The university of Michigan, like many other universities, is very centrally focused around football. On Saturdays the Ann Arbor population essentially triples. Walking outside on the morning of game day you see a stream of people decked out in maize and blue making their way to Hill Street. On the surface game day is a crazy, wonderful and fun ritual. However what lies underneath? It’s easy to see why the university places such a high importance on a game. It brings in money—a lot of it. But what does it say about the values of the school?
Louis Menand has three theories of education:
One: The goal is to split people up into the best, the average, and the weak. With this theory it does not matter what kind of classes people take.
Two: The goal is to produce competent citizens. Students must take the same types of classes in order to give them the necessary background to be a part of society.
Three: The goal is to produce workers. High school gives everyone a general education, so according to this theory college should give students the skills necessary for a job.
Each of these theories has a valid point—they all in some way work to prepare students for the world after college. In each of these theories either the student or the society benefits from college. It is therefore not surprising that none of them say anything about the importance of sports at the University. In fact, the importance that sports currently hold seems to work against all of Menand’s theories.
The head football coach at the University ofMichigan makes over $4 million annually. He makes more than five times the amount the president of the university does. Not only that but he makes more than twenty-six times the amount that the average full time professor at the University of Michigan makes. These numbers alone send a very distorted idea of where our priorities lie.
The school throws its time, energy, and resources into sports. With all of this money, football is able to become a big production in a beautiful stadium. The University makes it a big production, and so the students treat it that way. There is so much hype leading up to a game—hours of drinking, tailgating, dancing and partying. The players spend hours a day practicing and leaving everything on the field. The coaches put their focus on winning the game. They sometimes focus on this even more than the players’ well beings. How can these values produce students that fit any one of Menand’s theories?
If the school were to put half the resources it uses on football into education, things would be dramatically different. Not only would classes themselves be different, the whole mentality would be different. Students put so much focus into football and other sports, because the University does the same. It sends the wrong message. If this message were to change, the whole student body could change along with it.