In a perfect world, all school extracurricular activities would be fully funded. But with all indications being that future education funding will be significantly reduced, it’s painfully clear that we no longer live in a perfect world. As a result, school and community leaders as well as parents will be forced to determine how to allocate increasingly scarce extracurricular dollars, particularly in the areas of athletics and the arts.
These decisions must be made with the recognition that America’s economy has changed from one based on industrial might to one driven by technology, creativity, collaboration and innovation. What does this mean as applied to educational funding and priorities? How should it impact efforts to structure schools and educational curriculums to prepare our children to succeed in this rapidly changing and increasingly competitive world economy and integrated global community?
To successfully meet these challenges, parents, education policy makers and community leaders must be fully informed to enable them to approach these difficult decisions with a more thorough understanding of the issues and impacts these activities have on educational and community outcomes.
In Ball or Bands, author John R. Gerdy offers a thoughtful, thorough and clear-eyed comparative analysis of the educational value of football versus music programs in providing our children an education worthy of the 21st century. Drawing on relevant research and data, but also his extensive experience in both worlds, Gerdy poses a host of questions:
Should our educational institutions be sponsoring activities that deaden and destroy brain cells and impair brain function?
Should we continue to invest significant resources in football rather than, for example, music, which strengthens and develops neural connections and enhances brain function?
Which extracurricular activities garner the best educational return on investment?
Ball or Bands helps provide context, insight and information to help education and community leaders, as well as parents, approach these important questions about extracurricular funding with a clearer understanding of the educational and societal “playing field.” Despite the fact that some of the answers may be uncomfortable or inconvenient, we should welcome this discussion and analysis because, if we approach it honestly, the end result will be better schools serving our children and communities more effectively. In the end, isn’t that what we all want and what our society needs?