Monday, October 11, 2010

Are you smarter than Socrates?

Dear College Administrator, Athletic Director or Legislator,

Are you smarter than Socrates? Wrestling was part of his educational regimen and he once said, “I swear it upon Zeus that an outstanding runner cannot be the equal of an average wrestler.” Socrates’ most influential disciple, Aristocles, was renamed Plato(n) by his wrestling coach Ariston of Argos.

Are you smarter than Ben Franklin, who published the following in 1749, “The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by wise Men in all Ages, as the surest Foundation of the Happiness both of private Families and of Common-wealths. Almost all Governments have therefore made it a principal Object of their Attention, to establish and endow with proper Revenues, such Seminaries of Learning, as might supply the succeeding Age with Men qualified to serve the Publick with Honour to themselves and to their Country.

“That to keep them in Health, and to strengthen and render active their Bodies, they be frequently exercis’d in Running, Leaping, Wrestling and Swimming…?”

Are you smarter than George Washington and Abraham Lincoln who were both champion wrestlers in the styles of their day?

Are you smarter than Theodore Roosevelt, who mandated that wrestling become part of the physical curriculum at the military academies?

Are you smarter than Nobel laureate, Dr. Norman Borlaug – the man who fed millions – and who credited wrestling with teaching him the discipline and tenacity he needed to continue his research?

Are you smarter than novelist, John Irving when he said, “I think the discipline of wrestling has given me the discipline to write.”?

Are you smarter than former Congressman and current head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Jim Leach, an Iowa state high school wrestling champion and former member of the Princeton wrestling team? “I’ve always thought that the most equalitarian place in the world is the wrestling mat.”

Are you smarter than Dan Laurent, a three-time NCAA Division III heavyweight wrestling champion who recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a 3.9 GPA in double majors of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology?

Are you smarter than the administrators at Wayland Baptist University, Baker University or Minot State University – all of whom have added wrestling to increase enrollment and opportunity at their institutions?

For centuries the greatest minds and leaders considered wrestling a valuable part of higher education. Then, about thirty years ago, American legislators and administrators at many of America’s colleges and universities decided that they were smarter than Socrates – or Franklin – or Lincoln , and started dropping wrestling from the curriculum. Did they do that because wrestling is no longer relevant and modern kids don’t want to wrestle? That can’t be the reason. According to the National Federation of High Schools, wrestling is the sixth most popular boys’ sport in terms of participation – and it continues to grow. Since the 2002/2003 school year the number of youngsters on high school wrestling teams has increased by 30,000.

Did they do it to equalize educational opportunities among all segments of society? Ostensibly – yes. Title IX was enacted in 1972 and says quite simply, “No person in the United States, on the basis of sex, shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” You certainly can’t argue with that. But then the courts and the lawmakers got involved and college administrators found it easier to eliminate opportunity than create it.

So what about opportunity? As Mr. Leach indicated, wrestling is the most democratic of all sports. In what other one have you watched an athlete walk up to face his opponent, remove his prosthetic legs and then win an NCAA Championship? Ten years ago I got to do that when Nick Ackerman of Simpson College took the Division III wrestling title. And what about opportunity for women? Girls’ participation in wrestling is exploding in the states that sanction girls only championships. Smart college administrators have noticed this trend and recently added women’s teams at Jamestown University in North Dakota and Waldorf College in Iowa.

If your school doesn’t have a wrestling team, what do you think George Washington, Dr. Norman Borlaug and John Irving would urge you to do?

Do you need help or more information? Contact the National Wrestling Coaches Association and they’ll get you started. You just might be as smart as Socrates.


Riot Sports Marketing said...

An absolutely fantastic post!
Jim Harshaw

Jim Brown said...

Thanks, Jim.