The case for forcing students to watch March Madness

Everyone seems to agree that America’s education system is in desperate need of reform.  But what’s the answer?  Some say students and parents need more school choice.  Others say funding is the issue.  And some say things went downhill when students stopped being required to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

I'll never get why this went out of fashion

As the title of this post suggests, I’ve found a simpler and likely more less offensive solution:  the NCAA basketball tournament should be shown in the classroom.  In addition to providing great opportunities for gambling and entertainment, the tourney is an untapped gold mine of valuable educational information for our nation’s youth.

It’s a great way to learn about colleges

Before you apply to a college it’s important to know as much about it as possible.  But traveling around to visit colleges can get expensive.  And on visits where you get a tour from nerds volunteers, how can you be sure you’re getting the real lowdown? Watching the NCAA tournament, though, can be like letting kids get in-depth visits to colleges from the comfort of their own classrooms.  Colleges seem to acknowledge that sports can help attract prospective applicants.  During the broadcast they air commercials and have the announcers slip in basic facts about the schools while they’re calling the game.  They can also learn a lot from taking a look at the fans and cheerleaders.

Literally thousands applied to Wichita State because of this

The announcers are basically teachers, but better

I don’t mean to demean teachers with that statement, but take some time and think back on your favorite teachers from when you were young.  Your favorite teachers probably weren’t the nerdy eggheads who did everything by the book.  No, your favorite teachers were the cool renegades who essentially tricked you into learning by making it fun and then slept with you.  That’s what the NCAA tournament announcers can be for kids today.  While watching competitive and intense basketball games, students can expand their vocabulary by listening to Jim Nantz, Gus Johnson, and Len Elmore.  Former players like Mike Gminski and Steve Kerr sneak lessons about physics and philosophy into their analysis.  And Bill Raftery can teach kids about the importance of onions to their diet.

The games themselves are the lesson

It’s best to think of the NCAA tournament like a modern-day, real life fairy tale.

Like this except with less Gary Oldman

No matter the results of the games, there are similar storylines that play out in every NCAA tournament.  And, like a fairytale, these storylines and their characters are representative of important life lessons that all the algebra and state-forced creationist teachings in the world can’t impart.  There’s the low-major 15 and 16 seeds, usually just happy to be there, who are examples of the principle to never take anything good for granted because you never know when you’ll get it again. You have the mid-major underdog, who succeeds through preparation, flawless execution, heart, and other clichés, teaching kids to never count themselves out of anything.  The other side of that coin is the underachieving, high-seeded, big conference team that can teach kids about the importance of never taking anything lightly.  You have the improbable upsets, comebacks, and buzzer beaters, proof that miracles can happen.  There are even stereotypical fairytale villains:  creatures of pure evil that are driven by a singular desire to destroy all that is right and good in the world.

Yeah, another lesson the NCAA tournament can teach kids: sometimes the bad guys win.

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