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FOOTBALL: Another American Dilemma Unfolding

September 16, 2012

As we move into the 21st century, advancements in research and brain science are challenging many 20th century “realities and truths” in our society.

Most of you know I feel strongly about how that impacts our education system.  When I say education is an issue today in America, I  am not referring to the inclination of one of our political parties to underfund education or use education budgets to make up deficits or support a favorite war cause where those same uneducated become disposable human resources.   And I do not mean more funding to support the early 20th century educational system that was designed to complement an industrial age that no longer exists and which we continue to hold up as our model.

Instead, I am focusing on a larger issue and mean we need funding for the thought-leaders in education who understand the rapidly emerging societal, business, and labor changes of the 21st century.  We need open minds, a review of new emerging world theories and practices, experimentation, and careful evaluation of results; followed by funding to support and retrofit our own outdated educational system top to bottom to meet the needs before us for the next 75-100 years.

But education aside, that same research and brain science calling for educational reform is also challenging our infatuation with high school, college, and pro sports and changes needed therein. A strong relationship between impact sports and brain damage is emerging.  Unfortunately it meets head on with “winning is everything”.  It seems that without a world war to feed our patriotism as it did in the first half of the 20th century, we have turned our carefully-honed “winning” instincts to business and sports. Winning became everything; workers and players became dispensable.

And today, the Wally Hilgenburg story in the Strib brings home that unfolding dilemma where emerging understanding of our brains is on a course to intersect with that “winning is everything” American culture.   And we as a country need to take this seriously!

[Disclosure:  I like football; however, I am not passionate about it.  All sports are trumped, for me, by meaningful conversations and interaction-which by definition exclude cheering, cursing, hollering- with family and friends, or occasionally even work. In those instances, sports/entertainment  take a second seat.  Generally, I am happy for “our team” if they win—but I neither despair nor mourn if they do not]

And so with a view of sports as entertainment, it may be easier, I guess, for me to recognize the dilemma before us as a nation.   What do we choose when dollars are limited – investment in sports programs or educational systems?  When entertainment pleasure is gained through sacrifice of human beings; is the personal gratification worth it?

I don’t pretend to know the answers; I only ask that we don’t just sweep this under the rug.  It could be YOUR child that is impacted; it could be YOUR mother or father that is injured.  I only ask that we weigh American culture and history against that of the Romans and the gladiators and intelligently move forward to ensure that above all else, we value the quality of human life and continue to make adjustments to protect it, as we learn how revered entertainment practices may endanger it.

 

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