A weekend interview with ...
... Derrick Brooks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneer football star. Brooks is heading Gov. Charlie Crist's fitness initiative, a trustee at Florida State University, and a founder of the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, which opens in August with nearly 300 students as the first charter high school in Hillsborough. A graduate of Florida public schools, Brooks (shown here with Crist) talked to reporter Letitia Stein about why they matter so much to him.
LS: Why are you so interested in education?
DB: I think education is survival of a society. I know a more educated person in the world is a very powerful human being.
LS: What makes the Brooks-DeBartolo charter school unique?
DB: It allows us to give a curriculum to kids that is a little different than traditional, because we have a small number of kids. Being the first to do it, we have a chance to try some things that may work or may not work, but we're allowed that freedom to change.
LS: How have your own educational experiences influenced you? There's a story about you getting in trouble in fifth grade.
DB: I was being a class clown, and my mother and father really were fed up with the teacher calling the house, so my Dad warned me that he was going to whip me in front of the class. He was going to show me who could be the bigger clown. To his word, he came up there, and he did it. That was the last time that my father ever whipped me. The message that they were sending to me simply is this: No matter how good of grades you make, how good at sports you are, if you don’t know how to treat people and be respectful, you're not going to be a successful human being.
LS: What's next for the physical fitness initiative?
DB: Different educational lessons can be taught through physical education. That’s kind of my starting point. I want everybody to recognize the importance of physical education in my life, in terms of setting team goals and teamwork and problem solving and learning how to get along with people, have different conversations with people.
LS: Do you think you could do more for children in public office? Would that interest you?
DB: (Laughs) Once a day, I get asked that. I just simply tell them the same answer: If that's where the Lord wants me to be, then an elected office is where I'll be. But to say that's a goal of mine right now? No. My daily goal right now is to make the Tampa Bay 2007 football team.
LS: Is there a point where people should start seeing you not as Derrick Brooks the football player who is an education advocate, but as Derrick Brooks, the education advocate who also is a football player?
DB: I like to tell people I'm not a football player that's a Christian, I'm a Christian that happens to play football. Whatever role you want to see me in — if it's sports that draws that your connection, or if it's me as a human being that draws your connection — you're going to get the same person.
LS: Are you a Democrat or a Republican?
DB: I am a human being.
LS: Anything else that you would like people to know about your education work?
DB: There's different ways of communicating with a kid to learn. A kid may not be the best at taking a test, but probably is a genius sitting at your table. Just because they are uncomfortable taking a test, does not mean they are not smart ... I think our teachers here Florida are starting to get back to that. When I was in school, I think they were generally interested in what you know, not more or less being forced to teach you a test. So I think we're started to turn the corner again.
LS: Is there are a certain kind of child that you’re looking for (to enroll in the charter school)?
DB: No. I know we have certain requirements, but for me to say I want this child versus that child, I can't say no to anyone. That's why I'm not on the selection committee. I'd try to take them all. (Laughs)
I just want kids who want to try a different style of learning, are trusting us to educate them and get them college ready, to a certain degree may feel lost because of the numbers in the public schools system. Try us out. Be part of a ground-breaking experience.