Sports•deportes•الرياضة•ספורט• sportif •스포츠의•спортивный

Imagine:

An American tourist’s favorite question

You and your family are on a cruise for two-weeks! While most of the cruise stops have been in English-speaking countries, the last stop will be in a foreign country where little to no English is spoken. You and your family will be in this country for 4 hours and have an unlimited amount of money to spend. You are in charge of planning the itinerary for your family. Out of the following activities, which are you most likely to enjoy? (Keep in mind that you and your family are not familiar with the local language):

  1. A highly-acclaimed drama film (spoken in French, with no subtitles)
  2. A guided tour of the town (the tour-guide speaks broken English)
  3. A professional soccer game

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that you chose answer 3. Why?–because sports are universal. Sports cross all geographic, ethnic, and religious boundaries. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, what background you’re from, or what socio-economic class you’re in; sports are something so universal that it doesn’t matter who you are, you can enjoy and understand sports no matter what.

This past year, I had the privilege of spending a gap year abroad in Israel. I must admit, despite being immersed in the culture for an entire year, I am far from being a fluent Hebrew speaker. Upon returning home to America, my parents were shocked to learn this and asked me how I was not yet fluent. I explained to them that throughout the entire year, I had mostly been with other Americans. I had been with my friends from home, my friends from my program, and other American students throughout the entire year. We almost always went to “touristy” spots, which were designated for English-speaking tourists. I rarely was in a situation in where everyone only spoke Hebrew.

Another question I anticipated my parents asking me was if I got the chance to visit my relatives in Israel. The answer to that question was, “no.” Extremely upset with me, I explained to them matter-of-factly, that it would have been awkward spending dinner with my relatives who I have never met and only speak in Hebrew. Despite their initial disappointment, they knew I was right. They moved on with their interrogation and proceeded to ask me the most timeless of questions, “what was your favorite thing you did?” Finally, an easy question! Without hesitation I replied to them, “the Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer game.”

My best friend, being both Israeli and quite the soccer enthusiast, explained that we just had to “go to a Maccabi game before we left.” After much pestering over the first few months, my friends and I eventually gave in and decided to purchase tickets for a game.

Maccabi Tel Aviv celebrating Israeli championship

December 12th, 2013, we were here. The Maccabi Tel Aviv team was playing the Bordeaux team, not that that had mattered to me at all. I have never been a good athlete or cared much for sports. But, I was here and I decided I might as well get into the game.

To be honest, it was the first, and probably only time that I had felt truly immersed in the culture. It was mid-December, and I know it sounds like a lie, but Israel get’s cold and windy! Here we were, twenty American’s, cheering for the Maccabi team just as loud as the Israeli’s sitting besides us. We were sharing our warm blankets with them and chanting with them as the Maccabi’s scored, and the fact that an entire language separated us, just didn’t matter. The Israeli’s were fervently screaming their chants, and while I may not have known what they meant, I understood their meaning: Win! At last, I had finally felt one with the people.

University of Michigan fans celebrating a victory

Just this past week, my sorority friends and I went to the Michigan vs. Syracuse basketball game. As we were going crazy and screaming for the team, I felt like I was having deja vu. This basketball game felt nearly identical to the soccer game I had attended last year. The excitement, the adrenaline, and the energy felt during any sporting event, remain perpetual. It doesn’t matter if you are in Israel, in America, a sport-enthusiast, or a first-time sport attendee; that nervous feeling you get as you anxiously await for your team to score, is universal. The most universal and widespread language I had come to realize, was sports.

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Live Dying or Die Trying?

