Government-Funded Kids

So I’m on a course this week and yesterday we had a discussion about the Olympics. One of the women in the class gave us a bit of a lecture on how “nice” it was that we all watched the Olympics and cheered on Team Canada and were so proud of “our” athletes. She then went on to ask us if we had any idea how much money and time goes into making those athletes.

It seems her son is a figure skater on his way to the next winter Olympics and it’s pretty much bankrupting the family. Between the ice time, coaches, equipment, competitions and so forth, they are spending all their free time and all the money they don’t need for basic living expenses on this kid’s skating.

Then at the end of the year they get a $75 rebate from the federal government for having their kid in a sport. She seemed pretty bitter about it and thinks the government should be doing more to support kids in sports.

A lot of people nodded and agreed with her.

I asked if the government should also support kids who have musical talent – because that can cost an awful lot too, between lessons and instruments and competitions. And there isn’t even a $75 federal government rebate for having your kids in music lessons.

A lot of people nodded and agreed with me. (The same people, I think.)

The sports woman, though, said that was different because the country and its citizens take ownership of Olympic athletes and professional athletes – hockey players for instance. They represent the country. Besides, she said, we should be doing more, financially, to encourage physical activity in our young people, anyway. It’s important to their health. Music isn’t.

Well, that final point was hard to argue with and it is true that we seem to put an awful lot of stock in our athletes when they’re successful. However, isn’t it just as important for this country to have good musicians or dancers or writers or artists or even scientists?

If the government is going to provide financial support to pay for her kid’s figure skating lessons, shouldn’t they then also pay for someone else’s kid to go through medical school?

Is there a difference?

Is the sports woman right? Should the government be funding promising young athletes?

And if the government doesn’t support children in sports (or music), do kids from families who can’t afford it, ever have a chance to be Olympic athletes or professional hockey players (or concert pianists)?

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42 responses to “Government-Funded Kids

  1. I suppose that if the sports woman had a son who is a gifted cello player, she’d e arguing about the 75 dollars she’s getting back and how these kids should be supported.

    Both music and sports are important for a kid’s development: “Mens Sana in Corpore Sano”. it’s a win-win situation for both parts, the kid and the country… I guess.

  2. Sadly, I think the answer to your closing question is “no.” The exceptions are those who are fortunate enough to secure scholarships from private organizations to help fund their ongoing sports training, music training, etc.

  3. First of all, $75!?! Good grief.

    Secondly, I suppose it is a slippery slope argument. If we support one, we should support another, and another, ad nauseam.

    Maybe the government support could come in the form of rent for ice time or rehearsal hall time? Maybe it’s just Darwin in action; only the good make it to the top. You should read Malcolm Galdwell’s “Outliers”, is it ever good.

  4. i agree with julie. it’s an enormous tax on the family unit, not only financially wise. many families just can’t handle it, and with the ridiculous amount of money it costs to be an elite athlete, those from lower income families will have a very difficult time to break through.

    should the governemnt put more into athletes? yes. should they put more into arts and music? yes. should they put more into getting kids excited with science and technology? yes. is the current government doing any of this? no.

    what do we do about it? i’d love to hear what everyone thinks.

  5. Speaking as someone with no interest in sports (absolutely zero, I don’t get sports in any way shape or form) and as someone with zero musical talent – I can’t sing or play an instrument and I can’t even clap in time without watching other people clap – I think that music is far more important than sports to proper development of young people.

    I’ve read a lot of research that indicates music lessons at a young age help with math scores and logical thinking both of which are necessary at all stages of life. Sports are important, but not nearly as important as music in my opinion.

  6. Good one! What should the government be funding with respect to individual personal interests?

    I didn’t watch a single Olympic (2010) event on television. (I did look up the lethal luge incident on the internet as I was curious to see how it happened.) I don’t think the Olympic games come anywhere close to living up to the role they supposedly represent. After paying taxes for many years and not seeing much in the way of tangible results in a very long time, I’d say I would prefer to see tax money spent ONLY on the “things” capable of benefit to each and every person in our country.

