Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Day 9: #SOL16- On Basketball Games, SAT Chants, and Social Justice
The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by the inspirational writers of Two Writing Teachers. Each March, they invite people to join them in a commitment to write every day. Here's to another year of daily slicing!
Last night, I had a post ready to go, but at 10:30 pm, I got a text from my daughter with a link to a newspaper article that was going to run in our paper this morning. I have spent the last twenty hours percolating and processing the article and its implications.
Let's back up to last Friday night. My senior daughter's varsity basketball team played the top team in the state in the second round of the state tournament. It's important to know that we live in a relatively affluent suburb, and we were playing a charter school team from Hartford, a school known for its stellar basketball teams. People predicted that the game would be a blowout, predictions and speculations that enraged my daughter and her teammates. As it turned out, the game was anything but a blowout. It was a hard-fought, competitive, fairly played, and fairly ref'ed game. It was tied at the half. Tied at the end of three periods. With 45 seconds, we were down by 3, and that's when the other team pulled away. In the end, we lost by 9. For any of you who are familiar with end of game strategy, we were fouling, and they were making their foul shots. That's why Capitol Prep won by so many points.
Enough said about the game. Let's talk about the Farmington fans whose behavior was embarrassing on many levels. Our fans came in with sunglasses and Hawaiian gear, and they made their presence known by joining the opposing high school's soloist in her singing of the National Anthem. Their singing was loud and off key. Throughout the game, our athletic director managed our fans. I wish I could remember exactly some of the management he had to do, but I was pretty focused on the game. I will say that Capital Prep's sportsmanship wasn't perfect. Their cheerleaders and mascot were purposely distracting when we shot free throws, and there was some under the radar fouling and pushing on the part of both teams. Since this article's running, I have heard about other instances of very poor fan behavior on their part. Not to make excuses for either set of fans, but the game was a tight, tense battle of committed high school athletes. I wish we could just celebrate and respect those players!
When the outcome of the game was clear, with about 20 seconds left on the clock, some of our fans began a chat, "SAT Scores." I've had people ask what that means. It was a derisive chant, suggesting that Farmington's students do better on the SATs. Our AD stopped the chant right away and spoke to the students who probably started it, but the damage was done. This morning's paper ran the story on the front page. You can read it here.
There are so many issues this story and the way it has been reported has raised. From a parental standpoint, I'm sad for my daughter and her team. The paper made it sound like the game was a blowout, and it was anything but. The girls on the team feel like the game and their play was unfairly described. The paper also made it sound like Capital Prep players and fans were nothing but respectable and gracious--not completely the case either. Those two issues may be partially responsible from the, in my opinion, more important point being missed--
We are living in a racist world, and we don't even know when we are being racist. Our schools have an enormous responsibility, now more than ever, to educate students on principles of democracy, social justice, and global citizenship. SATs are divisive, inherently biased tests which favor wealthy, white students and help to maintain a racial and socio-economic divide. We don't teach about this; we are minimally aware of it as educators.
I'm not in charge of next steps for this situation, but I will be suggesting some. Maybe this series of events can be the start of bridge building. Maybe we should start some book clubs between the two schools which are less than 15 miles apart. Maybe we should have day exchange programs and reflections about those experiences. Maybe we should have much more curriculum that focuses on democracy and the threats to it in today's world--threats that exist right in front of us as we cheer for our children. Maybe the two schools could launch a program between the two of them that could serve as a model for teaching young people about social justice and global citizenship. Maybe we should do more than just call these fans into the principal's office and demand a forced apology, and maybe we need more than just different policies about what behaviors can get students evicted from a game.
My daughter's experience as a basketball player was impacted by these (hopefully) ignorant, but racially charged chants. The problem grows, though, as these teenagers take these attitudes (or ignorance) into the world as adults, and we all suffer. I value the #SOL community for the reflection, intelligence, insight, and wisdom that so many of you show, and I am welcoming suggestions and thoughts to move ahead with some learning experiences for everyone.
With great respect to this community,