Uniting Sport, Democracy, and Education

In the article “Democracy, Education, and Sport” by Peter Arnold states that democracy is “ based on the belief that each human being is of value, and that each citizen is guaranteed certain rights that operate in practice and are not just formal…” In our society we try to separate sport from education and politics, when  sport can clearly play a role in both. In this article I want to discuss some of the ways that sport is intertwined in democracy and how it may be a useful tool in putting into action the rationality a democratic society and its education expect their citizens to uphold.

The Parallel of Sport and Democracy

            In a democratic society we are suppose to uphold a certain moral value.  It is said that democracy is “by the people, for the people and of the people”. Our parents and society teach us what is right and wrong, moral and unmoral. Arnold states that “at the heart of democratic ideal is the belief that all people regardless of their color, race, or creed should be respected, not only because this is desirable in itself but because they are the centers of consciousness…” We are fortunate to live in a society where we are able to speak our mind, under a government that supports our free will as people and accepts us no matter what our color, race, or creed. At least this is the ideal. I believe that sport can also play a role in teaching society the same values. In professional sports we come together, united by our common interests to support an activity and passion that brings together those of all different backgrounds. What would we be without the large sporting events? The Olympics? During such events, as stated before in a few other blog posts, it is a reflection of our societies ideals, and brings people of different views and backgrounds together. If we did not have sport what kind of society would we become? Sport provides a physical release of stress and improves overall well being. The act of participation and adherence to a sport just reinforces the beliefs of a democratic society. So the question remains, how can we further develop sport as part of our society in order to fully receive not just the extrinsic, but also intrinsic values of sport?

Sport and Education

            In education we have a tendency to focus on qualities of the mind, and discredit the benefits of our physical well being and its benefits to the mind. In Arnolds article he suggests the idea that liberal education, is “concerned with the liberation of the person who receives it,” this liberation should be mental and physical. He believes that this type of education compliments the beliefs of a democratic society. To make a deeper distinction of mental and physical aspects of education, Arnold uses the terms theoretical and practical rationality along with morality as being the two central strands in what it means to be liberally educated. If we want to change the way our education system teaches young children what is right and wrong, further intertwining sport into our education is the key. As I see it, the current education system does include sport as an extracurricular activity, it does help unite schools, faculty and students for a common goal. Yet physical education is the first program to be cut. This may be due to the view of sport as only holding physical benefits. It is now time to include the intrinsic benefits of incorporating sport and physical activity into the lives of our children. We must show the youth not only how things work but allow them to experience physically what it means to uphold taught values of morality, respect, fairness, that are provided when you participate in sports or physical activity. If we teach kids why they play sports and how all the values we teach them should be applied I think that sport would be an amazing tool for social change. The benefits of sport in which I speak of are learned respect for others, fairness and cooperation, to accept others and work as a team, along with the physical benefits of improved circulation, a decreased risk for injury and heart disease, and an higher chance of living an active lifestyle as an adult. If we are able to show the next generation that physical activity can help them manage the stresses of life, keep them from illness and disease so they can enjoy the life they life more fully, then we will be on the right track.

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            I would love to see the day when people uphold sport and physically activity as highly as they do mathematics and science. We are taught to use our mind, but I believe that the act of MOVING helps sharpen our mind. Our bodies are made to move and by participating in a sport we are learning to use the best piece of technology we will ever own, ourselves. Along with learning to take care of the one body we have in this lifetime, we are intrinsically adhering to the rules and learning to work with each other in harmony, despite any differences. We must use our democratic advantage to liberate our minds and bodies.

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Education vs Athletics

Change, it is the only constant. As the world of collegiate sports grows, so will the skepticism, greed, the need to win at all costs. But what exactly is the cost? The high-profile schools expect their athletes to perform to their highest capacity. Schools give athletes incentives and scholarships, bringing in superb athletes to help them win and make them money. While giving them little time to spend on their academic studies. Is this fair for the athlete? Is it fair for the non-athletes? We are one of the only countries who have combined sports and academics. Is there a way we can better integrate sports and academics?

Of all the athletes that participate in collegiate sports only a very small percentage actually make it to play professionally. In a chapter from “Defenses of College Athletics”, Simon noted that in the late 1950’s athletes were the majority and were also highly ranked academically. This is no longer the case; as greed increased the drop out rate followed. “Furthermore, They suggest that if athletes are given too great an admissions advantage, and perform much worse academically than their classmates, and they drag down the academic atmosphere of the whole institution” (Simon 158). Major collegiate sports have seemed to lose grasp on what sport is really about at the amateur level, causing negative feelings towards sports in college.  Although I do not believe that sports “drag down the academic atmosphere”, I do think that there is a huge imbalance in collegiate sports. You have your hard working athletes who have small scholarships and no incentive, but still work hard in their quest for excellence in their sport. Then you have the high-profile athletes, who are giving every advantage possible in order for them to be able to perform well enough, to win, to make money, so they can pay the coach an absurd salary and buy all the newest gear. Brand states “less that one half 1% of Division I scholarship players each year have an opportunity to play in the professional NBA, and the large majority of those have short careers.” Should we pay our athletes at the college level? No, I do not think that is a good idea. It will just perpetuate attitude that athletes must do all that it takes to win. If athletes are going to receive academic scholarships they should also be given ample time to focus on their academic classes, along with receiving some credit for their participation in athletics. I believe that the athlete who must work hard to pay for their education or keep their scholarship will then receive the positive that athletic participation may provide. We a need to consider the ultimate purpose of sport and if sport can have a similar purpose as education? How can we merge the two fields to make sports more acceptable?football college

The best type of knowledge is self- knowledge. In the best cases participating in a sport will definitely tell you a lot about yourself. In Simons article he mentions that participating in a sport has the ability to teach you how to work as a team, analyze and over come weakness, gain confidence, stay cool under pressure, and improve your determination and perseverance. These traits are most definitely transferable to a business setting. Improving their chances of succeeding after graduation. Overall, sport has the ability to be a great tool in fine-tuning the connection between the mind and body. Some of these traits may also be taught in other ways, but sport is truly the only activity that brings the widest variety of people together to achieve a common goal. I believe there is a way to re-think the paradigm of sport in colleges.

In the articles by Simon and Brand, they both mentioned a common parallel between the performing arts and sports. They both provide a form of entertainment to students and all else who will join; both must learn factual knowledge about their activity, have long grueling practices, and while some athletes go straight to playing professionally, there are musical prodigies who bypass college to perform in orchestras. If performing arts and sports are so comparable why is it that the performing arts are more accepted as part of an academic program? In a performing arts school the students will take, for example, dance classes but also take academic classes that pertain to dance. Why cant athletes take classes such as injury prevention, anatomy, weightlifting? These classes will not only teach them about themselves, but will stay with them through their life.

Society is shifting. Changing, and we must change with it. Collegiate athletics have drafted into a black hole of greed, fraud, and a “win at all costs” attitude; this must change. Athletics are a major part of our school systems whether the professors and other skeptics like it or not. So in order to provide some common ground we must find one; One in which the athletes will receive that proper education along with a great athletic experience. It is never easy to change something that is embedded deeply into a culture, but it must be done. To reform athletics in universities in colleges is not taking a step back, I like to consider it turning around at the cliffs edge and taking a step forward, in the right direction.