THE EDITOR, Sir:
After reading the front-page article 'Students not sacrificed', published on Saturday, September 22, and the reported statements from the ISSA chairman, I was caught up in conflicting emotions. Should I laugh with derision at the stupidity, cry at the academic discrimination aimed at our young, or burst into anger at the continued dangerous, misguided and self-absorbed leadership of our secondary schools in this regard?
The ISSA stance, apart from being terribly destructive, is illogical on many fronts. Among these are:
It is accepted under the wisdom of the 'sound mind in a healthy body' truism that participation in sports is an important part of a proper academic environment. This applies to ALL students (usually hundreds and thousands in most schools). These activities are encouraged and mandated through a range of physical education and other similar classes.
For these 99 per cent of students, there is no suggestion that the academic expectation be lowered to grade three for a limited number of subjects. Why then single out a 'small' minority of students, 30-40, for this exclusion? Just because they may kick the ball a little farther or run a little faster than the others?
It has been reported that there is a shortage of places in secondary-school classrooms (I did not say playing fields). Well-meaning children at all stages of academic achievement, guided and encouraged by their teachers, are aware of this and try diligently to maintain and surpass the grade standards. If not, they cannot be promoted within the system, as they will have to make room for others who do meet the standard.
Why, then, should the 'small' minority of students without the requisite academic achievement or steadfastness be allowed to endanger the place of those who continue to 'buss their shut' to stay ahead? Is this fair to them or their parents?
'Very sad' situation
It is not supportable by any empirical evidence that athletic proficiency is mutually exclusive to academic achievement at the secondary-school level. In fact, it is frequently and strongly argued that personal discipline is as important to achievement in the classroom as on the field. For our secondary-school principals to adopt or condescend to this contrary view is 'very sad', to put it mildly.
The ISSA waiver for student athletes is disrespectful and insulting to them as well, and is dangerous. Are we, in the wider institutional world, on encountering one of these nine-day wonder Manning/daCosta or Champs heroes for the first time, not going to wonder whether "the boy smart OR did he just run fast"?
The academic objective is the ONLY legitimate one of a secondary school. Improving academic standards of achievement in our young boys and girls is the only permissible goal.
Lowering our standards for alumni or school leadership self-aggrandisement is WRONG and 'small'-minded.