Forget Common Core; we need Common Ethics.

Al Meyers is an Atlanta entrepreneur and author of ReinventED Solutions, a blog about innovation in public education. Meyers is also the founder of TEDxPeachtree and co-founder of the Atlanta Music Project.

I was gearing up to write a scathing piece that lambasted Georgia legislators for their reckless disregard for students and educators and their blind loyalty to a Jeffersonian, state-controlled philosophy. I was going to refer readers to the folly that took place in Georgia over the past few weeks, with the state Senate teeing up a disastrous bill, Senate Bill 167, that would have set Georgia’s reform efforts back at least a decade, voided any standards conceived out-of-state, and put to rest any chances of cloud-based education and digital learning being implemented in Georgia’s schools.

When the author of the bill cannot cite specific examples of inappropriate standards, it is easy to conclude that this was reckless and a breach of a politician’s fiduciary responsibilities. Enough said there; at least common sense prevailed, and the bill was effectively killed by the House.

What I want to write about is something far more serious: ethics and morality. You might have heard about four University of Georgia football players who, after cashing their stipend checks both online and in person, were arrested for theft and deception and were subsequently allowed to practice by Coach Mark Richt.

Sports radio stations in Atlanta were talking about this last week, and I heard a talk show host say emphatically that these players should not be suspended or removed from the team. I had to call in to the station.

I said it was a “privilege” to play college sports, especially under a full or partial scholarship, and that a crime was committed and the athletes should be suspended indefinitely. Another caller echoed my sentiments; but then a woman (probably a mother) phoned in and accused us of not having ever played a college sport and that these kids not only deserved but were also entitled to a second chance.

First of all, I was a Division I baseball player. I attended an Ivy League university, and these schools do not offer athletic scholarships. I was listening to the radio hosts talking about mistakes. This wasn’t a mistake. A mistake is being late to class or in handing in an assignment. Being arrested for a misdemeanor is not a mistake.

What does this say about society when a college coach allows these students to practice the very next day? How about these disciplinary options:

· Suspend the players for the rest of the season.

· Void their scholarships and kick them out of school.

· Lose one year of athletic eligibility.

Any type of arrest, once proven guilty, should be grounds for serious punishment. There needs to be accountability and consequences. The boys can still go to college. They can apply for financial aid just like any other student. Alternatively, they can transfer to a junior college or other institution after a period of time. But for a caller to shrug this off — like playing a college sport is some irrevocable entitlement — is not only ignorant, but something a parent should never advocate.

Ethics and morality must be integrated into our schools. If we do not make this a priority, we will continue to see spoiled, misguided college athletes who lack a moral compass making bad decisions and expecting their coaches to look the other way. Student athletes should be bound by the same disciplinary code as non-athletes. I hope we see more people speaking out to protest Coach Richt’s poor decision to look the other way and permit the players to practice,

We need a Common Core of ethics and morality because this incident is deeply troubling on so many levels. May it be used as a teachable moment for our children.

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