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By Mac McKinnon
It there any such thing any more - or for that matter at any time - as
We all know that athletes receive special treatment -or do they?
I was listening to a talk radio show the other day when a number of
good points were made. One was a question about how could it be that kid
from the ghetto goes to college on an athletic scholarship and by the
time he is a senior he is wearing a bunch of gold chains.
Another point was that many students on academic scholarships get
spending money, especially from the big corporations. How can we expect
young people to go to college without some kind of spending money.
It used to be that athletes were given about $100 a month for laundry,
which obviously was one way for students to get spending money as much
of the laundry didn't cost them anything.
However, the NCAA stopped that practice. Are they living in the real
world? Students need some money to buy an occasional pizza, etc. It's
not realistic to expect otherwise. Of course, it shouldn't be excessive
as has been the case with some athletes who get free cars and big
allowances from college alumni.
Athletes have had to resort to taking those gifts from alumni, in many
cases out of need and in other instances out of greed.
Do athletes really get an education as some people are claiming they
are getting that free? Again, we need to get real as most athletes have
to spend a large part of their time in the sport for which they get a
If you have a football game every Saturday for 11 weeks, much of the
time is spent travelling to and from the site of the game or else
getting over injuries.
Some schools work really hard to make sure athletes are given a chance
for an education, taking tutors and instructors on trips for games. But
is that really working? We've all heard of athletes who "graduate" from
college and still can't read.
What it boils down to is that college athletics is a farm league for
professional sports. Now I enjoy college sports because of all the
fanfare, the bands and such, but let's face it - many of the "stars" are
just trying to make a name for themselves to get a pro contract. There
are a number of players who are legitimate in their efforts at playing
to get an education.
Of course, many players, although not candidates for the pros, will get
good jobs from alumni of the school they play for which is another
benefit, if they make the team and don't get injured and still pass many
of their classes.
I don't know what is going to happen out of the continuing saga of
college athletics. But the current system isn't working and it isn't
fair to put a school on probation because of so-called abuses and it
certainly wasn't fair to stop football altogether for punishment such as
happened at SMU a few years back.
A more realistic approach needs to be made to put athletics on a par
with other scholarships if schools really want to do them right.
Editor's Note: Mac McKinnon is editor and publisher of the Pecos
Enterprise. His column appears on Wednesday and Friday.
Growing unrest in our society has brought to the forefront
anti-government groups clamoring for more freedom and lower (or no)
Our concern is that far-out fringe groups like Montana's Freemen and
the purported "Republic of Texas" represent a larger group of
responsible citizens who are fed up with government in general, but make
Something needs to be done. Something HAS to be done if we are to
continue as a free society. We have turned from independent,
self-sufficient citizens who govern themselves to whiners dependent on
the government for daily sustenance - and all else.
We have chosen to reprint two commentaries published by The Civil
Society Project in Harrisburg, Pa. which define the problem and point to
an answer. If enough citizens read and heed, perhaps the decline and
fall of the Roman Empire (read that United States) can be reversed.
All we can do is try.
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Federalism, citizenship and community
By EUGENE W. HICKOK
There is something wrong with politics in America today. The average
citizen, so the polls inform us, lacks confidence in both the
individuals and in the institutions of our national government. He feels
a distance - a sense of separation - from the government, and a sense
that the government cannot deal effectively with difficult issues.
Americans, who have always been skeptical of government, have become
cynical toward it as well.
Today's widespread sense of disillusionment with government is
heightened by the intractable nature of the issues Americans continue to
care about and have to grapple with. Violent crime continues to plague
society. Some cities have become war zones; some schools seem to be more
like armed camps. Even small towns and rural America have had to come to
grips with the fact that violent crime knows no boundaries. In the eyes
of many, America is an unsafe place. Education, once this nation's
greatest achievement, has become its worst embarrassment. The reform of
the welfare system has been on the national agenda virtually since that
system was established. More recently, reform of health care has emerged
with similar prominence and surely progress in that area will parallel
the fits and starts that have marked welfare reform. The changing nature
of the family in America, the startling statistics about unwed mothers
and teen pregnancies, the breakdown of traditional values; these
represent the most important issues confronting society, both as a
challenge to our way of thinking about things and as a symptom of just
how bad things have become.
It can be argued, of course, that much of what the nation confronts is
inevitably assocated with life in a modern, highly developed society.
And there is more than a kernel of truth to this. But the fact remains
that the vital signs of the body politic are weak, and in a democracy
that can be dangerous, if not deadly.
We as a nation are experiencing a decline in the quality of our
democracy. On a superficial but telling level, the decline in voter
turnout and the lack of popular confidence in government are obvious
evidence of this decline. But they are symptoms of a larger illness. At
its very core, democracy means self-government, and it is at its very
core that democracy in America is decaying. Simply put, the anxieties
and lack of efficacy people feel toward their government can be traced
to a transformation in the understanding citizens have of their
relationship to the government. In the abstract, citizenship can best be
understood as the working out of the relationship between an individual
and his state. There exists in every regime laws and statutes which
establish how citizenlship is defined by that regime. But within these
sometimes broad parameters, the essence of what citizenship means to an
individual is determined by how the individual relates to the government
and vice versa.
