they can to discourage recruiting for sports purposes, with many controlling bodies explicitly stating in their by-laws that recruiting for sports purposes is forbidden.
Does the normal student from the inner city who has gone through the many struggles, including the trauma producing GSAT and hunger many days, to qualify for a preferred school deserve a rounded education, including representing his school, and all the help that sports and other extra-curricular activities can give, even if he/she is not a sports icon, but the best the school can produce at that time?
There are many poor, struggling students (citizens) in our preferred schools who need all the help they can get. Why are we going outside for other students based on sports ability? Isn't this the tail wagging the dog? Is it fair that an economically challenged student who has valiantly struggled through the hardships is accepted at a university of choice but cannot go because he was bumped from the school team by a sports recruit and hence cannot get the sports scholarship he would need and would have got to assist with his finances?
There are many students who qualify in the manner we declare they should, represent their school at the lower-rung (e.g., 'Pepsi' and 'Colts') competitions and would do so at the higher level but are replaced by sports recruits.
Is this what our specialised educational institutions (especially at the high-school level) should be about - winning extra-curricular activities at all cost? Is this practice of taking away their sporting stars going to contribute to raising the educational level of our non-traditional schools, which, by far, outnumber the traditional ones and the level of which we have to raise if there is going to be any chance of giving a quality education to all (most of) our citizens?
Is it not unfairly robbing the many competent and deserving coaches, who discovered, nurtured, and developed the talent, of the glory and other benefits that success delivers?
Aren't the less-privileged schools more in need of the success that JC now claims and which JC and the other recruiters have made more difficult for them by taking away their stars? Shouldn't they be given a more level playing field on which to achieve it?
Our traditional schools have had decades - some centuries - of unfettered development where they were not bothered by this pernicious practice. The relevant authorities need to act now to stop this obnoxious practice.
The role of sports (as all other extra-curricular or co-curricular) activities up to the high-school level is educational. Recruiting for sports purposes by schools rips to shreds the concept that sports is a teaching tool and indicates that it is the outcome that is of paramount importance, not the process. In this scenario, sport in schools is not a teaching tool, but an end in itself.
Do our high schools have the same mission as sports academies or sports clubs? It is reasonable for a sports academy or club to recruit based on sports ability, and it is understandable for a dance institution to recruit based on one's ability to dance.
It would be absurd for the above to recruit based on fitness, intellectual, or academic ability given their mission. Given the mission of our specialised educational institutions up to high-school level, and given our declared entry requirements for preferred traditional schools, is it fair, is it ethical and in the best interest of our educational system that these schools bring in youngsters based on extra-curricular (co-curricular) activities?
Isn't this a double standard? Isn't this the type of values and attitudes - win at all cost - that has helped to put us where we are now in terms of crime?
Remember, our luminaries in track and field, etc., don't have to go to a preferred school to excel - George Rhoden, from the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, beat the world coming from a school that could not even go to Champs at the time.
There are many other examples of this, including Usain Bolt, who attended William Knibb. If a preferred school had succeeded in recruiting him, it would have taken credit for having raised him to a different level. It would have taken all the glory and other benefits that have resulted from his success from William Knibb, its students, and the community at large.
Schools recruit to win - full stop. It makes no difference whether the youth is rich, poor, semi-literate or illiterate, or whether he/she is coming from a context of plenty or deficiency. Once the youngster can help them to win, he/she will be brought in.
We rationalise this activity in our attempt to win at all cost. Are we sending the right messages to our future adult citizens?
- Dr Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham, a chemist by profession, is a former Jamaica football captain and a lobbyist against sport recruitment.