Monday, March 22, 2010

Thoughts on KU loss, Jenee and Jason, sports, weddings and the responsibility of students to do good in the world with what they learn..

I'm afraid
to write after Matt's surprising piece on trash day.

But, being a writer, write I must. Take this entry as a work in progress. Literally. I'll add to it later in the day. I do have a day job.

I'm still digesting the KU loss Saturday evening. I have to admit to feeling generally depressed after the final buzzer -- a freak snowstorm also contributes to my bleak view of the fairness of life. Here are several strangely related thoughts (I'll let you figure out if they are related and how):

1) I happened onto a JeneƩ Osterheldt column from early March yesterday. Don't ask how -- it has to do with when and where I do the daily crossword. It was about a young college graduate who was lucky enough to land a job right out of school. She graduated in special education and was able immediately to put the skills a whole team of people labored hard for four or five years to give her to work in the community.

But that wasn't what Jenee was happy about. Jenee was happy this young suburban woman had decided mid-year to resign her position in special education to concentrate on planning her wedding and "working on her marriage."

Now, aside from the hard fact that her marriage stands less than a 50-50 chance of taking, what rankles is the resignation. What about the children? She just walked out on a group of children who need her. She walked out so she can tend to what amounts to a self-absorbed, overblown, celebration of ... her! Special ed kids need consistency more than any others. But wedding and marriage planning trumped her responsibility to the community.

Now, as a man, I know I do not understand weddings, despite having been through three of them -- only one of which took. I do understand girls grow up dreaming of weddings the way I grew up dreaming about standing on the pitching mound in a major league ball park. I get it.

But, I don't get walking out in the middle of the year on the kids. Even to play major league baseball. (Can't believe I wrote that...)

But read the article for yourself. Tell me it isn't all about me, right down to the Dave Ramsey prosperity religion stuff. She felt pressure in college (from her parents, I presume) to find a career and, since she chose education, apparently she wanted a career helping people learn. Now she wishes she had gone in graphic design.

One thing I think college students miss today is their responsibility. As teachers, we have studied 20,30, 50 years to learn what we have to pass onto them in four years. We show up every day, do our best to teach, agonize over how to present difficult ideas, agonize over grades, agonize over how to show them what it means to be a citizen in a community, registrars get them into the right classes and rooms, financial aid officers get them money, the cafeteria feeds them ... they have a responsibility to go out into the world and do good.

That's what I said. They have a responsibility to go out into the world and do good.

No matter how much money they paid for their education, they owe us this.

I tried once to build this concept into the mission statement of the university where I teach but the phrase didn't make it out of committee. I know the idea that education is about doing good in the world flies against the consumer concept of education. The drive up window metaphor for education doesn't fit this idea. Imagine the kid at the drive up window telling you to remember you have a responsibility to eat that hamburger and get stronger from it so you can do good in the world because a cow gave its life and the staff inside prepared it lovingly for you. Sounds silly, I admit. But, dammit, higher education is not a drive up window and ideas are not hamburgers.

2) Jason Whitlock is the most inconsistent writer in big time journalism. Red Smith said it was impossible to write a column every day and not have a clinker once in a while. But Whitlock puts the great sports columnist's idea to the test. He writes well one day and terrible the next. This is more about the editor than the writer, in my opinion. His column today about the blame game in KU's loss is disorganized, unthoughtful, ragged and weak. It's really just a rough draft and apparently no one at the Star is deputized to tell him so.

First, he does exactly what he says he shouldn't. He hands out blame, though he waits until the last graph to do so. Then, inexplicably, he drops race into the picture -- arguing three teams were under-seeded in the tournament because they were predominantly white. I'm inferring this because he doesn't bother giving what could be an interesting idea more than quick jab. And, like the Missouri defense, he's all over the place. In basketball, this is good. In writing it is disrespectful to the reader.

3) The difference is amazing. While Kansas fans writhe over a defeat in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Missouri fans celebrate a defeat in the second round of the tournament. What does this mean? My guess is it speaks volumes about the media circus which surrounds college basketball these days.

I think one reason for KU's stunning loss of composure was the media. Here is a prime example. In the press conference after the first victory (If I were a college coach I'd only send the end of the bench boys out to meet the press for this exact reason...) Tyrel Reed was asked by a reporter if all he does now is look for the three-pointer. Reed, who appears to be basketball smart, was taken aback by this. No, he protested. Three's are what they've been giving me. I take what I can get.

The seed, however, was planted. Reed may have thought it denigrating to be seen as just a three-point shooter rather than a driver. He may also have thought if other teams think the three is all he has, they may overplay him outside and to survive he needs to drive once in a while. And, so, in the waning seconds of the crucial game with come-from-behind victory in his grasp, he turned down an open three and drove to the bucket where he was called for a charge. It was, by the way, the right call. You have to guess the reporter's question was squirming around somewhere in the back of his mind just before that ill-fated drive.

But, tears? Players collapsed on the floor? Comparisons to the emotions of losing a child? Fans too depressed to be civil at dinner? It was just sports. Right? It was just a game. Right?

-- Lofflin, too depressed to be civil at dinner...

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