In a liberal democracy such as the United States, the individual is
free, by and large, to fashion for himself or herself his or her own
brand of citizenslhip. No special obligations are placed upon them and
relatively few special rights or privileges are awarded to them.
Citizenship in the United States may mean a great deal or very little
indeed; it is pretty much up to the individual. However, healthy
democracies rely upon citizens for both support and direction.
Restoration of our democracy - the restoration of self-government -
must begin with a renewal of citizenship and community so that
citizenship and community can once again be the cornerstone of our
EDITOR'S NOTE: Eugene W. Hickok is a teacher, scholar and author, who
currently serves as secretary of education for the state of
Pennsylvania. He is an expert on public policy and the U.S. Constitution
and has published extensively in these fields.
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By DON EBERLY
A new term is emerging in America's cultural debate: civil society.
Actually, the term is as old as the Republic itself and is simply
re-emerging after an extended period of neglect. From across the
political spectrum we now hear a chorus of concern that our social
institutions, which serve as the foundation of a free society, are in
urgent need of renewal.
Civil society refers to that realm of society in which non-political
institutions operate - families, churches, neighborhoods, civic groups
and just about every form of voluntry association imaginable, from hobby
groups to choral societies. Civil society is where we meet each other
voluntarily, work toward common purposes and learn the essential
democratic habits of collaboration and trust.
As Alexis de Tocqueville saw it, the reciprocal ties nourished in civil
society are the wellspring of democratic life. He noted that through
civic participation "feelings and opinions are recruited, the heart is
enlarged, and the human mind is developed."
Few today would argue that social institutions have been weakened to an
alarming degree, especially the American family, as current statistics
regularly remind us. Recenlty, Harvard Professor Robert Putnam has
documented the disappearance of civic America, with its network of
neighborly engagement. These are ominous developments, for the continued
viability of this nation's bold experiment in ordered liberty depends
above all on the strength of the family and the vitality of informal
networks of social cooperation.
The family and civic associations benefit society by producing what
social scientists refer to as social capital. Like economic capital,
social capital can be drawn down, a process already far advanced in this
country. As a growing number of experts are pointing out, this depletion
of social reserves poses real dangers to our economic and democratic
systems, dependent as each is on an abundant supply of trust.
Large majorities of the American people today not only distrust their
public institutions, they increasingly fear and distrust one another.
The root of this distrust is the very real fear we have of being
offended - or worse, assaulted - in public spaces.
The idea that intrusive government has weakened neighborhoods and
turned citizens into self-interested clients must be taken seriously, as
the evidence warrants. But civil society is a lot more than simply an
alternative administrative system which delivers social services. It is
a moral and social order that transcends each of us, and to which we
must all yield some of our cherished personal autonomy if community
institutions are to possess any legitimacy.
The key to reversing America's cultural decline is the renewal of civil
society. Americans again need to recognize how dependent democracy is on
widespread civic engagement.
Whether we will be able to make progress toward this goal depends on
whether isolated individuals will decide to correct course.
Strengthening in families, neighborhoods and civic associations will not
be possible unless enough of us recognize how essential these
institutions are to a civil and humane society and are willing to make
the sacrifices necessary to restore them.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Don Eberly is the author or editor of three books on
civil society and directs the Civil Society Project, based in
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Others' good jobs
aid U.S. economy
In earlier days, Americans - especially those on the political left -
were terribly concerned about the plight of Third World peoples. Many
politicians and activists railed against the huge disparities between
our nation's wealth and the living conditions of people in developing
An interesting essay in London's Economist shows just how differently
Americans tend to view the Third World these days. Liberals and many
conservatives still are worried about the world's poor. But their main
worry is that low-paid workers in places like Mexico, Burma, Albania and
China threaten the standard of living of blue-collar Americans.
``For years the North wrung its hands about poverty in the developing
countries, and asked what could be done to relieve those countries'
misery,'' the Economist wrote.
``Now, for the most part, the North no longer feels guilty about its
wealth, or anxious to see the South do better; rather, it feels anxious
about its wealth, and would prefer on the whole (but off the record)
that the South stayed poor.''
The Economist believes such zero-sum economic thinking is a recipe for
disaster - for workers in both impoverished and affluent lands.
In other words, it is not only possible, but a time-proven principle,
that nations can grow wealthy together. But a skeptic is sure to ask:
``If that's so, why has the gap between rich and poor nations grown
wider than ever?''
The Economist believes ``advanced technology and accumulated capital''
propel wealthy nations further ahead, while poor countries stagnate by
continuing to follow faulty economic principles. By adopting
market-oriented policies, the same opportunities are available to even
the most impoverished lands.
``There is no reason whatsoever why other poor countries should not
aspire to the remarkable progress witnessed in East Asia,'' the
Economist wrote. ``Indeed, the process may have started. Many developing
countries - Mexico and India among them - have lately begun to
liberalize their economic policies.''
As these nations become stronger economically - and less reliant on
U.S. handouts - America will gain better trading partners and watch its
workers' standard of living increase. Helping poor nations help
themselves through open markets also is a better moral approach.
The conditions of workers in the Third World and America can improve
together. We all must remember: One nation's economic gain is not
another's economic loss.
- Odessa American
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