How Soccer Explains the World is one of my favorite books. Given the excitement built up around the United States Soccer team and the World Cup, I felt compelled to discuss the parallels between the U.S. Soccer team’s popularity and the difficulty that many teachers face in the public eye.
Every four years Soccer in the United States becomes relevant. I am not talking about the real fans that love the game and follow it (which are growing continuously), but relevant as in: it leads Sports Center, everyone is talking about it, and people take off from work to crowd the streets and watch it. The kind of relevance that only the NFL really holds in this country in terms of sports. When the U.S. is in the World Cup and playing well, Americans care. It thrusts soccer into the national spotlight. Every four years every American knows how what the U.S. soccer team should do to improve the game and how to make it more relevant all the time.
Education (though gaining in continual relevance) gets thrust into the national and state spotlight every four years as well. It is made epically important during election season (the World Cup of Politics.) Every four years Teachers, education, and the future of our children become a bargaining chip on the political playground. Everyone talks about it, everyone knows all about how the schools can be “fixed” and ways to make teachers better.
The truth is, get ready for it all of America, most people, even educated people in the game of Soccer, do not have a clue how to make the American team better. There are a number of people who do, but the vast majority of people who talk about it know very little about the way to make it work. Those people who do have a good ideas about Many people who are involved in the game are not making it better. We who love soccer are mainly either not instituting good ideas, or don’t have them.
Now are you ready for this bombshell Americans? When it comes to education, most people involved in creating the policies surrounding education, either do not have a clue about it, or do not have education as their goal. Yes there are many people who have good ideas, many people fighting to make the field better. Often, as is the case with U.S. Soccer, those ideas are not heard, or acted upon.
Finally, every four years, when the dust settles, the cameras go away, and those of us who love it (both Soccer & Education) are left to keep the fight going behind the scene. While there will be a few stories here and there, the only people who will truly care, are those that have a stake. The people left in the wake of the cameras and glitz of these two things I love are the ones left to continue building them for the future. The biggest difference however, is that four years from now, the U.S. Soccer team will be able to showcase their quality to the world, while American teachers are left to continue improving education in the face of criticisms and negative perception.
If you ask the average person, What do you think of Soccer/Teachers? You will get similar answers. I like it/them. The general answer is that yes, we like Soccer/Teachers but we are not willing to really commit to the work they are doing. We are not willing to fully invest ourselves year-round to helping them, or even committing to keeping them from harm. Those same people will sit quietly while people bash teachers/soccer because they know it is considered socially acceptable.
If you understand how things work on the world stage of soccer for Americans, then you understand how American teachers have been viewed over the past eight to ten years. If you understand the plight of teachers, then you will understand how Americans view soccer and the struggles of American Soccer.