One of the positive aspects of life that school sports and other after-school activities do better than most everything else is to build a sense of community. Another is to teach teamwork. And both are mostly missing in the world of individualized, online learning.
It sounds good to advocate for personalized, learn-at-your-own-pace “curriculum” (one can hardly call it “instruction”), but that model misses so much of what education is supposed to help a civilized society accomplish.
Benjamin Riley, founder and executive director of Deans for Impact (deansforimpact.org), makes this point in his May 18, 2016, Opinion on EdSurge (edsurge.com), “Bursting the ‘Personalization’ Bubble: An Alternative Vision for Our Public Schools.” Mr. Riley advances four principles:
Teachers – not technology – should be the primary designers of students’ learning experiences.
The experiences that teachers design should emphasize the social aspect of learning.
The experiences that teachers design should be informed by learning science.
Teachers should primarily use technology to identify social learning opportunities.
Mr. Riley concedes that these four principles are just a sketch – an outline for a different conversation than that which currently dominates education reform. “But there is one point on which I’m unyielding,” Riley writes: “We begin to forge the character of our country in our public schools. At a time when I feel our nation pulling further apart, I hope we start thinking and talking more about how we might move closer together, and promote the integration – rather than the personalization – of our learning experiences in public education.”
It is not Mr. Riley’s point, but it is mine, that school sports – including the requirement that participants be full-time students in the schools they represent on interscholastic sports teams – promotes the integration of the learning experience which is critical to shaping the character of our country.
The integration we speak of is developing the whole child through direct interaction daily with a diverse student body and a wide variety of curricular and extracurricular activities. This builds students, schools and society.