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The Daily Tar Heel

Reading level playing fields

	Memet Walker

Memet Walker

At Carolina Athletics, we’ve always had a simple philosophy: When you become a Tar Heel, there’s literally no wrong way to spell “Put me in, coach.”

But one Debbie Downer is trying to change all that.

It’s the classic he said, she said, they read at 4th grade reading levels. Mary Willingham, a University employee who once worked with athletes here, released data to CNN showing a significant chunk of them performed at elementary school levels.

The athletic department denied the accusations, releasing a statement with squiggly lines, handprints and a sad macaroni face.

It’s just too much to handle. I always want to support my school, of course, but even I have to admit, after this many scandals, each denial gets harder to believe. They’re like UNC athletes’ English degrees — you just can’t trust them anymore.

I mean, these players now. If only they brought the same kind of passion and energy to the field that they bring to not reading books, this never would have been an issue to begin with.

But in their defense, Jim Dean, UNC’s executive vice chancellor and provost, said, “the vast majority of athletes we’ve accepted have very strong verbal and mathematical skills.” The others, he added, still exhibit remarkably advanced behavior, like sharing and the use of simple tools.

So is Willingham lying, or isn’t she? Will we ever know?

Maybe I’m oversimplifying things, but … Why can’t we just ask these athletes to come back and read for us? Get Jeff Foxworthy to host. Duke to sponsor. That would settle this whole thing in five seconds.

But you have to pardon me for not being shocked a Division 1 school is helping guys taking weekly concussions to the head pass molecular geometry.

I’m more upset we’re so damn worse than everyone at hiding it, and that — once again — our athletes are getting all the special treatment.

They’re not the only ones struggling here. The next time you’re in class, take a moment and just listen to your neighbors: You don’t have to play for a team here to be incredibly stupid.

So what about us, the silent majority who can’t read OR pass? Who’s on our team?

The bottom line is, if verbal skills were a prerequisite for anyone coming into this school the admissions department might have considered using essay prompts not taken from a fifth grade exam:

“What do you hope you find over the rainbow?” “Why do you do what you do?” “Explain one of your personality quirks and what it says about you.”

You know, I think by far the quirkiest thing about me has always been the fact I never learned to read — I MEAN, VOLUNTEER TOO MUCH!

Carol Folt, fix this place before you end up like Holden Thorp, exiled by scandal to the academic D-league. As your email this week said, “Carolina character lives in our words and deeds.”

It has to. None of us here can write.

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