By placing a greater emphasis on afternoon sports rather than on academic performance, Georgia residents are hampering their children and poisoning the state’s economic future, UGA President Michael F. Adams told a group of newly elected county commissioners last month.
“What goes on in the school from 8 to 4 Monday through Friday is infinitely more important than what happens in the football stadium Friday night, but we have not yet learned that,” Adams said. “A 1200 on the SAT today for a young African American is more important than being able to run a 4.40 (second) 40-yard dash, but we are not sending that message.”
Adams delivered the charge to about 150 county commissioners who were on campus to attend a workshop sponsored by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The commissioners spent three days on campus to learn about government proceedings and find inspiration for their new roles as public servants.
The call to increase academic rigor in elementary school echoed Adams’ plans for raising standards at the university. It’s a policy that moves beyond enriching minds, he said.
Better education can bolster the state’s economy by developing a skilled workforce that is more attractive to companies seeking to build new enterprises or relocate, he said.
“Georgia loses industry with the potential for creating good jobs because our workforce is not as well educated as it needs to be,” Adams said. “This state must continue to nurture and develop a sophisticated workforce if we want our future to be bright.”
To make it happen, the state must shift its students’ priorities from athletic “star power” to “brain power,” Adams said. He compared pinning students’ hopes on athletic stardom to buying a lottery ticket for their future, adding that of all the athletes vying for professional status, fewer than 2 percent will ever cash a paycheck from a pro team.
Adams pointed to a newspaper article touting that Georgia has become a magnet for attracting high school football coaches because of the benefits extended them here. He said it’s an example of misguided priorities.
“I’m on the board of the NCAA and there’s no bigger football fan in the state than me,” Adams said. “But can you imagine a newspaper article that says the very best science teachers in the United States are moving to Georgia because the people of Georgia have said they want the future of the life sciences, possibly the most important developing industry of the 21st century, to be centered here?”