The Media’s Incomplete Take on Title IX

More often that not, news and opinion stories centered around Title IX follow the same formula:

1). Cite the history of the law’s passage.
2). Emphasize the importance of sports to the mental and physical development of young children and adults.
3). Applaud the growth of girls’ participation rates and reflect on what still needs to be accomplished.
4). If, at all, include a one to two sentence disclaimer summarizing points put forth by critics of the law and, again, as a consolation, name one or two male teams frequently cut.
5). Praise the law despite all of its unintended consequences such as discriminating against boys, eliminating opportunities, cutting practice partners and ignoring students’ interests and needs.

Since the 40th anniversary of Title IX is only 4 months away, these types of one-sided, congratulatory articles will appear more and more.

One of the many recent examples is written by Neal Simon at the Hornell Evening Tribune in Hornell, New York. Below is the formula laid out with Simon’s writing as a perfect example of the media’s lack of commitment to reporting on all facets — pleasant or not — of Title IX.

1). History. “Passed by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972, Title IX requires schools and colleges that receive federal funds to offer equal opportunities to both males and females in every area of the institution. Even though there has never been much direct federal funding to school sports, athletic programs were ruled to be subject to Title IX’s rules.”

2). Benefits. “Participation in sports benefits an individual’s physical fitness and overall health. It builds leadership skills, teaches teamwork and develops character. Every coach who has ever blown a whistle knows this. ”

3). Applause. “According to a recent study that was highlighted in the New York Times, within six years of Title IX’s passage, the number of girls participating in high school sports increased from about 4 percent to almost 1 in 4. Another study, completed in 2006, showed the number of women in high school sports had increased by a factor of nine, while the number of women in college sports has grown by more than 450 percent. Finally, a 2008 study of intercollegiate athletics showed that women’s collegiate sports had grown to 9,101 teams, or about 8.65 per school.”

4). Consolation. “Over the years, Title IX has had its critics. At the intercollegiate level, detractors have blamed the legislation for the elimination of non-revenue producing men’s sports like wrestling and cross-country at some major universities.”**

**Note: Cutting male teams is not a phenomenon contained to “major universities,” as Simon claims. Students at community colleges and at small state and private schools are also affected. Just because the news does not spread to national media does not mean that local papers and affiliates are not covering male cuts in schools closest to them — or that they’re not happening at all.

5). Incomplete wrap-up. “Vocal critics of Title IX, however, are in the minority. As the popularity of women’s sports grows, it becomes more difficult to imagine a country where only boys go for the gold.”

Essentially, articles showing the rise and continuance of Title IX incompletely capture its impact and promote the widespread notion that it is more than okay to sacrifice opportunities for males to benefit of girls. More athletic opportunities for students should be positively recognized, but they do not justify discrimination based on sex.

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