Congratulations! You have just turned 21!! With all that saved money from your summer jobs, you have decided to purchase a Harley Davidson. You’re cruising down the highway, maybe even speeding, when BOOM you crash. You are rushed into the intensive care unit and you have suffered massive brain damage as a result of lack of oxygen. You are in a coma for two months when you are then, diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state; however, some neurologists diagnose you as minimally conscious. Your nurses also report that you, with difficulty, say “help me” and “mom.” Unfortunately, you remain this way for the next fifteen years. Your husband argues that you would not want to live this way, and would rather have someone put a stop to your suffering. Your parents however, argue that you are a devout Roman Catholic and do not believe in euthanasia; therefore, you would want to be kept alive. However, no official records exist for either of their arguments. Now, what do you think—should euthanasia, assisted suicide, be allowed?

Terri Schiavo’s family’s argument

Does this case sound familiar? You are currently reading the case of Terri Schiavo; a high-profile case that captivated the nation in 2005. Terri Schiavo was 26 years old when, for undetermined reasons, she collapsed and suffered severe brain damage as a result of lack of oxygen. After two months in a coma, she was diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, was appointed as her plenary guardian by the courts. Her husband testified that Terri would support euthanasia in the event of such a disability.   The court supported his testimony and ordered that Terri’s feeding tube be removed. Her family appealed the case, but they were ultimately denied. The case was heard over 20 times in Florida courts but on all occasions, it was ruled that Terri’s fate was in control of her husband, respecting the sanctity of their marriage. On March 18, 2005, Terri’s gastric feeding tube was removed and she died from severe dehydration on March 31st, 2005.

Michael Schiavo’s argument

Let’s say John Stuart Mill was the court-appointed judge for the case, how would he have ruled? He would have agreed to remove Terri’s gastric feeding tube for two reasons. Firstly, he would argue that the moral worth of any person’s action is determined by the pursuit of happiness. People should base their actions on what ultimately, will cause them the greatest amount of happiness. Thus if euthanasia will increase an individual’s happiness, then to allow for euthanasia would be the morally correct decision. Additionally, Mill’s harm principle would come into play. In his philosophical work On Liberty, Mill argued that, “”The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” Therefore, decisions over one’s body are ought to be made by the individual himself, and not by any other authority. Thereby, if Terri wanted to be euthanized, the government should not interfere with her desire. Furthermore, since Terri’s husband was the plenary guardian over her body, if he testified that Terri would have want to be euthanized, then this decision must be respected.

Given the details of the case, if you were the judge, what decision would you have made?

HELP! Hey you look, it’s an Emergency!!!

Did my title catch your eye? Have you ever thought about why you do selfless things? When you stop and think about it, why do people do good things? Would you help a person, even though you would stand to gain absolutely nothing? I’m sure you would, and you more than likely have before. But, why?

***

Imagine this:

It’s a Friday night, and after a long week at work, you decide to stay in for the night and catch up on your favorite T.V. shows. You slam down on your couch when suddenly you hear someone shrieking, “”Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Please help me! Please help me!” As you are unsure if the screams are coming from your television or outside, you mute the television and hear more screams, “I’m dying!” The shouts are in fact real, and they are coming from a woman outside.

Now which scenario would you assume would happen next:

  1. You run downstairs to help the screaming woman. When you notice that she has been stabbed and is in excruciating pain, you quickly call the police department and alert them on the incident and its urgency
  2. You unmute the television and continue to watch your show.

Well you’re a good and moral individual, right? I can assume that you chose option 1 without any hesitation, right? —And you probably did indeed, choose that option. What if I were to tell you that if this scenario were real, you most likely would actually act upon option 2 instead.

This incident is no hypothetical situation. In fact, on March 13th, 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered outside of her apartment building in the middle of the street. Thirty-seven of her neighbors were aware of what was going on outside. Despite shouts and screams, not a single one of her neighbors came to rescue her and Kitty was murdered.

