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Rita Walters and Eligibility

November 22, 1985

Rita Walters reveals a very narrow attitude about sports when she states, "People forget that the purpose of school is not to play ball or participate in drama" and "the education opportunities . . . are more important than having a winning team or having a team at all." (Staying Above C Level, Nov. 16.) This is so educationally narrow that I would call it athletic bigotry. Her no-fail/C-average policy treats high school athletes as second-class student-citizens. In all the discussions and comments concerning this issue, I have yet to come across this point of view: Why should it be more difficult to play ball than to earn a high school diploma? Doesn't the public realize that a student with a 1.0 grade point average (D) and 170 credits earns a diploma?

Coaches are educators first, just as athletes are students first. We use our content area to teach discipline, loyalty, personal sacrifice, commitment to excellence, the needs for rules, performing under pressure and a long list of other behaviors and attitudes that cannot be learned as readily in other curricular areas. High school athletics is not a farm system for the colleges. Educationally, there are other objectives and goals.

I would like to think, regardless of a winning or losing season, that I have contributed to the growth and maturity of my players. I too hope they will have the "abilities to make the right choices in life." A fail grade denies me that opportunity and I suppose their guidance will now come from the "street."

Rita Walters and her supporters are throwing the baby out with the bath water with this insidious no-fail rule. Sixteen percent of these "second-class citizens" are now being denied equal opportunity to the full curriculum. They are being denied the very content which once provided self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment and a purpose to continue schooling.

What irony! I remember back to those turbulent times in the '60s when I actively participated in marches and demonstrations to right a wrong when 11% of our nation's population was denied full participation. I never dreamed that one day I would watch tears well up in the eyes of a 15-year-old black youth as I told him a teacher would not consider a D in Algebra because he had 54%--and 55% was passing.


Boys Basketball Coach

San Fernando High

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