Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Jun 2012

The Education of Dasmine Cathey

In a moving article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Brad Wolverton writes about former Memphis football player Dasmine Cathey, who is semi-literate, and his struggles to stay academically eligible.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 07 Jun 2012

29 comments, Last at 01 Jan 2013, 6:18am by mano


by ebongreen :: Thu, 06/07/2012 - 5:15pm

It would help if the article were linked through the headline, as usual - or anywhere at all. :-,

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Thu, 06/07/2012 - 5:48pm

Having now read the linked article: this is just crushingly, heartbreakingly sad. It's basically a study in generational poverty. The article ends without warning, which makes some sense -- there's no ending to the story yet -- but anyone who doesn't know the ending already is lying to themselves.

He sounds like a great kid, who really cares about his fellow man, but he's going to be dead, jailed, or otherwise discarded by society within a decade.

by f.b.p.in.uk :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 9:31am

But how's somebody who can't read make it out of high school and into college in the first place? I freely acknowledge the kids themselves play a big part in the problem, but this is the ugly side of college sports when the supposedly noble benefactors use and abuse them. Let's look at Dasmine Cathey from the article. He hadn't read a book before entering high school. I didn't say she shouldn't text at all or ask him where he was.

by sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 06/07/2012 - 6:44pm

I'm a big college sports fan, but stuff like this makes me sick. So many of these kids get treated like slabs of meat, kept eligible and then dumped and forgotten about the second their playing days are over. I freely acknowledge the kids themselves play a big part in the problem, but this is the ugly side of college sports when the supposedly noble benefactors use and abuse them.

by markus (not verified) :: Thu, 06/07/2012 - 6:56pm

Reading the article, I think they're really trying to help this kid. But how'd somebody who can't read make it out of high school and into college in the first place? He might get lucky and work hard enough to buck the odds, but look at the resources it has taken to try and help somebody who had no business being there in the first place. And while it sounds like Memphis is trying hard with him, I do believe there must be countless others who are just being passed along through college in the same way they were passed along through high school and elementary school.

I went to a tiny, non-NCAA school and we had guys similar to this even there who'd have had no shot at admission except for their ability to play ball. Some flunked out after a semester. Some others took the easiest possible classes and were gone long before graduation with a bunch of random credits that weren't going to help them much with anything.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 06/07/2012 - 7:02pm

Fewer people hold the ethics of the management of college football in lower esteem than I, but in this instance, I have to say the travesty is pretty much on the player. His coaches and academic advisors used what carrots and sticks they could to get him to take advanatge of his scholorship, and it reads to me that he did not take advantage of the opportunity with any consistency.

The one caveat I have is whether they cut him slack to get the grades he did. I have my suspicions, and if that is the case, it's the usual unethical crap.

by Independent George :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 12:21am

I have to disagree - this isn't on the player, but on the schools that passed him along to the next grade without ever actually teaching him. How the heck did he graduate high school if he was functionally illiterate, let alone his his college classes? He's an adult now, but where were the adults back when he was supposed to learn all of this in the first place? He couldn't possibly be responsible for himself back then - he's paying for the things they let him slide by with his entire life.

It reminds me of a story a few years ago of a student in the New Orleans who was class valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 GPA, but couldn't pass the math portion of he high school exit exam. Somehow, the reporter concluded the test was unfair without noticing that she got A's in math her entire life without ever learning basic arithmetic. The problem wasn't that the exit exam prevented her from graduating; it's that there was no such exam in the previous 12 years that would have shown how much (or how little) she actually learned. I felt bad for her, because she clearly seemed like a good kid who tried, but was horribly failed by the system.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 2:51am

Oh, I agree. I should have said that once he was admitted to college, it was mostly on him, assuming the college isn't lying about what grades he actually earned, which is a big assumption.

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 10:21am

I totally see both sides. It's on the kids for not making the most of an incredible opportunity. On the other hand, some of them are so incredibly unprepared they're simply not equipped to succeed. They lack even the most basic tools.

This kid was reading first grade readers in college. Sure, there's remedial classes and if you're just a few years behind I bet they work great. But they can't provide an entire K-12 education and have the student ready for college-level courses before his scholarship is used up. And motives are huge in this--if the school is really trying to help the kid and has some sort of continuing program once he's not on scholarship any more, great. But if the primary aim is to keep him eligible until they can wash their hands of him, it's a travesty.

by Theo :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 8:53am

I'm sure a lot of things went wrong.
It's byond me how someone who can't read or write can get past the first year of elimentary school. Or whatever you call the school that 6 year olds go to - I'm not american.
This paints a nice picture of how important a good education system is - and what happens when people in that system abuse it.
The guy also didn't help himself by breaking the law/getting arrested and getting childeren he obviously can't support.
Texting "where r u" is also not something I would text to someone who needs to learn how to read and write.

by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 10:34am

There have been studies that show the kids who text the most are scoring higher on their written exams than those who text less. The idea is that these kids are learning how to be efficient with their words, telling stories or explaining processes with fewer words and fewer useless details. They may not necessarily be grammatically correct, but these students are getting to points faster.

That is to say, texting "where r u" is not to blame.

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 11:32am

The one study I'm aware of suggested texters were better at spelling. It was a small study and hardly conclusive. If there's been another on writing, I'd love to hear more about it. The perceptions of many teachers remains that they're seeing a decline in students' language skills as a result of texting, presumably because texting encourages the use of fewer words, shorter words and generally ignores normal punctuation and sentence structure. Some linguists have taken to calling it a distinct language.

by tuluse :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 11:52am

I've seen studies that show learning more languages at a young age helps with learning English, so if txt is it's own language I would think it would help with the learning.