    Training doctors would appear to meet this requirement. As would building hospitals and buying diagnositic equipment. Maintaining highways and building new roads might also qualify, provided they are routes likely to be used by the vast majority of the public. However, a railway might be a much better idea. ( I have seen roads built into areas which are pretty much uninhabited because someone thought they could get elected on the promise of jobs that would come if a road was built….)

    Money spent to bail out an airline? No.

    Money spent to help athletes become Olympians? No.

    Money spent to help people become more skilled in various arts? No.

    Money spent to promote a healthy lifestyle (eat well, exercise, get plenty of rest) ? Yes.

    As I see it, our taxation system is designed to influence society, which presumes someone knows the correct course of action to bring about prosperity through taxation. Absolute garbage in my humble opinion.

    One example: the RRSP savings plan and the associated tax deductions. We are encouraged to plan for our own financial self sufficient retirement. I expect the only reason the government wants us to do this is because they want to be released from their obligation to the current plan, perhaps because it won’t work when all the baby boomers retire. I am left wondering what happens to the person who saved enough money to retire on their RRSP when the larger part of the population did not save the money needed for retirement. Does the person who saved money in an RRSP get to keep the money or does the government change the rules at some point to allow the money to be re-distributed to those in need. After all, if the majority of the population does not have the money to retire, they can vote to pass a law to “tax” the money from the few who have saved for their retirement. Right?

    But I digress. Back to my point: a taxation process designed to influence the population being taxed is flawed. The citizens of Canada must find their own way, follow their hearts, obey their gut instinct, not follow the carrot presented by the government. Thus any government expenditure should always benefit the majority of the population and never cater to a minority.

  7. Wow! I like a lot of what OCDriver said. Especially since I volunteer at a Community Health Centre where the mission is to support people in achieving and maintaining health and a life that doesn’t suck. (my paraphrase of mission statement). And are chronically short of funds.
    When my kids were kids I would have shuddered if they wanted to become elite athletes. One daughter was a competitive gymnast at university level and that was scary enough. On the other hand, if one had developed a passion for music or other creative skill, I would have cheered. Because music is for life and high level sports are not.
    For every elated winning Olympian there are many, many devastated young people who did not win. (Example, cross country ski race on the last day.) I do not find this inspiring.
    Should gov’t fund this stuff? Hell, no. Not unless there is nothing else left to spend it on. If there is tax money available for sport it should go to making sport more available to the whole nation.
    Ditto arts funding.
    There are too many kids in this country missing a meal: too many old people warehoused.
    I would be much prouder of a country where this did not happen than of a country with a record haul of Olympic medals.
    Apologies for rant from soapbox.

  8. I think we lose a lot of gifted athletes, musicians, actors, doctors, etc. because their parents can’t afford to pay for the coaching, training, education they need to reach higher levels.

    I don’t have any answers though.
    Personally I’d like to be able to feed my own family and not pay even more in taxes to support some other person’s dreams..

  9. Guillermo said it best in the first comment: both music and physical activity are important to a child’s development and future health.

    However, this does not mean we should be training every child in the country to be an Olympic athlete or a concert pianist, and we should not expect that government subsidies for physical activity (or music) should be enough to cover this for anyone and everyone who wants to.

    Furthermore, there’s a matter of jurisdiction. If we wanted to make such activities more accessible, a federal income tax break the following April isn’t going to do much to encourage or help low-income families to spend money they don’t have this month, when the municipal government keeps raising user fees on sports fields to keep the buildings open.

    – RG>

  10. A kid in sports grows up to be a kid who needs surgery to correct his torn ACL and to fix his mashed teeth. A kid who plays music grows up with increased neural pathways and is enriched for the rest of his life because of the discipline. Take that, sports woman.

  11. Susan, agree completely that music enriches lives. I often replay the theme from “Dukes of Hazzard” mentally when I chase kitties out in the ‘burbs. But you may wish to research the kinds of repetitive strain injuries that musicians can sustain… they can rack up some impressive medical bills too.

