May is a busy season for high school students - a season even busier than most - with preparations for final exams, social events and for seniors planning what life after graduation will bring. But for a select group, those participating in UIL academic competition, this time of year is even more hectic, and exciting.

Reaching the state level of competition is the ultimate goal for all students involved in UIL events, both athletic and academic. Several state champions are being crowned in sports this spring, but even more state crowns are up for grabs in academic endeavors. Students in Brown County and area schools have traditionally done extremely well in both arenas. A few of them, such as the Brownwood High FFA Range team, have even advanced to nationals.

The work and effort the students, sponsors and coaches put into their academic preparation is no less demanding than that experienced by student-athletes; itís just approached in a different manner. Certainly, the pressure the students put on themselves to do their best is similar. But sometimes, unfortunately, the recognition the academic competitors enjoy within the community is not.

Itís a reflection of our society in which people who excel in professional sports and entertainment are revered as heroes, while the scientists, accountants, medical researchers, entrepreneurs and philosophers who are at the top of their of their fields labor almost anonymously beyond those knowledgeable in their fields. Thatís unfortunate, because in other nations - those that are competing with the United States for the laboratories and think tanks where the next major breakthroughs will take place - people like Bill Gates are afforded recognition that in America we reserve for rock stars.

The young people who excel in UIL academics, in Texas but also across the nation, represent the next generation of specialists who will determine whether the United States remains a dominant economic power, or dissolves instead into a nation of service employees and consumers. If the statistic stating that China has more honor students in its schools than the U.S. has students doesnít alert us to what must be done, nothing will.

America is doing some things to prepare its bright young minds for the challenges they must face in the decades ahead, but in some ways it also seems America is not doing enough to celebrate their efforts. As those who are studying and competing to enhance the overall brain trust that this country must have collect their awards this spring, we all should take note of those accomplishments and celebrate with them.

Brownwood Bulletin