Also, I wouldn't be surprised to learn there is a good amount of "get off my lawn" mentality among teachers. Don't we hear about something new corrupting English every generation?

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 1:48pm

In a very real sense, languages are constantly "corrupted" because they evolve and change over time. (If you're France, you pass laws to try and stop it!) But test scores show that basic skills have been in decline in the U.S. for years, at least in the public schools. Even SAT scores are in decline and those would best represent the most "college ready" students. I'm highly doubtful that anything that discourages proper spelling and ignores sentence structure is going to help anybody in school. How could it, really?

by tuluse :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 2:39pm

By helping students internalize that grammar is a series of arbitrary rules?

Anyways, this site, http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0883611.html, shows that average SAT scores were basically flat from 1976 to 2005.

I could think of a number of reasons why they would go down that have nothing to do with texting, like maybe lots of people who wouldn't traditionally take the SAT are taking it now?

Or the fact that one of the largest factors on SAT scores is family income, and income disparity in the US has been growing at an fast rate in the past decade, well I can't finish this thought without breaking rule 1.

by markus (not verified) :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 5:36pm

But there are no rules of proper grammar for texting. Let's look at Dasmine Cathey from the article. He hadn't read a book before entering high school. He'd assume text-speak was proper language the same way some people talk ghetto and think that's appropriate. Maybe the educated aren't harmed by text-speak, but it's hard to imagine how the uneducated aren't.

Using 2011 data, SAT scores are down 6 points for critical reading and 8 points for writing over the past 5 years. Math has declined as well, but not as sharply.

by Theo :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 5:30pm

The point I was trying to make was that as a teacher it's also your job to set a good example and use normal english when texting to a kid who can barely write and read. I didn't say she shouldn't text at all or ask him where he was.
I'll be clearer next time.

by markus (not verified) :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 5:49pm

Agree with your general point. But to be totally fair, she wasn't his teacher but just the counselor assigned to trying to get him to class. When he skips she ends up driving to his house to try and light a fire under him. She comes across like a saint in the article.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Sun, 06/10/2012 - 3:45pm

Simply put, kids who text have to be literate.

The conclusion that texting improves reading/writing doesn't necessarily follow, but it serves a minimum threshold -- if you can't do those things, you cannot (and do not) text.

by tuluse :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 11:18am

In the US there is no national education system. Each locality is responsible for itself. Because of this standards and practices vary wildly.

This was the main thing that Bush's No Child Left Behind policy was supposed to address. Children had to take yearly tests showing improvement. That way schools couldn't just keep passing them up the grades and then claim they graduated. The law itself had a lot of problems however.

by BywaterBrat :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 10:32am

I recognize the perceived value of getting the degree, and even acknowledge the likely impact on self-confidence that getting the degree delivers, however the bottom line is that he shouldn't be enrolled in any university system. If he could have played football and attended vocational/tech school or (gasp!) have gotten paid $500/game but didn't have his time tied up with classes, he would be way better off. I mean, really- even if his suspect grades were better and he had a history degree- would he be employable for any job that required a college-degree?

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 11:42am

Your vocational school suggestion is spot-on. What would benefit this kid most is remedial teaching to get them a GED/high school equivalency and a skilled trade that would allow them to make a living. Since that's not at all what college is about, he's going to leave there with nothing but a random collection of credits that won't amount to anything useful to him long-term.

by dbt :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 8:03pm

For those of you asking why this guy is allowed into college at all, I ask you where he would be without the ability to play ball and other people paying any interest in his life.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 9:59pm

He'd be nowhere but sadly he's struggling to make himself go to class even with a full ride and a small army trying to motivate him. The real question is what could some other economically challenged individual who actually could read and wanted to learn have done with the opportunity he is squandering.

by Theo :: Sat, 06/09/2012 - 8:37am

In class. To catch up.
(maybe not at the age of 19 - but in the past at the age of 6-16)

by Joseph :: Fri, 06/08/2012 - 11:20pm

I didn't read the article, but wanted to make a general comment on the educational system in general, be it public or private.
The sad thing for me is how many people--students, parents, and even teachers--look at education as a chore, and not an opportunity or privilege. I am a normal American male, was blessed to have parents with college degrees, and my mom's was in education. Homework was not optional, and I am sure that there were many days in my childhood when I resented that. However, I am amazed at what other college graduates who I deal with regularly do not know. (I'm not talking about people who got degrees in general studies while partying for 4 years, either.) I am very glad that I took advantage of my 16 yrs. of schooling, because every bit of what I have learned since graduating from college is because I took the time to teach myself (mostly via reading books) or to learn from conversation with others who knew more about the subject (in other words, no classes). School was definitely worth every minute I spent in it, and I really wish I had taken a couple of different elective courses in college, as I could use that information now.
Bottom line: sad that so many kids, regardless of their background, family, and economic status, just waste their opportunity.

PS: No I wasn't a "nerd,"--I played football & basketball, and was one of the most popular guys at school. I just paid attention in class & did my homework.

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by mano (not verified) :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 6:18am

Walker is http://www.fresh-tests.com/exam/350-080.htm out this week with a broken jaw (wierdly kneed in the head accidentially in the week 16 Seahawks game). Not positive how replacing him with non-receiving threat Peelle is going to mess up those 350-080 tests plays (fewer TE arounds for positive).