Charlie Pavitt: On some implications of the Adam LaRoche situation
Charlie Pavitt occasionally guest posts here ... been a while, but he's back! Here's Charlie's thoughts on Adam Laroche and education.
Let me begin this essay by stating that if it is true that the White Sox promised Adam LaRoche full clubhouse access for his son Drake, then they are wrong to reverse themselves on that promise now; and if LaRoche only agreed to sign the contract because of the promise, he has good reason to feel betrayed.
But this essay is not about this specific issue. It is about something more general. My understanding is that LaRoche made a public statement that included something like the following: School is not so important, you can learn more about life in the baseball clubhouse than in school. Even if I am wrong about what LaRoche did or did not say, the question deserves consideration, so I want to discuss my thinking about this general issue and not about this specific case.
You most certainly can learn something about life in the baseball clubhouse. Here are three important things that you can learn: First, that a group of men from drastically different backgrounds (different races/ethnicities/social classes/religions/etc.) can work together in harmony in pursuit of a shared goal. Second, that a group of men from drastically different backgrounds can forge close friendships. Third, that success in one’s pursuits requires what I call the three D’s: desire, dedication, discipline. These are all extremely valuable lessons, and I suppose there are some other things that you can learn in the baseball clubhouse that I cannot think of right now.
But there are many things that are also important in life that you cannot learn in the baseball clubhouse.
First, you cannot learn how to interact in a mature enough manner with women to work in harmony with them in pursuit of a shared goal and to forge close friendships. I have no idea about now, but certainly in the “old days” a baseball clubhouse was anything but a good training ground for learning how to treat women as potential co-workers or non-sexual friends.
Second, you cannot learn how to interact in a mature enough manner with people with a different sexual orientation than you to work in harmony with them in pursuit of a shared goal and to forge close friendships. In this case, it is pretty clear that instances of disparaging treatment are still occurring, although happily the response to these instances has been to demand that the perpetrators grow up and act like adults. I would like to add that it is likely that there are quite a few gay major league baseball players right now who do not feel comfortable enough with how their teammates would react to come out of the closet, given how few past players have felt comfortable enough to do so even after retirement.
Third, you cannot learn how to interact in a mature enough manner with people with disabilities, be they of sight or hearing or physical limitations or psychiatric problems or low “intelligence,” whatever that is, to work in harmony with them in pursuit of a shared goal and to forge close friendships. I will say that baseball players have as a group been sensitive to and supportive of people such as these and also to other players with analogous issues (e.g., alcoholism), which is laudable. But the issue here is whether one can learn this sensitivity in a baseball clubhouse as well as you can in school.
Fourth, you cannot learn how to interact in a mature enough manner with straight men with no disabilities, but a different temperament than one usually finds among baseball players, to work in harmony with them in pursuit of a shared goal and to forge close friendships. I am thinking of men who think like artists or musicians or writers (or academics like me), who are basically non-competitive and wish to collaborate with everyone and not only one’s teammates. I am also thinking of men who have made financial sacrifices to dedicate their lives to the betterment of others; those who work in non-profits for pitiful wages, school teachers spending part of their much-lower-than-deserved income on their classroom and students because their school is so badly underfunded. I would not expect active disparagement of such people in the clubhouse, in fact if anything baseball players probably respect the hard work and achievements of such people. But I doubt they learned that attitude in the baseball clubhouse, and in any case the issue is once again whether the ability to understand those mindsets well enough to work alongside and becoming truly friendly with such people is better learned in a baseball clubhouse than in a school.
Fifth, you can learn the sorts of things that can make you a responsible public citizen and contribute to your community and to your nation; for example, someone who votes based on well-thought-out values and relevant knowledge rather than emotion and hearsay. I am not saying that baseball players as a group do not have adequate public citizen skills, just like the general citizenry my guess is that some do and some don’t, but that you can learn those skills in school far better than in a baseball clubhouse.
These are the sorts of things that you can learn in a school that you cannot learn in a baseball clubhouse. And, I might add, you can also learn in school about the three important things I listed above that you can learn in a clubhouse; in fact, you can learn them better. You can learn to pursue a goal with or become friends with people from drastically different backgrounds, and you can learn about the importance of the three D’s, and you can learn them better in a school because you are actually participating and not just observing others, as would be generally the case in the clubhouse. Note that unlike the clubhouse, you are learning these skills while interacting with people your own age rather than 10/20 years older. Research has conclusively shown that, while basic language and communication skills are originally learned from intense interaction with one’s immediate family, they are practiced and perfected through intense interaction with one’s age peers.
Now let me add one other thing that you can learn in a school that you cannot learn in a baseball clubhouse. You can learn a marketable skill other than playing baseball. Again, I want to consider the general issue and stay away from the specific LaRoche situation; my understanding is that Drake is being home-schooled and that Adam LaRoche does many things other than play baseball and I trust that Drake is participating and learning from them. If a player thinks that the baseball clubhouse is a more educational environment for a son than a school, the player is thinking as if there was no question that the son was also going to spend their lives in the baseball clubhouse. ut what if the son’s interests and temperament are more in line with the examples I mentioned above: the musician/artist/writer/academic, the person who values other’s betterment over personal wealth? Or even if the son has the desire and temperament to play baseball, but not the skill? In particular, the latter type of son is woefully unprepared for work, not just for the nuts and bolts of the job but also for working in tandem with women, gay men, and those of different temperament. Or does the player think that, in that instance, it is fine for the son to live his life off the fortune the player is making?
Now, I understand that Drake LaRoche is being home-schooled, and for all I know he is learning about the things I am concerned about, and whether or not this is true in this instance is beside the general point. And I am not saying that boys should never spend any time in a baseball clubhouse, even if it means missing a little school. In conclusion, I am saying the following:
A baseball team that promises a player that the player’s son can totally share the baseball player life at the detriment of schooling is performing a great disservice to the son.
A baseball player who wants his son to totally share the baseball player life at the detriment of schooling is performing a great disservice to his son.
A baseball team that realizes the detriment to the son that the promise has caused and reverses itself on the promise certainly deserves censure for breaking a promise, but is performing a great service to the son.
And a baseball player in the latter situation who retires because of it and, in so doing, insures educational experiences for the son beyond the clubhouse is performing a great service to the son.
-- Charlie Pavitt