  12. How about changing the rules of sport, then?

    It used to be that a poor kid who was a fast runner could just “show up” at the Olympics and win.

    We have the Olympics, which one might rather call the Uber-Olympics, because of exactly what you said – you need a lot of money, really, to be able to get the trainers, the nutrition, the equipment and so forth.

    We also have Paralympics (which are also funded, I guess), and that’s good.

    But we are missing one.

    “Working Stiff Olympics”. Think, Reality-Show Olympics.

    Olympics for normal people. People with 9-to-5 jobs, or moms and dads, who happen to be pretty good at something.

    I mean, I’m pretty quick on my feet. I can run pretty fast.

    Why can’t I show up at the Reality-Show Olympics wearing no shoes at all (because I am a barefoot runner, bet you didn’t know that!) and try out?

    I bet the ratings would be much higher, too.

    Remember Eddie the Eagle?

    We are discriminated against because we are normal, and we don’t have the time or the money to become OCD about one single sport!

    Now, more to your question – we can see the damage that has already been done by this misplaced emphasis on sport in Canada (and countries like us).

    While India and China focus on science and technology and pumping out Ph.D.’s from world class schools, our government is funding junior hockey and letting our schools go to crap.

    Exhibit A – my company, the pride of Canada’s nuclear industry, will be partially sold very soon – likely to a foreign country – which is okay, because the real action in nuclear from now on is going to happen in, you guessed it, India and China.

    Hmm…

    But at least we have hockey.

    Which I don’t watch.

  13. Well, the government actually promised to give out a music credit to families the same way that they give out a sports credit… but it never actually happened.

    I agree that we should be doing more to support those who are trying to excel in the field of their choice (be it sports, arts, business, etc) but there has to be a better way to do it, right?

    And besides the fact that it CAN impact our nation as a whole (yeah, maybe not EVERYONE was pumped full of patriotism because of the Olympics, but a lot were), it seems like it could have other effects, too. Getting a kid off the street, away from drugs and violence, and teaching him how to dance? Sounds like a good thing to me.

  14. When all kids are decently housed and fed and educated, and when they all have access to reasonable recreational opportunities, then maybe we can focus on funding elite athletes.

  15. Zoom summed it up for me.

    and I’ll add in : when all kids can decently housed, and fed, and educated, and can access existing community sports programs that they are barred from because even that expense is to much then we can discuss funding elite level athletes, and musicians and artists in childhood.

  16. Hmmmmm…. I’m with Zoom on this I think. Why should I be expected to support athletes. I mean sure it’s great you can come in first by 2/100 of a seconds in luge, but you know, I’m not sure it’s worth my $20K in taxes. When $20K can host any number of programs for other things.

    (Re: medical school: A big part of university budgets comes from grants and subsidies most of which come from the government, which is why it costs more to be foreign student. What pisses me off, is when Canadian trained doctors then move to the U.S. … I reckon they should be forced to stay in Canada for a few years to pay us back.)

  17. Brett Legree wrote:How about changing the rules of sport, then?
    ——————————————–
    I’d go with eliminating every sport which required physical contact between two or more athletes performing at the same time. Thus hockey, boxing, wrestling, and speed skating would not be in the Olympic games of my imagination. Think about the original Olympic games. Feats of athleticism where all of the athletes competed together as friends, not from different factions or countries. Who could throw the javelin the farthest, the discus, the shot putt and the hammer throw.
    Of course we are not yet speaking about the corporate support for a winner, which makes looking for an unfair advantage worth the extra effort.
    Yes, I agree, an Olympics where everyone and anyone can show up to compete, no restriction by number of competitors per country, because we would not worry about country of origin, would be much better than what we have today.
    If the modern day Olympics ever were to be hosted in Ottawa, I think I would be looking for a plan to allow me to stay far, far away from Ottawa for the duration of the event.

  18. I’m of the opinion that we need less government in our lives. And at some point in the past, the Olympics were for amateurs, not professionals.

    I think if a family decides to support one of their own in becoming an exceptional musician or athlete that is their business. I don’t think it’s the government’s place to pay for this. And if you want the kids to get more music, art, science, sports, etc. where are the schools and what are they doing?

