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Athletic Obsession Corrupts Real Education

Although much has been written about how football has made a mockery of education in college, little has been published about how a similar trend is also affecting high school ("High School Football Inc., The New York Times, Sep. 18). I'm talking now about IMG Academy, a private, for-profit sports boarding school in Bradenton, Florida.

With nearly 1,000 students from more than 80 countries enrolled in pre-K through 12th grade, IMG is a model that I believe poses a direct threat to an academic education. Tuition and board for a year of football are $70,800, with need-based financial assistance available.  Although it is not a public school, IMG has received more than $7 million from the Florida state budget over the last two years.

Because its clear intent is to serve as a football training ground, some high schools in Florida have refused to play IMG.  They correctly recognize that it is a football factory, rather than a high school. I realize that IMG provides three classes lasting 80 minutes each, 40 minutes of tutoring and standardized test preparation, and a 90-minute study hall each day.  But its main mission is still not academic but athletic.

IMG supporters will argue that we have dance, music and art academies in this country.  So why is an athletic academy any different? For one thing, graduates of the former go on to make a lifetime career in their respective fields.  I question how many IMG graduates go on to do the same in football or in any other sport. For another, IMG is the quintessential corporate school, with brands prominently on display.  That may not bother others, but I see it as an intrusion in what education is supposed to be about. Once corporations spend money at IMG, they will eventually want the curriculum to reflect their views.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if IMG is cloned.  Education is becoming a commodity to be monetized. 

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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