Some info from Dwight Eisenhower's autobiography, At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends, that I wanted to comment on.
When Eisenhower went to high school in Abilene, KS - the town paid for the schooling (with language requirements of either Latin or German) but not for athletics. The students took it upon themselves to pay for sports through an association with $.25 dues per athlete. Contrast that to today where athletics are assumed to be part of the curriculum (albeit a luxury that is the first to be threatened with cuts when budgets get tight).
I think sports are the best thing for a kid in high school and that it should be part of the curriculum. I also think that if the common sense people from Abilene saw some of the courses kids take today as electives that they would shake their head and wonder why people are spending time and money on such fluff and nonsense.
It should also be noted that after high school graduation Eisenhower went to work. He ended up working at the ice house of a creamery working 84-hour weeks (12 hours a day - seven days a week) for $90 per month. That money went to help pay for the college education of his older brother Ed who was enrolled at Michigan. The job also probably taught him the value of his future college education and what kind of life would be there for him if he didn't study. I'm all for kids taking a year or two off after high school to work or just mature before heading off to college.
One final note about the young Eisenhower - he really wanted to go to Annapolis but was too old by just a couple of months to enroll (he would have been 21 during his freshman year and they had a cut off of 20). Good thing for him (and for us) that the entrance exam he took was for both service academies. Can you imagine how history could have been vastly different if Eisenhower got into his first choice of college instead of going to West Point?