    Oh, I’m not Canadian, so I don’t think my country is paying parents to keep their kids in sports.

    And, if they do become such super athletes, they make more money than us working stiffs that are paying the taxes anyway. Guess you can figure out that I don’t watch sports…I’d rather play.

  19. Can you imagine if the government put the same amount of money into the arts as they did into the Olympics? Like, if they had an arts olympics? New facilities. Matching outfits. Competitions. Awards. Money, money and more money?

    My head would LITERALLY explode.

  20. Kim Bosch’s exploding head….
    —————————————-
    Anyone know how much Federal Government money was spent on the Olympics? If the same amount of money was spent on meaningful programming on CBC TV and radio I expect the benefit would be much more wide spread than the benefits of the 2010 Olympic games to Canadians.

    But we must keep in mind there are those who keenly follow the tactics of long ago Rome. They know a good bread and circus act can go a long way toward re-election. Some people really do sell out that easily. We live in a democracy, but it doesn’t have a very good memory and most of the time it just doesn’t care, as long as there is beer in the fridge and a hockey game on TV.

  21. Guillermo – I don’t think the country can afford to support all the kids who are gifted in some way, can it? It would be great if all talent were encouraged with special programs, but I don’t see how that can happen.

    Julie – That’s a very sad thing. There are probably lots of gifted kids who will never be able to explore their talents because their parents can’t afford enrichment activities for them. I think there are countries who don’t allow that to happen, but I don’t know how they afford it.

    Julia – If only it was Darwinian, but it’s more like “only the good and rich” make it to the top. You can be good, but without the extra lessons and coaching and ice time and time and money for competitions and equipment, you’ll never be competitive.

    Smothermother – If there is anything this country really should be investing in, it should be children. They’re the future (I know that sounds trite, but it’s true).

    Sean – But we, as a society certainly place a lot more importance on our sports figures than on our musicians. No classical musician is going to be paid millions of dollars and have millions of fans.

    OCDriver – I’ll pick the RRSP thing out of your comment to comment on. I think that’s a bit of a scam personally, too. And yes, I do believe the government can take a percentage of that whenever they want – just like any employer can cut back on pensions employees have been paying into. It all sucks and we should be keeping our money in gold bullion under our mattresses. HA!

    Mary – I like your paraphrase of your mission statement. You should get them to change it to that! I’m not a fan of the whole Olympic thing either – it really only involves and benefits an elite few. The rest of us are just supposed to get sucked into the patriotic drama of it all. I would very much like to see children who are gifted or talented in some area encouraged with special programs to develop that gift. I think it would be good for the country and good for all citizens as it encourages everyone to achieve no matter what their financial status as long as they’re willing to put in the work. Unfortunately that might get pretty costly.

    Glen – You have a point, but on the other hand, living in a country where we have many gifted scientists, artists, athletes, etc., etc. will benefit everyone, won’t it?

    Grouchy – I think that was exactly the sports woman’s point. That stupid physical activity rebate is pointless. And I don’t think she was suggesting the government even needs to fund “everyone who wants it”, rather anyone who shows some promise in a particular area. I believe the communist countries have been doing this for some time. Any child that has some talent or gift is taken and trained by the government in a very intensive program until they’re world class competitors. That’s why they do so well at Olympic stuff and chess and music, dance, etc.

    Susan – Ha ha. Ye, I’m very glad my child showed little inclination for sports or dance for that matter. I like her to be active but when you get to a competitive level in physical activities they can take a great toll on the body.

    Coyote – Two comments from you in a row! I’m gobsmacked. And you’re quite right. I can’t see, for example, that holding a fiddle under your chin with your head turned sideways whilst tapping your toes for hours at a time every day would be too good for you.

