When you ask the average teenager who his idol is, other than parents, you get responses such as Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Chipper Jones or Michael Jordan.
The names change, but usually it's professional athletes.
Sports are not bad and I don't mind watching or playing them. The problem is that for too many teens, sports and sports icons are valued above everything else. One reason for this is that sports are what gets the attention in schools. Set a record with your grade-point average and maybe you'll get your name listed in the school newsletter. Set a record for your batting average and there will be newspaper reports and probably a pep rally.
Schools are supposed to be about academics, but for a long time sports has been given as much, if not more, importance.
Schools reflect our culture. There is a sports page in the newspaper, sports television channels, sports scholarships and sporting events.
Turning our focus from academics hurts us. A 2003 study provided by the Program for International Student Assessment ranked the United States 28th out of 39 countries in mathematical literacy. We are outperformed by countries including Canada, Poland and the Czech Republic.
I believe this happens because schools and students lose their focus on academics.
Remember when you were in elementary school, how everything was academic-based except for one "elective" such as PE or art? As we go into middle school, that starts to change. This is when the importance of school and the value of subjects such as math and science start to slide. By the end of middle school, we are pulled in other directions, and the importance of sports has caught up with mathematics and science. By the beginning of high school, they can supersede it.
This isn't to say that sports aren't important. They teach teamwork and confidence and instill discipline, but they shouldn't be viewed as more important than academics. Except for a select few athletes, there is a slim chance of going into professional sports.
In high school, the focus should be on academics and graduation and preparation to earn a vocational or college degree. Academics is the vehicle needed to ensure the U.S. remains a viable player in our technological world. As much as we like players on the gridiron, the diamonds and the courts, let's not lose focus.
John Klement, 14, is a freshman at Greenbrier High School.