Jeremy Schaap's The Sporting Life had a piece on parents who hold their children back a grade so that they can develop athletically and get scholarships for college.
It actually makes sense. One father who held back a son said the son got offered a scholarship from Duke, but not until October of his senior year of high school. The son wouldn't have been offered that the year before because he wasn't physically ready. The father is thinking about holding his two other children back a grade for the same reason.
According to this father, the worst that is that the kids spend another year at home.
Well, that's the worst for the father. But for the kid, another year of school might be cruel and unusual punishment. Especially if there's no academic reason to do so. Why be taught the same curriculum another year?
That's the problem with tying sports with education. We develop differently, especially physically. The oldest person in a grade may also physically mature rapidly, while the youngest guy remains small for his age until a late-teen growth spurt. When it comes to sports, the younger, small guy can't compete at that grade level, even if he might be better when he's physically mature.
And now that I think about it, it's also seems there's a problem with tying education with… education!
That's because, for the same reason we don't develop physically at the same pace, we also don't develop the same way emotionally or intellectually.
School says, if you flunk at math and science, you should be held back no matter how good you are at English or Art.
Why not be held back at math and science only, and advance where you can advance?
And why shouldn't kids compete in community, but not school-sponsored, athletic teams, determined by weight and height instead of what age you are or grade you're in?
The problem isn't that parents gamble that their children should flunk a grade to earn a scholarship; the problem is that they have an incentive to do so.