    Brett – When could a poor farm kid every show up at the Olympics and compete? They’ve been pretty elitist since even back in the ancient Greek days. I know they often give these hard luck back stories for athletes, but I think that’s mostly for PR. I don’t see how any poor kid could ever get to the level to compete on a world stage without a lot of expensive coaching. (And, actually I think I did know you did barefoot running because you mentioned it once on the Urban Panther (or whatever she is these days) blog. You talked about the Vibram Five Fingers shoes and I got me a pair because of your comments and have suggested them to several runner friends. I got them just before winter, so I haven’t used them too much to have a final opinion yet though – thanks)

    Heather – Absolutely right. I don’t think we can go wrong by putting a lot of funding into encouraging talents, skills and gifts in our children.

    Zoom – Yes. Kids first need safe homes and enough food and an education. Couldn’t we, at the same time encourage their gifts and talents and skills so they have an even better future?

    Mudmama – I’m thinking there shouldn’t be any such thing as “elite”. It’s only elite now because only people with money can afford it. If all kids who showed promise were given the opportunity to enrich and develop their gifts, then becoming a concert pianist or a hockey player would no longer be an elitist activity.

    Nat – Canadian trained doctors come out of medical school with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to student loans (unless their families paid fully for their educations). The only way they can pay that loan off before they retire is to go to the US where they get a big fat signing bonus up front and twice the salary they get here. It would be nice if we could offer them similar incentives to stay here – some communities are doing just that.

    OCDriver – Like I said to Brett, the Olympics have always been elitist. There were some pretty strict rules in ancient Greece about who could compete – and even back then you had to be upper class to join in.

    Susan – I guess the way the discussion has been going people would like to see every child have an equal opportunity to become a professional athlete or musician or whatever rather than just the people with the money to afford to send their kids for training. If we could help develop the best skills and talents in all our kids it would certainly make for a richer country all around, don’t you think?

    Kim – That’s why it’s kind of nice to see such enthusiasm for the “So you think you can dance” show. Of course those kids just get a crappy car and a shot at being in some show and then we never hear from them again – not like Sidney Crosby.

    OCD- You again??? Ha haThe Olympics cost something in the neighbourhood of $10 BILLION at the last tally I saw.

  22. Well gosh. I don’t know anything about the Canadian government. But let me just put this out there: How long can an athlete make a living off their sport? Sure, some of them can just get ridiculously rich and not have to, but for those who don’t… Well making money from being an athlete often cuts off when you’re not so young anymore. A concert pianist, however, can make money until their hands cripple from arthritis.
    I don’t really know what my point is.

  23. @ocdriver2010,

    I agree with you 100 percent – get rid of the contact, keep it clean.

    I always thought they should do the same for hockey in general, actually… “real” hockey fans will disagree with me of course, but they’re wrong and I don’t care 🙂 just play the game and stop beating each other with your fists already…

    @XUP,

    Yes that’s right about the VFF’s, I remember now (the warranty on my brain expired in October when I turned 40, I guess…)

    I suppose you are right about the Olympics being elitist, I was thinking more along the lines of the Jesse Owens era, okay, I don’t know if you could have called him a poor farm kid but he started out closer financially to normal folk than a lot of the athletes today.

    To continue along ocdriver2010’s thought…

    I have always admired the decathletes and think they are amazing to be able to do so many sports well. But they seem to be overshadowed by 100 m sprinters and so forth. Not sure why. Isn’t someone who is within the top 1 percent of the world in 10 things more amazing than someone who is “the best” in only one thing?

    And – I think that the Olympics should be played totally naked!

    “Run what you brung”, so to speak… 🙂

  24. I have a friend who is a nationally ranked fencer. He works a dead end job that doesn’t really pay well because it offers him the flexibility he needs for meets, training, travel etc. He is a very frugal person, and while he’s university educated (and started fencing in his first year of university) he does not in any way come from a background of priviledge. He’s from a very poor carribean country. He takes full responsibility for his CHOICE to pursue amateur sport at this level of engagement.

