Thursday, September 15, 2016

Should Colleges Offer Degrees in Sports?

September 15, 2016 5:05 am
Photo
Alexis Prince, of Baylor University, at a special graduation ceremony before an N.C.A.A. basketball game.Credit Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
Student Opinion - The Learning NetworkStudent Opinion - The Learning Network
Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.
At least one recent Times Op-Ed writer thinks the answer to that question is “yes.”
What do you think? What do you imagine such a degree would require? Read his ideas and see if you agree.
In “Why Not a College Degree in Sports?,” Roger Pielke Jr. writes:
BOULDER, Colo. — A new influx of money into big-time college sports is likely to reinvigorate debate over whether student athletes should be paid as if they were professionals, with colleges running semipro teams as side projects to their research and teaching missions.
But one question that gets little attention is how schools can keep big-time athletics connected to their academic objectives. Perhaps one way is for universities to award degrees in athletics.
This isn’t a new idea. In 1990, in the wake of a series of college athletic scandals, the economist William F. Shughart II asked a simple question in an op-ed essay in The Wall Street Journal: “Why should academic credit be given for practicing the violin, but not for practicing a three-point shot?”
It was a good question then and remains so today, though it is one that colleges and universities have yet to answer.
He continues:
… Universities routinely give degrees in the performing arts, such as music, dance and theater, as Professor Shughart pointed out. In these programs performances are often given to audiences paying for the privilege of seeing exceptional talent on display.
Beyond our cultural biases, what really is the difference between a Shakespeare play, an orchestra concert and a basketball game? Each performance requires some high-level combination of physical ability and mental acuity, developed through years of training and study, and for which only a select few reach elite levels.
Students: Read the entire article, then tell us …
— What do you think of this argument? Is this a good way to train the next generation of sports leaders, as he argues? Why or why not?
— Is there a difference, in your mind, between a Shakespeare play, an orchestra concert and a basketball game in terms of the skills they require participants to have? Is it just “cultural bias” that separates sports from those other endeavors?
— If there was such a degree offered, what do you think the requirements should be? What courses should students take? What kinds of tests should they have to pass?
— Read the comments from Times readers on the original essay. What points do they raise that should be considered?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment below. All comments are moderated by Learning Network staff members, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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