Spearfish High School will have a new English teacher this fall. Eric Lappe is leaving the prairie comforts of teaching social studies in Wilmot to come teach Spearfish youth the joys of literature, research, and composition. This work is important: every student has to take English, a core subject area that is key to all the standardized tests that will be used to rate our school and our teachers. Lappe will have the opportunity to work with almost every student who goes through Spearfish High School, to directly contribute to the skills they will need to learn, to communicate, to persuade, and to appreciate and enhance the vast wealth of Western culture.
But what's the front-page story in last night's local paper?
The Black Hills PioneerÂ staff devoteÂ four words to Lappe's new full-time assignment as an English teacher. They pour out ink discussing his additional part-time assignment as the new girls basketball coach. Interested parents learn nothing about the skills he will bring to the classroom, his particular interests in certain literary genres or periods or the application of social media to research and collaborative writingâ€”you know, the kinds of things that will benefit a hundred-plus of our kids every day. But the press highlights the full coaching resume, right down to the fact that Lappe played for the 1992 Class B state champion Harold Cardinals and won a Mr. Basketball award for his high school hoop-shooting.
If we take theÂ Black Hills Pioneer'sÂ ink spilled at face value, the efforts Lappe will exert for a couple hours a day during a few months of practice and games with a couple dozen physically elite girls will add far more value to the community than the far larger efforts he will make all day, every day throughout the school year for a much larger and more diverse crowd of our girls and boys.
Teaching English is a vital function of our public schools. Coaching basketball is fun but peripheral to our mission. In headlining Spearfish's latest hire's coaching duties and ignoring his teaching portfolio, the Black Hills Pioneer sends exactly the opposite message. BHP is boosting the jockocracy and marginalizing what matters to many more students and taxpayers. If reporters can take the time to research a coach's list of basketball awards, it can take the time to compile a list of a teacher's much more important list of classroom achievements.
Welcome to the show, Mr. Lappe. I look forward to hearing your kids gripe about all the heavy reading you assign and helping your kids proofread their really big research papers.