Schooled Reporting on education

Not always a slam dunk

Education | Christian schools face uphill battles to field competitive sports teams
by Bob Brown
Posted 1/22/20, 07:11 pm

The seventh and eighth grade boys basketball team at Queensway Christian College in Toronto was “flat out terrible,” one former player recalled to The Toronto Star. Then he showed up, and the team began winning by 40 to 50 points. To find suitable competition, the coach scheduled games against teams from the Canadian city’s large public high schools. And the middle schoolers, led by a gangly eighth grade shooting whiz, kept winning.

Today, after back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player awards in 2015 and 2016 and three NBA championships with the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry is widely regarded as basketball’s all-time greatest 3-point shooter. Not bad for a product of a Christian school sports program. After Queensway, Curry attended high school at Charlotte Christian School in North Carolina, where he played varsity basketball for three years. He met Ayesha, now his wife, at a church youth group in Charlotte. The couple has three children and remains devoted Christians.

The Stephen Currys of the world don’t often walk into a Christian school gym. Many parents can tell less-than-glorious stories of watching their children’s Christian school teams flounder against stronger, better-funded programs. At schools without a significant budget or a sizable student body to field competitive sports teams, lopsided losses are regular occurrences.

In Lakeland, Fla., the Lakeland Christian School girls basketball team has played the roles of underdog and overwhelming favorite. On Jan. 7, the team defeated Excel Christian Academy 54-18. Five weeks earlier, though, they lost to Victory Christian Academy 78-12.

The National Christian Schools Athletic Association’s rankings for girls high school basketball last week placed Portland Christian School in Oregon at No. 1 with an 11-2 record. The No. 3 team had a record of 10-6, and the No. 8 team was 11-1. Lakeland, with a 5-8 record, was ranked No. 6. What factor puts a team with almost twice as many losses as wins above a team with only one loss? Strength of schedule: One of Lakeland’s losses was to a public high school team. The 55-16 defeat, although surely not fun for the losing players, is usually expected when a Christian school faces off against a public school.

Though parents of Christian school athletes sometimes transfer their athletically talented children to public high schools for a better sports experience, some of the best basketball schools in the country are Christian schools. Oak Hill Academy, a Baptist-affiliated boarding school on 420 acres in southwest Virginia, churns out superstars. Former NBA players Jerry Stackhouse and Ron Mercer went there. So did 10-time NBA All-Star and current Portland Trailblazer forward Carmelo Anthony and 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets, who is sidelined this season because of an injury. He played at Oak Hill in his junior year of high school then transferred to Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md., for his senior season.

And don’t discount homeschoolers. Last year, a former homeschooler broke one of Curry’s records from when he played college ball at Davidson. Antoine Davis, a guard for Detroit Mercy, set the new mark for 3-pointers by a Division I college freshman with 132.

Tyrone Johnson, a successful coach at Christian schools in Alabama and Georgia, where his teams won boys state basketball championships against Christian and public school competition, said that one of the most important factors in creating a successful Christian school sports program is the commitment of the administration. He said, noting that he didn’t mean this as “a criticism,” different schools have different perspectives. For some, sports are important and, therefore, well-funded; for others, they’re not.

Johnson also believes championships and winning records shouldn’t be any Christian school’s ultimate goal for its players: “If they love Jesus with all their heart, mind, and soul, they should play that way.”

Associated Press/Photo by Steven Senne Associated Press/Photo by Steven Senne Lori Loughlin departs federal court in Boston in August.

Rules of the game

Some of the parents implicated in last year’s college admissions scandal are attempting to turn the spotlight onto one of the universities involved and how it solicited donations. In court documents filed earlier this month, a group of parents requested fundraising and donor relations records from the University of Southern California. The parents claim the internal documents will bolster their argument that the university’s process for courting donors already affects admissions unfairly and they were simply following the university’s unwritten code of conduct.

Lawyers for defendant Robert Zangrillo first subpoenaed USC for wider access to its donor records last summer, claiming that his $250,000 donation was not a bribe or abuse of the system but rather a conventional gift “indistinguishable from the vast numbers of other donations by parents of students.” The university pushed back on that request. A judge instructed the two sides to find a compromise, which proved elusive in the ensuing months.

“You can’t blame [the parents] for trying,” James Felman, an attorney and expert on fraud crimes told the Los Angeles Times. “The idea, though, that they are going to turn this into a trial about how a school seeks donations is hard to see.”

Meanwhile, prosecutors filed new documents last week in the case against former Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli. The filings appear to undermine the couple’s claim that they thought their $500,000 gift to USC was a legitimate donation and not an illegal payoff to secure admission for their two daughters. The piles of documents include email exchanges between Giannulli and William “Rick” Singer, the admissions scheme’s mastermind, confirming that Singer compiled a fake profile of Loughlin and Giannulli’s eldest daughter as a rowing coxswain even though the young woman never rowed in high school. —Laura Edghill

iStock.com/littleny iStock.com/littleny The Phelps Gate at Yale University

In the minority

Three out of 4 Yale professors say they are liberal, but four conservative professors are fighting back.

Yale history professor Carlos Eire, who escaped from Cuba as a child, said Yale’s liberal environment stifles political dialogue. “There’s definitely no diversity here when it comes to politics,” he told the Yale Daily News. “The liberal point of view is taken to be objective—not an opinion, not a set of beliefs. … If everything you say is immediately invalid because you are not virtuous, then there’s no dialogue.”

Eire said conservative faculty are isolated, and liberal professors cull out conservative graduate students. Yale President Peter Salovey has said “diverse points of view” are crucial in higher education and Yale needs some conservative professors, but Eire said the administration’s current faculty hiring efforts are insufficient.

Yale has embraced diversity of race and gender, but not of political viewpoint. A 2014 Stanford study showed a 28-to-1 liberal to conservative faculty ratio in the northeast, while a 2019 Gallup poll found 35 percent of Americans identify themselves as conservative, and 26 percent liberal.

Yale professor David Bromwich said the lack of political diversity among Yale faculty is not new, but now it’s easier to use social media to isolate and shame faculty with unpopular opinions. The Yale administration plans to release soon a report on its efforts to diversify. WORLD tried unsuccessfully to reach the Yale administration for comment. —Mark Closson

A time to pray

Following through on a 2018 executive order, President Donald Trump on Thursday unveiled the first updated guidance on school prayer in nearly two decades.

The guidelines clearly state that students can pray alone or with others during lunch or other free time, organize prayer groups, and express their religious beliefs in their assignments. Students are also free to include prayer or religious references when speaking at assemblies or other school gatherings provided the selection process was “content-neutral” and applied “evenhanded criteria.”

At stake is more than $700 billion in federal funding. Schools must confirm that their policies do not interfere with the constitutionally protected rights outlined in the guidelines to receive those federal funds. —L.E.

Bob Brown

Bob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course.

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