JUNE 25, 2015
Can baseball miraculously improve education, combat domestic violence and child abuse in an impoverished Caribbean island? The U.S. government seems to think so and it’s spending a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars to implement a “Baseball Cares” program in the Dominican Republic.
It’s a team effort between Uncle Sam and a multi-billion-dollar professional sports league to improve life in the island nation where half of the population doesn’t even have access to clean water or sanitary toilets. Twenty percent of the country lives in extreme poverty and only 30% of children finish primary school, according to a group that works to make international poverty a focus of U.S. foreign policy. Domestic violence against women and girls is also rampant in the Dominican Republic, a famously corrupt island nation.
The U.S. taxpayers that will fund the island’s baseball experiment might wonder how America’s favorite pastime is expected to help these serious problems. For starters, it is intended to capitalize on the Dominican passion for baseball, according to the U.S. government’s explanation. Somehow the game and its well-known personalities will improve education and basic reading skills for youth ages 10-18 in targeted communities, the government asserts. It will also improve access to education for children with disabilities and combat domestic violence and child abuse.
Major League Baseball (MLB), the $36 billion organization that oversees the nation’s 30 pro teams, is matching the U.S. contribution by also chipping in $250,000 for the Dominican “Baseball Cares” project. “MLB Players are greatly admired in the Dominican Republic,” the government announcement says. “They can be great role models for young students and their families. MLB Players encouraging children to stay in school will have a powerful effect on students, especially boys, who tend to have a higher dropout rate than girls in the DR.” The document doesn’t mention how many Dominican baseball players in the big leagues dropped out of school to play professional baseball in the U.S.
It does however, list some very ambitious objectives. The first is to improve education and basic reading skills by having pro baseball players encourage kids to stay in school “at least until graduation from high school” and to “read and improve their reading skills.” The second objective is to improve access to education for children with disabilities by removing “physical barriers” and “lack of teacher training” as well as “lack of transportation.” The third goal is to combat domestic violence through public awareness, counseling and by providing support to victim shelters.
The Obama administration assures in its announcement that “Baseball Cares” will adhere to the government’s new measures to promote and support the inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals by ensuring that all members of society have the ability to make their voices heard in preventing crime, improving the legal protection of vulnerable groups. It will also demand transparency and accountability from the Dominican Republic’s notoriously corrupt criminal justice system in guaranteeing that public safety and human rights are protected.
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