Here's Bardiac, thinking about the same phenomenon. In her neighborhood, letter of intent signing day gets a lot of coverage. The fawning coverage isn't present for other kinds of achievers.
In my fantasy, come graduation season, the local news broadcasts would go to each graduating class and do similar short interviews with the valedictorians or top students (in various ways, top math student, maybe, or top art student, or student with an outstanding record of service) about their plans, future schools, whatever. And they'd put these little interviews on the news with the same attention that they put the football players on the news.More to the point, the interviews might be part of a larger, "where are they now?" feature.
And then, here's the real fantasy: in six years, they'd reinterview the same students, the football players, the art students, the valedictorian, all of them they could find, and they'd ask about the past six years and the students' future plans.Indeed. We can not speak of returns to human capital that is not being developed. Nor should we be surprised that dual to the proposition "what we reward we get more of" is the proposition "what we don't reward we get less of." Probably easier to ask the band to play the fight song one more time.
And I bet they'd learn that those valedictorians were graduated or graduating, had jobs, grad school, or other stuff planned going forward, and had become the sorts of adults we hope our K-12 educational programs will help create. My guess is that a lot of the football students will have become those sorts of adults, too, and will be doing good stuff. But I bet it would be exceedingly rare for the football student to still be playing football, while the art student would still be making art, and the student noted for outstanding service would still be doing good service work.
And then they'd actually think out loud about the supposed "career" oriented education that so many of our governmental folks desire and about what sorts of high school activities we should support with our attention and money and such. Maybe, just maybe, instead of having a football coach and two or three assistants, the local high schools would hire another art teacher.