A March Madness Question: Is basketball education?

This is a piece about education — a topic I’m becoming increasingly passionate about.  But I need you to bear with me for a moment.

Bob-Knight Is basketball education?I grew up in Indiana where basketball is like a religion.  Even though I don’t follow college basketball like I used to, I still enjoy watching the NCAA basketball tournament each March, and this year is extra fun as the Indiana Hoosiers are relevant again after years of struggle.

While working today I have the 1987 Championship Game on in the background.  ’87 was the last year that Indiana won the National Championship, and I have the actual recording of this game from our family TV.  That means I get not only the game, but all the hilarious commercials  too.

The halftime presentation included a discussion of holding student athletes accountable to institutional education standards.  I was really struck by what Indiana Coach Bob Knight said.

I want my players to go away and say, ‘well, I learned more in basketball than in any class I took at Indiana–that basketball was by far the most educational experience I had at Indiana.’ And if that kid says Chemistry 401– I want to find out what the hell that guy is teaching in Chemistry 401 because I ought to be teaching it in basketball.

What do you think?

Is the point of education to learn a specific body of knowledge?
Or is education about developing character and resourcefulness?

As our kids grow up I look forward to lots of chemistry experiments.  We’ll read Shakespeare together.  But we also happen to believe that travel is a better education for our kids than sitting in an old brick schoolhouse.

Seth-Godin Stop Stealing DreamsI’ve been reading the book Stop Stealing Dreams: What is school for? by Seth Godin.  You can download the book for free here and I highly, highly recommend the book.  Godin writes about how school would teach kids to love baseball:

Teach the history of baseball, beginning with Abner Doubleday and the impact of cricket and imperialism. Have a test.

Starting with the Negro leagues and the early barnstorming teams, assign students to memorize facts and figures about each player. Have a test.

Rank the class on who did well on the first two tests, and allow these students to memorize even more statistics about baseball players. Make sure to give equal time to players in Japan and the Dominican Republic. Send the students who didn’t do as well to spend time with a lesser teacher, but assign them similar work, just over a longer time frame. Have a test.

Sometime in the future, do a field trip and go to a baseball game. Make sure no one has a good time.

If there’s time, let kids throw a baseball around during recess.

Obviously, there are plenty of kids (and adults) who know far more about baseball than anyone could imagine knowing. And none of them learned it this way.

And that is pretty much why I’d trust my kids education to basketball before I’d put them in schools as they are currently set up.

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5 Comments

Rachel Denning 23-03-2012, 18:15

Don’t know much about basketball, but I totally agree with your philosophy. :)

I’m also reading Stop Stealing Dreams – Loving it!

Clark Vandeventer 27-03-2012, 21:54

Rachel, it’s never taken me so long to read such a short book! But there’s so much to think about. Excited about the education series on Family on Bikes!

Jessica 25-03-2012, 22:01

Love Seth Godin! And I agree with you completely. We need to offer kids a better way to learn.

Clark Vandeventer 27-03-2012, 21:52

I’ve followed Seth Godin to a degree but this is the first of his books that I have read. Won’t be the last! Have you read Stop Stealing Dreams?

Education Reform Guest Post for Family on Bikes | Family Trek 12-04-2012, 09:25

[...] Recently, though, I’ve moved beyond thinking just about our family’s approach to education and onto the broader public policy questions regarding education.  Many of these thoughts have been spurred by Seth Godin’s new manifesto on education, Stop Stealing Dreams: What is school for? [You can download a copy of the book here for free].  During March Madness, I even asked whether the volatile basketball coach Bob Knight was a better educator than a sweet … [...]

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