Splash vs. results
Controversy is a good thing in the newspaper business, but it isn’t necessarily fair for those brought into the fray. Take PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and their most recent villain. They found a high-profile lobster processor in Linda Bean and her Perfect Maine brand, and they have ridden that horse for all it’s worth.
I don’t know Linda Bean personally, nor do I have any real stake in this battle, but it does seem unfair to bring Linda Bean to the woodshed for a first class public lashing without giving us more information.
It has been noted nothing illegal is going on in her Rockland processing facility. What hasn’t been discussed is whether they checked any other processors in Maine and whether those processors had different practices.
Instead, they found a target that is very visible and they are taking it to the bank.
It is good for the newspaper. PETA has submitted some big ads that will evoke some emotion and perhaps anger our lobster community and Linda Bean. It has always been our position that newspapers are the vehicle for advertising and we can’t discriminate unless the images are too graphic or the message completely hate-based, racist or over-the-top offensive in nature. Opinions are fair game, and we allow all sides to say their piece.
In the case of Linda Bean verses PETA, the first story on VillageSoup created a maelstrom of opinions and comments on all sides of the issue, which is the way discussions start.
In this case, I am torn. Since I don’t understand the industry or the standards of lobster processing, I will withhold judgment. I think PETA makes their case for doing it in a more humane way but when we attack somebody their best defense is often to go into quiet mode. Linda Bean has been very quiet, at least publicly, on what she thinks about the publicity she is receiving.
What I think is the real shame here is that PETA took videos and seemingly snuck in and surprised Linda Bean. Then, rather than negotiating quietly with her, they went for the SPLASH.
If the real end game is to create more humane rules for processing lobsters, might it have been better (and more humane) to meet with Linda and have a discussion?
I don’t think that happened. Rather, the noise that PETA made by the SPLASH is all I heard.
And the by-product of this is not good for the Maine Lobster Industry. The video has gone viral and depicts callousness to what is a pretty pristine image, the Maine lobster. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association and Marine Resources responses have been dismissive of PETA and are tantamount to saying, "If you don’t like it, tough, it’s the way we do it here in Maine. Image is important and our Maine Yankee toughness and mentality might be getting in our way.
The last interesting tidbit is PETA itself. After sending us the ads mentioned above, and asking us if we would run them, they have yet to give us the approval. One wonders if their motivation was to see if they could trap us in their PETA net as well. Were they looking for us to say no so they could get us in the group of bad guys? We said OK and then they stopped answering their phones and emails and the ads sit in limbo. Is it a conspiracy, a ploy or just a change of plan? We don’t know, they won’t call us back.
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School sports — what serves the better good?
Now that school is back in session, parents can again enjoy watching their children compete on football and soccer fields, wrestle or run some cross-country.
I love sports and appreciate what they can bring, but this week an article in the Atlantic Magazine, written by Amanda Ripley, and titled “The Case Against High School Sports” was an eye-opener. It has given me some pause to think and share some thoughts about high school sports and where they fit in.
The article points out “The United States routinely spends more tax dollars per high-school athlete than per high-school math student — unlike most countries worldwide. And we wonder why we lag in international rankings come out.”
The article goes on and gives some pretty good perspective, showing both sides of this complex issue.
Ripley interviews a South Korean female exchange student from a New Jersey school and compares her experiences in Korea playing pick up soccer on a dirt field, and badminton, where they pretended there was a net. Now, she plays on a campus that includes lush fields, six tennis courts and a school hall of fame.
To put it in perspective, her home school’s country ranks fourth in the world in math while the United States currently ranks in 31st.
That is the reality and that basic fact says it all when it comes to our priorities as a country.
Our school budgets continue to get slashed, but students continue to play sports and travel. While the need for higher skill levels in math and science continue to drop on the local and international standard, is it time to reevaluate how we do things?
At private schools, all kids play sports and they use sports to teach how to be part of a team and how to create character development and teach students important lessons while giving them some exercise and life balance as well.
In the public school system, sports is voluntary and competitive, yet the monies spent on sports can be disproportionate to subjects that all students must take and is seldom (never) equal to the arts and humanities that can also lead to character development and nourishment.
In her article, Ripley tells of a small Texas town where football rules (it inspired the show "Friday Night Lights") that in spite of laying off eight employees, combining their middle school with their high school, and having no art or music teachers in the elementary schools, plus a closed off science lab due to mold, continued to fund football, basketball, volleyball, track, tennis, cheerleading, and baseball.
Football at that school cost about $1,300 per player while math less than half at $618. For the price of one football season, the school could have hired that art or music teacher for a year. This, for a team that won one game the previous year and hadn’t made the play-offs in almost 10 years, seems like some mixed up priorities. Canceling football hadn’t even been considered, that is until Superintendent Ernest Singleton responded to the threat that this school would be shut down for academic failure and financial mismanagement.
Singleton, a 15-year veteran principal, was brought in to fix the school. By suspending the entire sports programs he freed up $150,000. When he arrived on the scene, he noted that the kids were running the asylum with bad language and unprepared teachers the norm.
The prediction was that the 282 students would be ill-served and the plan would be disastrous. A rocky start saw 12 students transfer to a school 10 miles away and two coaches followed. However, Singleton noted that the first 12 weeks were quiet without football. They were the calmest that Singleton had ever seen in all his years in education.
The school held sports-free pep rallies every Friday with classes competing in team building exercises. More time was spent planning school lessons and an after school tutoring program replaced daily practices. Students began playing flag-football on club teams during the weekend and noticed that they weren’t falling behind in their studies because the extra time away from practice allowed more focus on education.
The first half of the year saw dramatic results with 80 percent of students passing their classes compared to 50 percent the previous year. And the parents came around as well. A total of 160 parents attended the parent-teacher night compared to six the year before. There was an overall culture change and decline in bad behavior. One teacher said she could not remember a fight whereas the previous year there was a fight every couple of weeks.
In her article, Ripley shares a study of costs at another high school located out west where the cost of cheerleading was pegged at $1,348 per student involved verses $328 for each math student. She also found that football was by far the most expensive sport with field maintenance as high as $20,000 a year and reconditioning helmets another $1,500 annually. There were a lot of other costs that get buried in the budget such as buses for travel, the gas, the band, hotels and food when on the road as well as hiring officials, providing security, painting the lines, and clean up.
She also reported that without sports there was more focus and less distraction; both cited as positive steps forward in putting education first. With 20 countries ahead of us in graduation rates, this is something to take note of.
The article is fair in pointing out that sports keep kids engaged, in school, and out of trouble; its relevance is without question. However, it points out, using sports to tempt kids to stay in school and on a straight line might be too narrow a path and perhaps outdated.
Most of the studies cited in the article suggested that students who participated in sports had higher college attendance and better employment rates. Also, they had higher college graduation percentages and voted more often.
It is without a doubt a mixed bag. Some schools might be better served investing in intramural sports and an overall health and wellness approach. Most people interviewed in the story believed that sports were important and added value to our educational system. However, when it collides with academics and choices need to be made, thinking then splits off, and a value equation should be looked at.
To read this the Atlantic article in its entirety, go to: theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/the-case-against-high-school-sports/309447/
Reade Brower can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.