By: Amy Isaacs/ Knight Ridder Tribune
WASHINGTON – When Hawaii congresswoman and former ADA President Patsy T. Mink died, millions of American women who play college, high school and professional sports – as well as many women who may never know her name – lost a champion.
Just three months before her death, the 30th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX of the Education Amendments was celebrated.
Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on gender at educational institutions receiving federal funds.
For Mink, dedication to these issues was borne out of her own bitter experience. Denied entry into medical school because she was a woman, she entered law school.
It was those memories that drove her. Her original target was educational opportunity, and the rising number of women now in medical, law and other graduate schools are a tribute to her vision. It is in the field of college athletics, however, where Title IX has had the greatest impact and generated the most controversy.
Since 1971, girls’ participation in high school sports has risen from approximately 300,000 to 2.8 million today. The United States now has professional women basketball players and has a World Cup Champion soccer team.
Women’s athletics have become a rich part of our landscape – none of which would have happened without Title IX. In addition, studies have shown that participation in sports can help young women to get better grades, gain confidence and lead a healthier life style.
Critics of Title IX point to the dissolution of men’s sports teams at universities forced to fund women’s sports. They fail to note that the problem is often a result of economic decisions made by university administrators more concerned about big-ticket sports such as men’s football and basketball than in providing equal opportunities. Disparities still exist. Men’s sports programs provide $146-million more than women’s programs in college athletic scholarship money and 84 percent of the athletic directors remain men.
Yet, despite its obvious benefit and continuing need, Title IX is firmly in the sights of the Bush administration and others in Congress.
And, how shameful it will be if federal funds once again become the source of discrimination against more than half of our nation’s population. Women deserve better and our nation deserves far more from its political leaders