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Sports, media, and youth culture at Temple University

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

If your class is anything like mine, you have some students who are typically disengaged with traditional academic work. But you mention sports or bring in a Sport Illustrated Magazine and you might just see some sparks. Don’t dare try to take away gym from this group of students!

What is it about sports that enthralls many young people? Is it the competition? What about sports figures as role models? Charles Barkley says he’s not a role model. Why is it acceptable for Kevin Garnett to cry after winning a NBA championship, but typically men are not suppose to cry? What is it about sports and media that exaggerate the lifestyles of sports figures? How can sports be used a vehicle to talk about issues of health, gender, and identity?

These questions and many others will be addressed at a back-to school Sports and Media professional development session hosted by Temple’s University’s Media Education Lab on September 19, 2009. Dr. Renee Hobbs, the director of the Media Education Lab has arranged to bring in special guest presenters, Patrick Johnson and Erik Sakamoto from Youth Radio of Oakland CA. I mentioned the innovative work of Youth Radio in my Media Literacy Elevator Pitch Blog.

The seminar is geared for educators, media, and community organizations. The program will explore ways to engage young men of color in critical inquiry, self-examination, and social critique by exploring sports, culture, and media literacy. The program will address specific health-related issues with young men of color, including aggression, body image, substance abuse, and sexuality. The history of black quarterbacks and what they mean to young men of color will be explored. Curriculum ideas that analyze how media shapes the economics of college sports will be presented. Critical conversation will take place on what impact hip-hop culture and sports have on issues masculinity and power.

According to John Simons in an article in the US News and World Report, "Impossible Dreams", 66 percent of Black males in America between the ages of 13 and 18 believe that they will earn a living by playing professional sports. If so many youth aspire for professional sports careers, what impact does this have on their academic aspirations?

If you’re an educator who works with young men of color, you’ll come away from this program with lots of practical ideas about how to support meaningful conversations about sports and media in ways that build critical thinking and communication skills and support healthy behavior choices. If you’re a sports fan, you’ll deepen your appreciation of what you love best about sports and gain sensitivity to the many social issues that connect to sports culture.

I’m really interested in hearing your teaching ideas about how to address the intense interest in sports and media that is shared by many of our students, including lots of young men of color. How did sports media figure in your own academic development?

I plan to attend this seminar and blog about it. Too bad my Temple Owls football team lost to Villanova; I wont have anything to brag about.

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