Murder of Kitty Genovese (1964)

***

Given the Kitty Genovese incident, Thomas Hobbes would argue that none of the neighbors phoned the police because there was no social authority present at the time. In Hobbes’s book Leviathan, he argues that in the State of Nature, an anarchical situation of the way things naturally are, the life of man is “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” Without any form of government or laws, human beings would be in a constant state of war with one another because each person would be for himself. However, no one wants to live this way; therefore, out of fear of our own life, we enter a State. Society creates a moral code because individually, each of us is selfishly motivated. Moral values are based on the agreement that an individual will not harm another individual, if he agrees to not harm him in return. Therefore, we need moral codes and social authority to keep things in order or else we become “nasty and brutish.” Without any authority present, the Kitty Genovese’s neighbors felt no social obligation to interfere because human beings are innately selfish.

An example of pluralistic ignorance

I argue however, that when human beings act “altruistically” it is not out of fear of social authority; rather, the presence of others actually has the opposite effect. When the police asked Kitty Genovese’s neighbors why they each hadn’t called, they said that had the situation been serious, then someone would have surely called. Increasing the amount of bystanders, actually decreases the likelihood that one of them will intervene—a term coined as the bystander effect. The neighbors were each suffering from pluralistic ignorance—interpreting a situation as not as urgent as it may be, after seeing the inaction of others. Furthermore, there was a diffusion of responsibility where each neighbor felt less responsible to intervene because they thought another person would. Human beings act altruistically when they feel a personal responsibility; when they think they are the only person there to help.

***

Given the following two situations, which would you most likely intervene in:

  1. You are alone, sitting in a booth with a pair of headphones and a microphone. You are being asked to discuss the potential problems new college students might have in an urban area. To protect your identity, the discussion is taking place via an intercom with one another college student. Suddenly, the student on the other line suffers a seizure and calls for help.
  2. You are alone, sitting in a booth with a pair of headphones and a microphone. You are being asked to discuss the potential problems new college students might have in an urban area. To protect your identity, the discussion is taking place via an intercom with four other college students. Suddenly, one of the student’s on the other line suffers a seizure and calls for help.
An example of the Bystander Effect

This was an actual experiment conducted by social psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latane, who became interested in the bystander effect after the murder of Kitty Genovese. They found that 85% of the participant’s who thought they were the only other person in the intercom (situation 1) reported the seizure. However, only 31% of the participants reported the seizure when told there were other students in the intercom (situation 2).

In order for a bystander to intervene, he must feel a certain degree of responsibility. I believe that this degree of responsibility is why we are motivated to act altruistically, when we do. I disagree with Hobbes’s belief that a presence of social authority is necessary to do good, because evidently, people are more altruistic when they are alone then when others are there. Evidently, a feeling of personal responsibility trumps social authority as the root of altruism.

Stop walking by; Change starts with YOU

YOLO- You Only Lead Once

I’m going to give you a task:

In your head, think of the person who has influenced your life the greatest. This person could be someone you personally know, a historical figure, someone fictional– the person can be anyone. Now, think of 8 adjectives you would use to describe that person.

Next task:

Choosing between Group A and Group B, which group best describes that person:

            Group A                                            Group B

            Charismatic                                      Manipulative

            Intelligent                                        Cunning

            Warm                                               Controlling

            Affable                                             Narcissistic

            Generous                                          Distrustful

            Democratic                                       Two-faced

            Altruistic                                           Psychopathic

            Loved                                                Feared

I don’t think it would be a long shot to assume that most of you (if not all of you) chose Group A. Heck, reading Group B probably made you think of your worst enemies, not your greatest role model!

In Machiavelli’s best-known book, The Prince, he emphasized the traits a good prince should embody. Machiavelli argues that to be a good prince, a Machiavellian leader, it is “Better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.” Machiavelli glorifies the use of force, coercion, and duplicity; if you want to be successful, you have to resort to cruelty at times. To put it simply—“the end justifies the means.”

Machiavellian Logic

Now, let’s see a Machiavellian leader in real life context:

In 1971, psychologist Phillip Zimbardo conducted one of the most famous experiments in psychology’s history. Zimbardo set out to see how social roles can influence behaviors. Zimbardo and his team of researchers set up a mock prison at Stanford University and selected 24 undergraduate students to play the role of either a prisoner or a guard. These participants had no major medical conditions, criminal record, or psychological problems. The only rule given to the guards was that no physical punishment was allowed; all else was fair game. Through the use of hidden cameras and microphones, the researchers observed the participants. The results?

