Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Two subjects that really aren't related: LPGA and finacial aid for convicts

I feel moved to comment on two issues that I heard about yesterday that really are not related to one another.

1) The LPGA is going to require that all of its players pass an oral evaluation of their English skills or face a suspension of their membership. The argument is that such a move will be "good for business" (my understanding of their stated position). In a time when every other major sport seems to be talking about going global, the LPGA seems to be moving in the exact opposite direction. What seems truly ridiculous to me is the idea that the language the players speak or don't speak is the reason why the LPGA struggles for sponsors and viewers. This seems to ignore what has been a reality of our culture for a long time: women's sports just aren't as popular as men's sports. I have season tickets to the Duke women's basketball games. I love going to the games, and I love watching their games. You know what? Most of the time, the stadium is half-full. And this is for a program that over the last several years has been one of the dominant programs in women's basketball. Example #2: the WNBA. Can anyone tell me who won the WNBA title last year? The year before? Women's tennis has probably enjoyed more popularity than any other sport. But, honestly, how much does tennis move the cultural needle anymore?
I enjoy watching the LPGA tournaments when I get a chance. I have never found language to be a barrier to that enjoyment. Quite honestly, I can't remember the last time I heard a golfer not named Tiger, Phil, or Sergio speak at any length. I think the LPGA would be better served to put their emphasis in other areas to help their game grow. This approach, in my opinion, looks like a giant step back.

2) Last night, I went with a group from our church to a local prison to provide a birthday party for those inmates who had August birthdays. After the cake and cookies were served, I sat down at a table with two of the inmates and began to talk. In the course of our discussion, each of them shared with me their plans for after their release. One of the inmates, a 23-year old young man, said that he had gotten his GED while in prison and wanted to go to college after his release. However, he was concerned because he had heard that the government was talking about making excons inelligible for federal financial aid such as Pell Grants. Sure enough, doing a little digging this morning, I have found out that convicts can apply for student loans but are not eligible for Pell Grants. In my opinion, this is wrong. I can see what the thinking was when this change was made in the '90s: give people another thing to think about, another potential consequence to have to consider. However, this was a short-sighted perspective. If someone has committed a crime, served their sentence, and been released, they already will have numerous consequences to deal with. Why make it even more difficult for them to get an education that can equip them to become productive members of society? In a desire to punish, we have closed an important door for rehabilitation. As a Christian, this seems to go against every understanding of grace that I have. Is there punishment for sin? The Bible does not hesitate to talk about "the wages of sin". However, the whole message of the gospel is that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us so that the old could pass and all might become new. God did not punish me for my old life by denying me access to new life; should we treat convicts any differently? Especially young 23 year old men who have sincerely desire to turn their life around?

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