Why the UK needs Title IX – now, more so than ever

A few months ago, the US celebrated 40 years of the innocuously titled Title IX legislation (or even more snappily named, a portion of the ‘Education Amendments of 1972, Public Law No. 92-318, 86 Stat. 235 (June 1972)).  It’s not often that law-making legislature gets its own celebration, but speak to almost any current US Sportswoman or sporting-minded graduate of the US public education system and you’ll swiftly notice just how important Title IX really is.

But what is it?  And how has it become such a large part of sporting folklore?

At heart, Title IX demands by law that, ‘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 education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance’.  Pretty simple stuff, but with a core impact beyond the apparent high-level view of its statement.

A quick glance at some statistics paint the broadest brushstrokes of the picture: in 1974, two years after Title IX was included in the statute and one year before the US Government pushed a 3-year timetable for ultimate enforcement, fewer than 300,000 girls were actively involved in high school sport.  In 2012, the numbers rank in excess of 3 million.  In 2008, 9,101 intercollegiate women’s sporting teams were recorded, at 8.65 per school; both the highest numbers ever registered.

This year’s 40th anniversary brought recollections from members of the original drafting party regarding the approach to bringing Title IX into law – far from championing its wide-reaching, reformative qualities, its lead Senate proponents, Edith Green and Birch Bayh, actually sought to underplay its chief impacts; playing it under the radar helped to bring it into law without the challenges one might expect of such a revolutionary piece of law making.

A generation on, many within the US education sector are blissfully unaware of the freedoms granted them by one of the US’ most positively covert pieces of legislation; a generation on, the UK looks down the barrel of a piece of politicking rule change which could be as destructive as Title IX was generative.

Under Michael Gove’s stewardship, the Education Department looks set to press ahead with changes to existing regulations setting out minimum requirements for space provided to team games within the school system.  Similarly to Title IX, the changes look on the face of it to be relatively subtle; a move from current guidelines specifying provision of facilities by square metreage is to be replaced by a guideline requiring ‘suitable outdoor space’.  Critics argue – and we similarly contend – that this will go in one direction only; which education authority, under budgetary pressure and contending with a need to invest across the curricula, is going to use this as an opportunity to expand their existing sporting provision?  And when the cuts are made, who is going to suffer?

We doubt it will be boy’s football; we doubt it will be boy’s rugby; we wouldn’t be at all surprised to find it pinched at the edges of equal gender provision, though.  Make no mistake, any such cuts will affect all children, regardless of gender.  But it will effect some more than others.

The UK needed a Title IX provision regardless.  Equal opportunities in sport should be demanded in law, and the only place to introduce this is within the education system.  Sport remains a choice for the participant, denial of it should not be a choice for the administrators, no matter their titular denomination.

With threats to sporting inclusion growing and political leadership seemingly insistent on pushing ahead with the destruction of already lacking facilities, the UK needs its own Title IX now, more than ever before.  After all, what’s to be done with London 2012’s promised legacy if the opportunities to engage are denied to our youth?


Image from http://www.pointsoflight.org/blog/2011/06/23/39th-anniversary-title-ix (thanks!)


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