    i also have a friend who is a highly trained classical violinist (but her heart belongs to the fiddle and violin as the heartbeat of eastern european and mountain fiddle players. She makes her living in an acclaimed folk group, teaching violin, and as a luthier. She and I busked for change in the Byward Market as teens. Her take went for violin lessons and strings. She started playing at 13. She got a scholarship while living in the arctic to attend a music program for teens at a university in the prairies. From there travelled to Germany to study opera and violin, and apprenticed as a luthier. She came back and with small kids put her self through university (BFA and MFA in music). She also takes full responsibility for herself as an artist. She did not come from a privileged background (her single mom was on welfare most of her childhood – until they moved to the arctic and lived on a house boat on a frozen lake when she was 16.)…what let these two exceptional “elite” people follow their dreams? Supportive parents who appreciated their kids and their dreams and taught them a level of self sufficiency that gave them the confidence to trust they could follow their dreams. Not government funding.

    To be honest I do not believe that it is healthy to channel 5 year olds into careers in sports or music or art. I have friends who are pulling back with their 10 year olds from gymnastics because it is clear to them that the CULTURE of the sport is determined to raise their kids and take the responsibility away from them. It’s creepy and unhealthy. In the Us when your kid reaches that level you’re pretty well expected to drop your life and move the whole family to Texas if you’re serious and the pressure to do so is intense. I don’t think that is a “childhood”. 75 dollar tax credits (if your kid has ADHD it’s 150 ) go quite a ways in community swimming and softball and soccer leagues…you know kid stuff….oh and that credit can be used for things like dance too.

  25. Mary – It’s a lot of everything this country could use. But I guess somewhere along the line we voted to use all that money for the Olympics. I must have been out of town that day.

    Mel – Quite true. But over a lifetime the athlete can still make more money that the concert pianist. And he gets to retire early!

    Brett – That’s something the ancient Greeks DID do – compete naked! I understand it’s very tough on the dangly bits to run naked though??

    Mudmama – I do agree that I would never want give over a child of mine to a sport like that. Of course what would I do if my child was passionate about a certain sport or musical instrument? I would also feel bad if I were to hold them back from achieving all they can. Good thing I don’t have a prodigy. Their lives are never quite “normal”. I remember that movie with Jodie Foster where her kid was some sort of genius and she only wanted him to have a normal kid’s life and he wanted so much more. She finally gave in and let him go study at some university and live with a professor or something and he loved it and bloomed for a while. Then he got all angry at everyone. I don’t remember how it ended. I can’t even remember the title right now, but it was a good film.

  26. Just compete when it’s cold, “shrinkage” will take care of that 😉

    (Besides, ever seen those Greek statues? If the real thing was anything like the replica, I’m sure the dangly bits didn’t exactly flop around a lot…)

  27. For every kid that makes the Olympics, there are hundreds (if not thousands) who worked just as hard, but who didn’t’ quite make the cut.

    And where are they now?

    Probably greeters at Wall-Mart, because they spent so much of their youth training for that ONE specific sport…that they skipped a lot of school and didn’t get into college or learn a trade.

    You might call me cynical. But I’ve seen this first- hand.

    My family used to be really into competitive ski racing with my siblings. My folks spent years, and a small fortune, driving my brother and sister all over Quebec for races.

    But in all those years….and all those ski hills, not ONE single skier that I know of ended up in the Olympics.

    Though I’ve seen a few former prodigies, finished at age 25. Holding down a McJob, and spending their weekends coaching 10-year old kids….to start the cycle all over again.

  28. Should the gov’t make money available to promising young athletes/artists/etc. ? Sure why not?
    With a caveat: like in any investment the return should benefit the investors. So, what do you propose that the return be? I think its money. Not National Pride. I’d be happy if sports in Canada were to eventually be funded by the actual athletes themselves. 50 cents of every dollar earned until the balance is paid back then 10 cents on the dollar for as long as they participate in the sport.
    Is that draconian? Sure it is.
    Now think about your education and the taxes you are paying now.

  29. Going on Lebowski’s theme: The giant rich sports franchises like the NY Yankees and Dallas Cowboys could have a special tax to fund sports for the poor.

  30. Brett – I’ve often wondered why those statue sculptures would want to portray their men with such proportionately tiny genitalia. We did see a couple in the Louvre who were very well endowed. If you can imagine an anatomically correct 30-foot Zeus.

