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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Charita Goshay: Rodman’s willful ignorance is a must-read for college athletes

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  • The latest antics of former NBA star Dennis Rodman show why a recent CNN investigation on the abysmal literacy rates among some college athletes is important.
    Education is needed to acquire facts. But knowledge is understanding why those facts matter. You can’t acquire either without reading.
    Knowledge is why people are disgusted and furious with Rodman over his so-called friendship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.
    North Korea is the best evidence for the existence of collective insanity. There’s no worse place on Earth. It takes willful ignorance to pretend that Kim wouldn’t just as soon kill his “friends” as his enemies. Rodman’s blindness to Kim’s atrocities is what can happen when you live in colossal ignorance of the wider world. But awareness isn’t possible if you don’t read. Or can’t.
    CNN examined data from 21 public colleges and universities and found that the reading-skills gap between some athletes and their fellow students is as wide as the Mississippi. The report features findings by Mary Willingham when she was a graduate student and athlete-learning specialist at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
    Willingham found that of the 183 football and basketball players who played between 2004 and 2012, 60 percent read between a fourth-grade and an eighth-grade level. Another 8 percent to 10 percent read below a third-grade level, which means they probably didn’t fill out their own college applications.
    It also means they couldn’t possibly have done the most basic entry-level coursework expected of every student.
    Some college athletic programs have become so successful, they aren’t allowed to fail. As a result, recruits who have developed their skills at the expense of everything else frequently are chosen, but they are doomed to fail.
    Willingham, who has received death threats, admitted to CNN that she was part of the apparatus, signing off on forms claiming that nothing was done to help athletes to skirt their academic requirements.
    This ugly baby must be laid at the doorstep of the NCAA. It is the National Collegiate Athletic Association that sets the squishy and wobbly standards for student-athlete participation.
    The NCAA admitted to CNN that in 2012, nearly 30 athletes in sports that make money for their schools were admitted to colleges with SAT test scores that fell below 700. The national average score is 1,000.
    To be fair, thousands of non-athletes are equally unprepared for college-level work. But they aren’t enabled when they start to struggle. The NCAA and colleges make millions from athletics. When a non-athlete drops out, it doesn’t make much of a sound.
    Even when athletes who can’t read know they’re being used by college programs, the dreams and possibilities of stardom and wealth are just too great to resist.
    Page 2 of 2 - Apart from his choices in fashion and friendship, Rodman’s story is not unusual. Despite beating the astronomical odds of becoming an NBA star and a champion with the Chicago Bulls, he is all but broke — which likely accounts for the friendship with Kim Jong Un. A country so bereft of information and culture has no way of knowing that Rodman is a has-been.
    And worse, his behavior has rendered him foolish. Yet his shambles of a life is a warning that few young athletes will heed. The road to glory is littered with thousands of poorly educated athletes who are utterly unprepared for life when the body gives out and the cheering stops.
    Contact Charita Goshay at charita.goshay@cantonrep.com.

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