Not far from where I live, the school district of Allen, Texas has constructed a gargantuan sports stadium. Allen, like a lot of cities in this area, has experienced explosive growth in recent years. Obviously outgrowing it’s small town roots, the Allen School District needed a new sports stadium. So in a down economy,the voters of Allen decided to build “a gleaming $60 million facility with seats for 18,000 roaring fans, a 38-foot wide high-definition video screen, corporate sponsors and a towering upper deck.”
Well okay then.
I grew up in Odessa, Texas home of the infamous “Friday Night Lights,” so I’m well aware of obsession over high school football. It’s not an obsession I have ever shared, and I can’t say I’ve ever understood the fanaticism over children’s sports. So maybe it’s just that I don’t give high school sports enough value, though I do think that playing team sports does have benefits.
But it’s got me thinking, just what are we teaching kids when we build a stadium that is excessively expensive–in a faltering economy, no less. I can think of three lessons.
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Lesson 1: ” These are the best years of your life.” Hey, kids, if an adult tells you that you’re peaking at 17, run away as fast as you can. Sure, youth has a lot of advantages. For one thing, you can do some spectacularly stupid things and it generally won’t kill you. You also have more energy, passion, and time to pursue your dreams when your young. Take, for example, Zac Sunderland, who set the record for being the youngest person to sail around the world. But if you’re honest with yourself, saying 17 is the end all be all of life is utterly depressing. (Psst, kids. You can relax. Life gets more expansive, more challenging, and more beautiful as you get older. 17 is definitely not the best year of your life.)
Lesson 2: “Our kids deserve the best, whatever the price.” Simply put, no they don’t. First, it’s a ridiculous premise that will result in some sort of stupid stadium arms race with communities bankrupting themselves trying to outmatch each other giving their students “the best.” Second, telling kids they deserve “only the best” teaches selfishness and foolishness. It leads to unreal expectations, discontent, and disastrous economic decisions. “Only the best” fails to teach kids things like opportunity cost, making wise thought-out decisions, and the concept of getting a bang for your buck. It’s a horrible moral and economic lesson for anyone to learn, much less kids just starting out in life.
Lesson 3: Finally, the most obvious lesson a $60 million stadium teaches is “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”