That's a question EdWeek blogger Walt Gardner tackles today in his Walt Gardner's Reality Check blog.
Gardner examines the case of Herbert H. Lehman High School in New York, whose football field is 20 yards too short for regulation. As a result, the team has forfeited any sense of home field advantage and has been forced to play all its games on other schools' fields.
Despite the allocation of almost $5 million by the New York City Department of Education to renovate Lehman's multipurpose athletic complex, the new field will still come up 20 yards shy because the additional land is purportedly owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. The football coach said the deficiency will only exacerbate the inconvenience and embarrassment that have long existed, and parents have threatened to file a lawsuit.
What's disturbing about the whole affair is the inordinate weight placed on athletics at the expense of academics. It's hard to get worked up about a short football field when classrooms are being neglected because of the district's budget woes. Only in this country are athletics accorded such attention and adulation. Our competitors abroad have long found it strange that athletic ability plays such a strong role in awarding scholarships for college.
Be sure to read his whole entry for more details about the Herbert H. Lehman High School case and for more on the debate about overemphasizing athletics in U.S. schools at the sake of academic excellence.
But for what it's worth, there's plenty of research (not to mention school programs) that suggest academics and athletics (particularly physical fitness programs) don't have to remain mutually exclusive.