Well let’s just say, the 14 day experiment had to be stopped after only day 6. The guards were becoming highly abusive to the prisoners, and the prisoners suffered a wide range of punishments and degradations. The prisoners were displaying high signs of anxiety and depression due to the sadistic acts of the guards. As a scientific experiment, it was a complete and utter failure. But, in terms of psychology and societal behaviors and roles, it was a complete success.

Years later, students at Western Kentucky Unversity revisited the Stanford Prison Experiment. They wanted to see if students who selectively volunteered for a study of prison life possessed certain dispositional factors associated with cruelty, which may have led to the results of the experiment. Participants were recruited for a psychological study of prison life, using an identical newspaper ad as used in the original experiment. The ad read as follows:

A photo taken during the Stanford Prison Experiment 1971

Male college students needed for a psychological study of prison life. $70 per day for 1-2 weeks beginning May 17th. For further information and applications, e-mail: [e-mail address].

Both the control group and the experimental group were given the same ad. The only difference? The words “of prison life” were omitted with the control group. What they found was that volunteers for the prison study scored significantly higher on measures of narcissism, authoritarianism, and Machiavellianism.

I think you’re catching on. Maybe being a Machiavellian leader may not be all that great? Well, hold that thought…

In 2013, Time Magazine compiled a list of The 100 Most Significant Figures in History. Using various sets of measurements of reputation, the list was assembled. These were the top 10 rankings:

1 Jesus

Leadership is like a ladder

2 Napoleon

3 Muhammad

4 William Shakespeare

5 Abraham Lincoln

6 George Washington

7 Adolf Hitler

8 Aristotle

9 Alexander the Great

10 Thomas Jefferson

Yeah, don’t worry. I was just as surprised to see Napoleon and Adolf Hitler on the list (you can double check Time if you think my copy and paste button is working incorrectly). Ready to once again be mind-boggled? For Time’s Person of the Century, who was one of the contenders?– Adolf Hitler. Although it was debated whether or not Hitler should have been included, the criterion was solely based on having the greatest impact on the 20th century, for better or for worse. I am an observant Jew who went to an orthodox Jewish high school and did a gap year in Israel; and not even I can deny Hitler’s influence.

In an attempt to argue for both sides, I presented to you the double-edged sword of Machiavellianism. Basing it strictly in leadership terms, I believe that a good leader and a Machiavellian leader can be synonymous. A leader is defined as “ a person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country;” therefore, a good leader does not necessarily have to be benevolent.

Now it’s up to you decide– is a Machiavellian leader a good one? The goal of every leader is to leave a mark on the world, but is leaving a scar a success or a failure?

The Complexities of Identities

In an attempt to create sense and order from chaos, society tries to categorize and stereotype everything. Twenty years from now when your children are asking you about your high school experience, one of their first questions will undoubtedly be, “who were you in high school?” Now look back at your high school experience; were you a goth, nerd, prep, fashionista, jock, skater? The list is endless.

Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls

In discussion last week, we compiled a list of what factors determine a person’s identity. Things the class came up with were: religion, gender, ethnicity, values, socioeconomic status, stereotype, culture, etc. Then afterwards, we did an activity where we each had to say one way in which we identity ourselves. I was shocked at many of the things my classmates said—I just could never put A to B. I realized that I had formed judgments on students, without actually knowing their personalities; judgments that weren’t even valid. For example, before I had defined the big jocks in my class as the textbook version of an athlete. Sure they were big, strong, athletic, but after that class activity, I realized they were also readers, writers, and even shoppers! This made me think about the fundamental basis of stereotypes and identity. What is your identity? Is your identity how you view yourself—funny, loyal, intuitive, etc.? Or is your identity how others view you—the athlete, the princess, the basketcase, the criminal, the brain?

