A race to the bottom?

Published 8:45 am Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Apologists for low academic standards for extracurricular participation in Franklin’s public schools may find some comfort in neighboring school divisions’ even lower standards.

As for us, we are unfazed.

If Southampton County and Windsor choose to set the bar shamefully low for their athletes, band members and cheerleaders, shame on them. If the Virginia High School League, which governs extracurricular competition in the state, wants to tolerate academic mediocrity in its member schools, shame on it.

Franklin has a chance to do better and to join the many school districts across Virginia and the United States that are putting sports and other extracurricular activities in their proper place — as a privilege that students earn after getting their work done in the classroom.

The city school board, to its credit, is trying to raise the minimum grade-point average for extracurricular participation from 1.25 to 2.0. That effort, regrettably, has met resistance from administrators and coaches who advocate a smaller, gradual increase in the minimum GPA.

It’s time for society, including the education establishment, to lift our expectations of students, who soon will compete in a global economy where good-paying jobs are at a premium and available only to those who have prepared themselves academically to learn a professional skill or trade.

Rather than dumbing down the system so that our athletic teams can compete with their rivals, we must raise academic performance so that students can compete in the workforce and become productive citizens.