    Friar – That’s kind of a defeatist attitude. By your thinking no one should even bother trying to become a professional athlete then? I think it would be a sad, sorry world and human existence if we never got any encouragement to follow our dreams no matter how foolish they might seem to others. Because someone always makes it – succeeds. Why not you? We buy lottery tickets with a much, much lower expectation of success. There are really only about 1,000 kids at any one time in Canada determinedly training in each Olympic sport. So that’s a 1:1000 chance of success. What are the lottery odds?

    Lebowski – Not draconian at all. As you indicate, in other professions you have to pay back a good chunk of your salary for student loans for a number of years.

    Geewits – Makes sense. Our gas taxes help pay for roads; our house taxes help pay for stuff we enjoy in and around our house; why shouldn’t there be a sports tax to help pay for kids coming up in sports.

  31. True about the lottery tickets, except…

    …I buy a lottery ticket, takes me 2 minutes.

    I don’t win, no big deal (other than I lost $2 and 2 minutes of my time).

    1:1000 odds are still not that great if I’m spending most of my waking hours on something, and when all’s said and done and I didn’t become that one person…

    Well guess what? I didn’t spend all of that time building a career, either.

    But I can be an engineer and drop the odd toonie for a 6/49 and still be pretty happy.

    On the *off chance* that I do win – yay for me!

    So I can imagine it is actually pretty hard on the 999 who don’t make it.

  32. The government should support kids in creative programs as well as sports. Lord knows, the fat cats piss away money on everything else. Why not do something that would at least help kids and encourage them to do things that could only improve their lifestyle?

  33. @XUP

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t try. But I think there’s a disproportionate amount of time and effort put into getting kids to excel at sports, as compared to encouraging other endeavors.

    For example, studying to become a doctor, as you pointed out.

    But doctors or musicians aren’t hero-worshiped to the extent that our athletes are.

    Seems Canadians are more interested in watching us win Gold in the Mens short-track skating (which we only watch once every 4 years)….than to ensure that everyone has access to a family physician.

  34. Brett – I guess the bottom line is that I sort of like the idea of someone having a passion and skill/talent/gift and being able to pursue that passion as far as he can without being restricted by his financial circumstances — that goes for sports and everything else. There aren’t that many people with such special skills and the passion to pursue them. I would like to see them developed, not crushed. There are enough of us generalists to carry on all the regular business that needs to be done. It would enrich all of our lives to have really, really good people shining in the sports, arts, science, technology etc, worlds.

    Chris – Not only theirs, but all of ours

    Friar – I’m still shaking my head over the whole Olympic mania. People were rivited. It was like a religious experience or something. People who don’t ever go vote and couldn’t give a rat’s ass about anything going on in this country were suddenly zealous patriots. I don’t understand the godlike stature of sports people either. No wonder everyone is so outraged and shocked at the whole Tiger Woods thing. I guess they never realized he’s just another guy who happens to be able to hit a golf ball real good.

  35. Oh, I agree with you on that – my question though would be, “Who gets to decide what special skills are development worthy?”

    I mean, I *personally* don’t give a rat’s ass about hockey or downhill skiing, but I happen to like paintball and computer games.

    Where are the government funded programs for kids who are good at paintball and computer games?

    Just because there are fewer kids who are into that than hockey, do they not deserve a chance too?

    Of course, some would say, “but paintball and computer games are not real sports”.

    Who gets to decide that? There are lots of “real sports” (whatever those are) that I think are absolutely stupid, and the government should not be funding them.

    But that’s not up to me, I suppose.

    (I’m just making conversation here, not trying to be a jerk! You know what I mean, though.)

    And what is a generalist, anyway?

    Perhaps, someone who is actually a specialist, but who cannot make a living doing her specialty because she cannot either a) figure out how to do it or b) get funding for it from some special program.

    I happen to be very good at building computers, for instance.

