A kindergarten play is cancelled for “college prep.” The great Gary Smith retires from SI. And a great answer to racism from a soccer player

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So this is definitely one of those stories that sounds like it came from The Onion‘s brilliant satirical minds. But right here in my backyard of New York, it appears to be 100 percent true.

One of the traditions of Harley Avenue Primary School in Elwood, N.Y. on Long Island (Elwood’s about 10 minutes from where I grew up in Commack, if you care. And I can’t imagine why you would) is an annual kindergarten play held in May, allowing the 5-year-old adorable tykes the chance to shine on stage.

But this year, there will be no singing and dancing, no carousing at all for the kids at Harley Avenue.

The reason, as outlined in a letter sent home by the principal, Ellen Best-Laimit, is that it would take away from the students’ college prep time. Seriously.

An excerpt from the letter: “The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.”

You have to be absolutely kidding me. First of all, I know kindergarten has gotten more serious since I was in school, and that’s fine. Kids are expected to know how to read at that age, and they start to learn the building blocks of math and science then, too.
But COME ON! The kids can’t take time out of a few days in May to put on a play for their parents??? They have the next 11 years of school to get ready for college, can’t we give them a few days of stress-free fun in kindergarten?

There’s a petition going around with 1,500 signatures already, asking the school to reconsider. I’d sure as heck sign that.

**Next up, you may have heard about this from over the weekend: An African-American soccer player named Dani Alves was playing for his FC Barcelona team at Villareal, Spain when a Villareal fan threw a banana at him.

What did Alves do? He picked it up and ate it.

European soccer fans and their racism never fail to offend, do they? The fan was caught and banned from the stadium for life. So there’s that.
Plus, Alves got a little mid-game snack, so I’m sure he enjoyed the little energy boost.

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**Finally, a few words about one of my writing heroes, Gary Smith, who announced Monday he was retiring from magazine writing. For almost 30 years Smith wrote the most sublime prose of anyone doing magazine features, in the pages of Sports Illustrated.

I need both hands and all my toes to count my favorite Smith pieces; he was extraordinary gifted in getting inside the mind of his subjects. He was so good, that when the news on broke on Twitter Monday and everyone was immediately linking to their favorite Smith stories, I found 7 different favorites among the first 7 people I saw writing about him.

My favorite Smith story? It’s always been this one about high school basketball star Richie Parker (pictured above), and the consequences of a sexual assault allegation against him. I’ve read it at least 20 times, and have borrowed (OK, stolen) from its structure and beautiful prose a few times in my career. It’s so balanced, and so even-handed, that you go back and forth from sympathizing with Parker, and with  his accuser, at a half-dozen places in the story.

Nobody in any writing genre was ever as good at the longform magazine story as Gary Smith. Here’s a great appreciation of him by current SI wordsmith S.L. Price.

 

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