Monday, September 23, 2002

New and important today: Michael Walzer's article in TNR arguing against going to war in Iraq. I'll be reading his essay more carefully than I have yet, and perhaps responding to it. But Walzer's is a voice to be taken very seriously; he is a friend of Israel, a supporter of the United States, and an opponent of the anti-American and Islamist sympathies on the radical left. He is also our leading scholar of justice and morality in wartime. He may be wrong, but he can't be dismissed. Kudos to TNR for publishing such a prominent criticism of its editorial line.
Also new: this remarkable front-page NYT article from Saturday on the end of varsity possibilitities for unrecruited male college athletes. The article even mentions the connection to the current mal-interpretation of Title IX, though not so prominently as it deserves. Unmentioned is the Bowen and Shulman study showing a dramatic increase in the scale of collegiate athletic recruitment and the in the magnitude of the admissions preference for recruited athletes. Title IX is the rock, stepped-up recruitment and dumbed-down admissions standards are the hard place, and caught in the middle are male college students who just want to play. I favor a radical reduction in the importance of sports on college campuses (and especially in admissions). The changes reported in this article seem to me to undermine one of the remaining defenses given of college sports. They no longer provide an opportunity for those students who would be at the college anyways and who have interest in playing. They provide opportunities only for preprofessional recruits, and for women, who continue not to show interest comparable to men's. If this large pool of eager students admitted without athletic preferences is being squeezed out, despite their interest in playing, then collegiate sports is not serving the purpose of providing an outlet for interested, qualified students. One coach is quoted as saying that these students should go off and join the debate team. I'm fine with that, of course; a debate team has a much closer link to collegiate purposes than does a preprofessional football team. But if there's no room for academically qualified students on the football team, then there shouldn't be any room for the football team on campus. Otherwise the team is justifiable only in circular terms: it exists for the benefit of players who would have no business being on campus if the team didn't exist.

FOLLOW-UP: See Richard Just's argument about what the much- (and mostly-correctly-) maligned U.S. News rankings have to do with the dominance of sports on most campuses. (Just notes that the only university administrators brag about three easily-quantifiable results: athletic victories, U.S. News rankings, and the number of Nobel Prize-winners. Chicago has slipped in the U.S. News poll, and I'm delighted to say that sports are a non-issue on this campus. We brag about the third...)

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