By Jason Hawk
May 12, 2014
To the editor:
Recently the distinguished British actor Gary Oldman was featured in an advertising campaign for a new, ultra-sophisticated mobile telephone. In the most arresting of the three commercials the script didn’t call for him to speak any real words, but through varying his vocal pitch and intonation in repeating the nonsensical phrase “blah, blah, blah” the viewer understands perfectly why purchasing that particular phone is a good idea.
The casual observer of local school affairs would be reminded of Mr. Oldman’s performance after reading the extensive reporting done on the hiring of Oberlin High School’s new head football coach, Michael Law, that appeared last month in a Lorain newspaper. After a detailed, 18-paragraph discussion of Mr. Law’s background and athletic experiences at Oberlin College, what emerges from the article are such facts as that prior to his appointment the new coach spoke with several older area coaches whose experiences working with players drawn from a diverse student population could be described only as marginal, Mr. Law has never previously coached at the high school level, and his primary qualification for the job stems from his having played for and coached with the new high school athletic director, Ty Stillman, while both were at Oberlin College.
Lately, in these pages, Mr. Stillman admitted that although there were more than 30 applicants for the position, some presumably with previous high school coaching experience, he chose someone, a friend and former colleague, with none. Stunningly, in his professional opinion the person best qualified to lead the Oberlin football team is a coach with no prior high school experience!
The more stringent observer of school affairs can readily point to this hire as another glaring example of the rank cronyism and stark favoritism that bedevils the Oberlin schools particularly and American public education in general.
Oberlin’s high school student-athletes are informed by an educational program and a cultural and social environment that is very different from that of most similarly-sized communities. It’s hoped that what the players hear from their new, inexperienced head football coach inspires them to redouble their efforts to become the best players they can be (the town more than deserves a winning program), as opposed to having them construe what will be said as simply more “blah, blah, blah.”