This week, the University of Michigan celebrated the 40th anniversary of Title IX, with a host of speakers and panels discussing the historic legislation and its impact on girls, women and the United States itself.
It all started pretty quietly. Just a sentence buried in the back of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Just a sentence – one that seems pretty straightforward to us, even self-evident. But that little line stirred up our society in ways that few pieces of legislation ever have. We call it Title IX – and perhaps only the Civil Rights Acts changed our nation the past century more dramatically – or did more good.
But nowhere in that powerful paragraph do the authors say one word about sports. It’s not really about sports, but educational opportunities. It says a lot about Americans’ unequaled belief in the value of school sports, that we consider them essential to a comprehensive education.