Letter to the Editor

Conflicting cultures

Friday, November 2, 2007


Consider the following a caveat to anyone whose profession is to deal with adolescents in the American High School setting. There are two cultures that exist concurrently in any high school curriculum. On the one side you have academia or the liberal arts where teachers deal with the development of the adolescent mind, or more precisely the intellect, that spiritual faculty of the soul. On the other hand you have the culture of athleticia where teachers are in charge of extra-curricular activities where sports dominate and the physical development and teaching of bodily skills is of paramount importance.

The problem is that there is a silent war going on between these two cultures, for no one wants to "rock the boat." "Live and let live" is more often the attitude taken by the opposite sides of this separate and seemingly harmless division of academia and athieticia. Rarely, if ever, in my teaching experience, is this dichotomy of cultures brought up or appears on the agenda of faculty meetings.

Now, every war has its casualties and in a silent war such as we have here, the victims are the adolescents who are right in the middle of this silent crossfire of academia and athleticia. The teachers on both sides are safe and secure. But the athlete who excels in his sport and, at the same time is pressured by his academic requirements, is led into a trap whereby he cheats and possibly lies in order to maintain the equilibrium required by the academic curriculum. Now this misdeed is considered a criminal act by the academic faculty and is treated as such, and the ramifications of collateral damage to other students, the personal relations of parent to parent, parent to teacher and the community at large are immeasurable. And all this confusion can be attributed to the fact that teachers are interested in only the deleterious effect this criminal act had on their "pet" program. or the personal insult implied, and "let the causes be damned."

Teachers would be well advised to look at the causes of cheating and I in by otherwise decent students who get caught in this silent war between the culture of academia and athleticia and then "let the punishment fit the crime, and/or misdeed, depending on where your goat is tied. This scenario exists in high schools throughout the USA. So, let the Bison Beware!

J. G. McHale


Retired teacher

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