    I don’t want to have a real job, I want to pursue my passion full time, and I don’t want to have to compete with Dell, so I want the government to create a special program to fund a new sport called “extreme computer building”.

    🙂

    I seriously doubt most “athletes” could make a living doing what they do if our society didn’t glorify it and our governments support financially such glorification.

    They’d have to become generalists, with weekend hobbies like the rest of us.

    Go back a few hundred years, you didn’t see “athletes” who were wealthier than doctors or engineers.

    Heck, you don’t even have to go back that far.

    (I’m not jealous of the rich pro athletes, though, don’t get me wrong. If they can do what they do and schmucks will pay to see them, more power to them. If people were willing to watch me sit at my desk and “do engineering” all day long and pay me a 7-figure salary, I sure wouldn’t turn my nose up at the money!)

  36. Brett wrote: I mean, I *personally* don’t give a rat’s ass about hockey or downhill skiing, but I happen to like paintball and computer games.
    —————————————————–
    Way back when, I am not certain exactly when, the Federal Government kicked off the participaction program to stimulate Canadians to get healthy and stay healthy. At some point Sport funding (in Ontario and perhaps other provinces) was generated by Lotto 649. All the lottery money went toward sports funding. Then at some point lottery money was diverted to general income for the provincial budget.

    I don’t know which level of government should be saddled with the responsibility of stimulating interest in Canadians to get active and be healthy, BUT I am quite certain funding the Olympic games or individual athletes is NOT doing much with respect to stimulating the vast majority of Canadians to be physically active and derive the benefits of said activity.

    In my opinion, too much money is spent on too few people and getting too small a result to justify the expenditure.

  37. @ocdriver2010,

    I remember Participaction from when I was in Grade 5 and 6. They don’t have that anymore, do they.

    I also took Phys.Ed. all the way through high school right to Grade 13 – it was good for the body, plus I was good at the health portion so it was good for my marks 🙂

    I agree with you fully – the Games and the other sports don’t seem to encourage anyone to get outside and do something.

    They *do* drive sales of HD televisions and snack food, I imagine…

  38. Brett – Well in some communist countries, at one point (maybe still) if a teacher or coach or parent thought they’d discovered a child who was particularly good at something that would benefit the country in some way (so paintball wouldn’t qualify unless there was an international paintball tournament that would garner the winning country lots of good PR, money, etc). The child would then get tested by a state run facility to see if they showed promise. If so, the kid was enrolled in a special school, usually away from home where they focussed intensely on developing their skill with the best masters available. They also did regular school work so they didn’t miss out on a good education. That’s what I had in mind sort of. Not that I’d actually wish that on a child of mine…

    OC Driver – Let’s not even start discussing the lottery money. I don’t understand why people aren’t outraged that this money (and casino money) is now one of the most important revenue sources for our governments. The number one thing this country could do to encourage physical activity is to design more walkable cities. If people could incorporate walks into their every day lifestyle it would make a huge difference. Instead, every bit of our infrastructure is built around the automobile. Suburbs, highways, big box stores, strip malls, drive-thrus. You don’t see this shit in European cities where people eat really well but are still half the size of North Americans because they walk all the time (and because their food portions aren’t super-sized)

    Brett – See my comment to OC Driver

  39. @XUP,

    I see what you mean re: the Communist way, I suppose that could be workable.

    (BTW there are international paintball tournaments, but they’re not big enough to garner any PR…)

    And I agree with you about the walking, too.

    The way our cities are built to rely on automobiles is… not right.

    The thing is, too, I believe (after doing a survey of current and near-future technology) that even rising gas prices will not halt this, because affordable electric vehicles will be out soon (Nissan’s Leaf is out next year), and with the latest natural gas discoveries, electricity should be pretty cheap for years to come…

  40. Brett – You’re right, I think. The automobile is too deeply entrenched in our culture to be easily given up. I think gas prices could go to $5, $10, $15 a litre and people would grumble and complain, but they wouldn’t stop driving. And when the fuel runs out, they’ll find some other way to keep the cars going. How else will we get to our suburbans to haul all our gigantic groceries home from Costco?