Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Let's applaud academic achievements, too

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Greg Peck
Friday, February 14, 2014

I played basketball at Marshall High School in Dane County and was on the starting five both my junior and senior years. Mom attended most games, but Dad seldom did. He often worked late, but he really never had much use for sports.

Dad tried out for basketball in high school with a classmate who would become his brother-in-law but didn't stay with the team. My late Uncle Louie, one of Mom's brothers, became a good player on a team from little Marshall that almost knocked off Beloit Memorial on its way to state in the days of the open-class tournament. My interest in sports came from my mom's side of the family.

I'm a fan of most Wisconsin sports these days, but Dad has told me repeatedly that the Packers could fall off the face of the Earth and it wouldn't affect his life one bit. Dad is annoyed when communities make big deals out of championship sports teams. It always irked him that my youngest brother, Ed, was elected state FFA president but didn't earn comparable recognition. Dad would have been delighted to see Ed ride into town from the FFA conference atop a fire truck, just like state champion athletes.

All this is background on what's happening in Janesville today. Like residents in most cities this size and in smaller communities, we take great pride when our high school team wins a football or basketball crown. We don't celebrate academic achievement on similar levels.

The Janesville Parker High School Robotics Team recently placed fourth in a national contest at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. Though the school board recognized these students Tuesday, the team's achievement apparently prompted someone to call our anonymous Sound Off line and state this:

“This city's priorities regarding student recognition are backward. Students make The Gazette all the time because they perform well in sports, but the only academic achievements that we read about in the newspaper are the typical honor rolls and so and so graduated from college.”

You won't see that comment in Sunday's Sound Off column. The caller had a point but went too far. To say we “never” report other academic achievements is unfair and inaccurate. We just ran a story on Page 3A Wednesday about the robotics team. An earlier story previewed the national contest. Could we have done more? That you could argue. And we will do more in Saturday's editorial, which will recognize the 13 students—including one from Craig High—on the robotics team and their advisers.

I think my dad would appreciate that.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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