Signing up for classes as a first year student at the University of Michigan is not just overwhelming and stressful, but very confusing. What classes do I need to take? What classes do I want to take? What classes will hold my attention long enough for me to pass the semester? Skimming the classes catalog back in June, I was looking for some type of political science class to help me explore my future career options. The theme of the class I decided on (this Poly Sci 101 class I am currently blogging for) was Sport and the University. The subject of this class and its theme sealed the deal for me to register.
As I prepared for school to begin, I thought about each of my classes in context of what I already knew and what I was about to learn. I figured my communications class would teach about various media outlets that the technology age has made my generation extremely familiar with. I assumed Latin would be the same old struggling through ancient texts, that yes, you guessed it, no one speaks. When it came to political theory, my opinion was a little hazier. I love playing sports, watching sports, being in a sports environment, but how could this relate to a class on politics? I had some ideas, but was unsure of how it would all work. Now that the school year is fully underway, I have discovered what I think Sport and the University means, for me and other students involved.
Football Saturdays at the Big House, dozens of athletes walking around campus with their trademark backpacks, and simply the impact being a Big Ten school has on the student body is easy to notice. The same goes for Michigan’s academic significance, from the rigorous admissions process to the world-renowned faculty and staff right at our fingertips. I believe combining the two was as simple as pairing peanut butter with jelly—they just go along with each other. Why not take things students can relate to or at least understand and turn it into a teaching method? The college of Literature, Science, and the Arts did just that.
In this particular class, the theme is evident on a daily basis. Every reading has an underlying relationship to sports, whether ancient or modern, specifically or implied. Yet each reading does not go without comparison to political theory as a whole. For example, we have read about Louis Menard’s theories about the purposes of college, (“Why College?”) taking into consideration whether we should focus on well-roundedness, knowledge, skills, or specialization (Pol Sci 101 Lecture Slides). Most people saw a combination of the four as essential to the college education. This applies to our own university, and to its sports, such as student athletes balancing their athletic talents and bettering their sports skills while learning knowledge just like college students everywhere do.
An additional example is our discussion on play, and how definitions of play may vary. Johan Huizinga lists play as being voluntary, limited by time and space, and separate from real life (Lecture Slides). In class, competition came up as being a common factor in multiple types of play. College students have numerous ways of defining play that include organizations and clubs, teams, and dancing at parties. However, just because an older theorist defined play one way does not mean it cannot apply to modern day play, as our intelligent professor has so smartly pointed out.
LSA’s Sport and the University is taking a topic, whether or not one actually enjoys it, that students can gain perspective on greater concepts with. Personally, I think political theory is difficult to grasp when it can be so broad and apply to many topics. It is easier to learn with a topic that I relate to, and then branch out to politics with. I think this semester’s theme combination offers educational lessons through a more student-friendly lens here at Michigan, home of both the Wolverines and the leaders and best.