Like many distance runners who train at altitude, he seemed to get stronger as others faltered. Where others' legs became wobbly, his stride remained strong and even lengthened somewhat; when others' lungs burned, his torso remained erect, his breathing steady. His gaze remained straight ahead, his head not bobbing like those of the runners he passed, one after the other, over the final two laps. And when he roared out of the final lap, passing the pre-race favorite to win going away, he looked as though he would have been able to run another 2 miles. Or 5. Or 10.
Not long after the race was over, he mounted the victory stand to receive his gold medal. The crowd, which had roared its approval of his stunning stretch run, now applauded politely as his name and school were announced.
It's doubtful that more than a handful of people in the crowd of a couple thousand could have known that they were unwittingly participating in the latest phase of the destruction of high school athletics. For, when the announcer said the kid's name and then followed with the name of the high school that's emblazoned across the front of his running jersey, it amounted to a fraud.
The kid doesn't represent that school, because the kid doesn't go to school.
His parents and siblings were no doubt in attendance, having made the long trip from the border town to cheer him on. They're good people, salt-of-the-earth types who, through some twists of fate and/or gaps in logic, arrived at a confluence of educational hysteria and social paranoia and decided to take the road least warranted by home schooling their kids.
To hear its proponents trumpet the fad, home schooling is the Next Big Thing. However, home schooling is probably the next big thing in education the same way that soccer is the next big thing in American professional sports. It's certainly the worst of two possible worlds--an over-estimate of how much educating any one person can do and a huge underestimate of the many peripheral benefits that can come with a solid public-school education, including those in the areas of socialization, discipline and personal responsibility.
A few years ago, Arizona's state Legislature, controlled by strident members of the political party that doesn't even try to paint itself as a friend of public education, passed a horrendously misguided piece of legislation that not only allowed parents to home school their kids virtually free of governmental oversight (and possible remedy), it added a kicker aimed at teacher organizations that have the gall to support politicians who actually care about kids. This kicker said that home-schooled kids could compete in high school athletics if the local school district gave its OK, and they could do so without the kid having to meet the standards of promptness, preparedness and good citizenship to which real high school athletes must conform. The kids could also do so without making any effort to become educated and with no way for the people of the state to monitor the young person's academic progress, or lack thereof. The potential abuses of such a system are too obvious and too numerous to even mention.
Of course, this kid's dad sees nothing wrong with the whole situation. So what if other kids have to get to school on time, dress properly, display good citizenship, treat teachers and fellow students with respect and handle the academic workload. His kid gets to work out whenever he wants; he won the championship, and isn't that all that matters?
(What's even more infuriating is that the dad actually works for the district, and is willing to take its money but doesn't trust it enough to educate his kids.)
That dad cheerfully sprouts all the appropriate catch phrases, like the one about how he pays taxes. The educated mind recognizes this as a red herring, since school districts only receive funds for the students who are actually attending a school, so, by home schooling, a parent is actually depriving a school of money. Besides, if such an absurd taxes-to-benefits link existed, I'd be out flying the F-14 that I helped pay for.
The kid cheated just as surely as if he had taken steroids or cut across the football field on that last lap. And every other kid in that race should feel that they were cheated--cheated by a crooked political system that uses petty ax-grinding to punish good kids. cheated by a school district that's too lazy or disinterested or perhaps too unprincipled to stand up for what is obviously right, and cheated by a family that thinks that home schooling is the way to go as long as you don't have to teach the meaning of words like "integrity," "fair play" or "hypocrisy."
If all that evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing, then how much more quickly will doom arrive if ostensibly good men choose to do wrong for purely selfish reasons?