First, it should be noted that said teacher, Matt Amaral, is a fan of both Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. That has nothing to do with his rather curious decision to ask the NBA’s reigning MVP not to visit his high school.
Here is one particularly telling paragraph from Amaral’s open letter to Curry, which is already going viral, and which you can read in full via his personal blog:
“You see, Steph (I hope you don’t mind if I call you Steph), if you come to my school you will be your usual inspiring, humble, hilarious, kind self and you will say all the right things. But the reason I don’t want you to come has to do with what you won’t say.
Because the worst thing you won’t tell them Steph, is that they can’t do it. You won’t tell them that will you? You won’t be able to bring yourself to tell them it is already too late. You won’t tell them about all those years when you were playing in top competitive leagues as a child. You won’t tell them that if they haven’t played organized basketball by the age of sixteen (twelve, really), they have no chance of going pro. You see, the kids I am talking about do not play year-round, they are not in a travelling league, and they have never even heard of a McDonald’s All-American; they just eat McDonald’s two meals a day and have Hot Cheetos in between.”
If you can set aside whether that “Hot Cheetos” line struck you the wrong way, some of the sentiments here are admirable. Yes, young people should focus on their education and shouldn’t get sidetracked with unattainable goals. But shouldn’t we also teach young people to dream big, to aspire to do great things, to lead an exciting and fulfilling life doing something that makes them happy?
Maybe it’s just me, but telling kids that they can’t do or be something seems, well, un-American at the very least, but also defeatist. Doesn’t assuming that your students are so simple-minded and impressionable that a visit from a sports star might send them into a devastating tailspin also mean you hold them in a certain amount of contempt? Maybe instead we should assume Steph is smart enough and eloquent enough to clarify that “making it” doesn’t solely apply to professional sports and that Amaral’s students are smart enough to know the difference.
It also seems a bit too obvious to point out that a sports star like Curry is a symbol for the crucial, universal principles of success through hard work. All of those things he mentioned above — the cold, hard facts about the type of work ethic and sacrifice that go into achieving your goals — are things young people need to hear. Sure, privilege may have played a role in Curry’s success, but teaching children the underlying notion that they can’t succeed without the aid of privilege is wrong-headed.
Seeing that Curry is a real-life, flesh-and-blood human being and not just some phantom flashing across their television screen can be inspiring in and of itself. Sure, they should probably book visits from doctors and lawyers and fire fighters and folks who do charitable work and generally make the world a better place before they invite Curry, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with looking up to a sports figure. Athletes are role models, whether we like it or not, but it’s up to parents and teachers to guide young people toward the morally and ethically sound type of fandom that allows us to admire them for the principles that drove them to success.