Edification on Edication & Sports?
Auburn’s redshirt freshman Peyton Barber came to this college’s football program after high school where he had been diagnosed with ADHD. Noticing he was having difficulty reading in a class, Barber went to a counselor who told him they’d get him tested, and the results showed he had dyslexia. According to the Associated Press article that appeared in the April 16, 2014 Gainesville (FL) Sun, ADHD and dyslexia often go hand-in-hand, and Barber’s father also had dyslexia.
It’s great that this promising young tailback is finally aware of this diagnosis about a problem that has been familiar to him throughout his schooling. He will now be able to take the steps to adjust to this learning disability and make adaptations to better enable him to process his reading assignments and be successful in college. Nothing in the article suggests anything about how this will help him in his academics, though the article does make a brief mention of how Barber is now “…spending plenty of time studying his playbook and working with support staffer Bobby Bentley.” The remainder of the article focuses on the talent of this 5-foot-11, 225-pound player. That Barber’s playing ability is central to the article is understandable as it is in the sports section, but what drew me to it was the headline:
“Dyslexia Diagnosis not slowing down Auburn tailback”.
I am well aware that there are different entrance standards for athletes than for the general population of college students, and I’m also aware of the protestations to the contrary by the athletic departments and administrations of most colleges. Coaches insist these student athletes must carry a certain average in their classes to be able to compete in their sport, but rarely discuss what concessions are made for the players and how coaching staff frequently intervene for the student if there is a low grade, poor attendance, or some other issue. In my experience teaching, even at a college with a limited sports program, I found that some of the players felt that they were exempt from some of the class expectations, and I was approached by coaches or staff to see what I could do to tweak a grade or attendance score so the player didn’t lose eligibility.
College is meant to be challenging and students entering college assumedly have a high school diploma or equivalent that presumably has prepared them for the classes they will take to earn their college degree. Barber’s situation is symptomatic of a problem that is not limited to just students in sports programs, students who are frequently selected for playing ability rather than academic capability, but is a problem that exemplifies the fact that many students graduate from high school without the skills necessary to succeed in college or even in the work force.
How is it that Barber got from elementary school to high school without being identified as having a problem with reading? It must have been evident early on that he was struggling well before it was known that he would be a great tailback for Auburn yet like so many other students in schools across the country, he must have been pushed from one grade to the next without having the basic skills required to make it through successive grades.
There is a lot of talk about testing and accountability and with the Common Core Standards now being adopted by many states, there is a supposition that the standards for education will be equalized in most American schools. Yet even as this test is being introduced, it won’t change the fact that many students are slipping through the cracks, no, actually falling through yawning crevices. Anyone involved in education in any way and denies this is lying or stupid. The standards are being lowered. The so-called accountability and testing is all about money. The easy way out is to blame teachers so the administration and policy makers look good, can tout skewed statistics and make more money. Nobody says “wait a minute that kid can’t read and he just graduated from high school.” This kid should have been helped from the moment any indication of learning difficulties surfaced. Teachers and parents no doubt see this, but are for one reason or another, not speaking up.
So here’s Peyton Barber, who has gone from trailing behind because he had dyslexia that no one noticed until he got to college to being an up and coming tailback. Who’s noticing the thousands of other kids who have dyslexia or for whatever reason cannot read. Does it mean that unless you are a great athlete and can generate lots of money for a schools’ athletic program no one really cares? Yes.
In America education is free. It’s your fault if you can’t read, get ahead, get a good job. Keep saying that long enough and get people to believe it, and that’ll get the educational policy makers and the corporate executives who produce educational materials and tests off the hook.
It ain’t about helping kids. Those are empty words.