LNP recently launched a new Schools section to be published the last Saturday of each month. According to LNP, “Pages will be chock full of honor rolls, classroom projects, student-of-the-month recognitions, choral achievements and school-initiated community programs.”
This is a significant step toward elevating the place and profile of science, technology, community service, music and the arts, not only in our schools but in our community.
It represents an opportunity for our community to recognize and support our schools, teachers and students in a way that heretofore has hardly existed. This is why it is important that we, as a community, support this effort.
It is fair to say that if a complete stranger to our society read a newspaper on a daily basis, his or her overwhelming impression would be that the primary purpose of our schools — and in particular, our high schools — was to underwrite and support sports teams.
The fact is, sports are nowhere near as central to the fundamental purpose of an educational institution as are science, technology, math and the activities that nurture creativity.
As entertaining as sports are and as much as we love them, it is far more important that we nurture and support those academic activities that are most central to the educational purpose and mission of our schools.
Bear Bryant, the legendary football coach at the University of Alabama, once said, “50,000 people do not come to campus to watch a history lecture.”
While that may be true, the core purpose of our educational system is to educate young people by nurturing in them the skills necessary to be productive citizens in the workplace and in the community. And it is far more important for schools to produce students proficient in science, math, technology and the arts than it is to produce football or basketball players.
How we cover and celebrate athletic contests versus the incredible things teachers and students are doing in the classroom, studio or community, provides a very visible example of community priorities.
LNP, as Lancaster’s main newspaper, has enormous impact and influence. Its new Schools section sends the clear message that academic achievement is important and valued in our community.
And the more we celebrate those achievements, the more our students will strive to achieve, creating a positive feedback loop. A little recognition from the community newspaper can go a long way in making academic achievement and community service “cool.”
So what can we do to support LNP’s efforts in this regard?
A common complaint of business leaders is that there aren’t enough potential employees with the necessary academic skills to add significant value to their companies. That being the case, businesses would be well served by supporting the Schools section through advertising. They might also begin to sponsor or underwrite, in partnership with LNP or schools, various academic, art or community service awards and recognition activities.
There are also things that individual citizens can do. First, take the time to read the section. What you will discover is that we have an incredible number of young people doing amazing things in science, math, the arts and community service.
And when you read of something amazing that a student has accomplished, tell your friends and neighbors about it. Better yet, take the time to jot a quick congratulatory note to the young person. And when you hear of a student doing something extraordinary, report it to LNP so it can be covered.
Highlighting these accomplishments may inspire parents and other citizens to pursue other initiatives that celebrate academic excellence. Perhaps it will result in more discussion and recognition regarding academic and educational issues in our schools. Or maybe it will lead to more schools establishing academic, arts or science, rather than simply athletic, halls of fame.
While it is certainly nice to celebrate the athletic accomplishments of students, it is critical that we recognize, celebrate and support the academic, artistic and community service accomplishments of our young people as well.
Being recognized by the community for one’s success is a tremendous boost to self-esteem. All of our children, not simply our athletes, are contributing to our schools and community in meaningful and important ways that deserve recognition.
LNP has provided our community with a tremendous opportunity to not just advance the mission of our schools but to make Lancaster a place that embraces education, science, technology, the arts and community service.
Symbols and advocacy are important. They raise public awareness that in turn can lead to action. Our support for LNP’s Schools section will convey the clear sense that Lancaster County values student accomplishment in science, technology, engineering, the arts and community service every bit as much as athletic accomplishment.
Dr. John R. Gerdy is founder and executive director of Music For Everyone and author of “Ball or Bands: Football vs. Music as an Educational and Community Investment.” His website: johngerdy.com.