Flashback—November 2012

“Are you an American Jew or a Jewish American?” Mr. Gottlieb scribbled on the chalkboard. One wisecrack shouted out, “Are you actually asking an AP class to differentiate between a noun and an adjective?” A content Mr. Gottlieb looked at the nine words and simply said, “Yes.”

What is a cat? A noun. What is good? An adjective. These are questions any second grader could easily ace. Yet somehow, I could not answer this question. Was I a Jew, with the added quality of being American? Or, was I an American with the added quality of being a Jew? This was not a question of grammar I came to realize, this was a question of identity.

My parents and I were in Barcelona, it was 7:15, and we were taking a twenty-minute train ride back to our hotel. My father, wearing a visible yarmulke, in crisp English said, “we miscalculated the time, we are going to be late for Shabbat.”

Throughout the entire train ride, a suave Spanish man sitting only a few feet away, shamelessly gaped at us. Was he judging us for being typical American tourists, always worried about deadlines? Or, was he judging us for being observant Jews, celebrating the Jewish day of rest? After fifteen minutes of relentless stares, he finally got off the train. As he left, he looked at us and said, “Shabbat Shalom!” — the Jewish greeting to have a peaceful Sabbath. There was my answer; I am an American Jew.

End Flashback

What I came to realize was that the source of one’s identity could not be answered by a multiple choice test. A person’s identity is not either:

1.) How one views him/herself

or

2.) How others view that person.

Rather, identity is all of the above. An individual puts in the input, and society puts in the output. Society may stereotype a person as a jock, prep, nerd, goth but those stereotypes can only be formed by the information an individual provides—the way you talk, act, and dress. My family and I were speaking in English, a language spoken in most countries. Therefore, he could not necessarily deduce that we were American. But, looking at us also, he couldn’t identity that we were Jews, either. The stranger identified us as “Jews” and not as “Americans” because we were the type of people whose choice of conversation was the Jewish Sabbath and not NYC or thanksgiving. And alas our identity was formed, given the choices we made.

Identity Mind Map
A quote from the Hebrew Talmud

Please Spell the Word “Standardized” (Wait, the Word Does Not Exist)

I have a task for you: (no, it won’t be physical, as the course name “Sports and the University” suggests)

Choose the pair that best expresses a relationship similar to that in the original pair:

RUNNER: MARATHON ::

  1. A) envoy: embassy
  1. B) martyr: massacre
  1. C) oarsman: regatta
  1. D) referee: tournament
  1. E) horse: stable

Think you have the right answer? Well the correct answer was C. If you found the correct answer, let me guess you are: white, elitist, and wealthy (If not, statistically speaking, you are). Didn’t get the right answer? Don’t feel too bad for yourself, as you just read the question that launched a thousand ships. Well, not actually. But, that question was responsible for removing the analogy questions section in the SAT’s, and instead replacing it with short reading passages.

kanye SATS

Okay, now if you are any normal, right-minded human being you are probably scratching your head, rereading that last paragraph, and thinking to yourself, “Huh? There’s no way that question actually had a significant impact on anything.” Well it did, because that question put The College Board under hot water for being culturally biased towards the white and wealthy. Getting the right answer assumes that the test taker is familiar with crew, a sport typically geared towards wealthy white folks. Only someone familiar in crew would be able to recognize that the answer is C. After the test was administered and graded, it was determined that 53% of white students correctly answered this question, as oppose to only 22% of African-American students correctly answered “C.”

culture bias

Now, this leads me to ask: how standardized are standardized tests? Can something actually be standardized— offering absolutely no advantage or disadvantage for any one individual, and be free of any cultural bias? Well, my answer is NO. In Louis Menand’s “Live and Learn” article he argues several theories for the goal of college. Theory 1 considers college to be a sorting mechanism that determines who in society is the most intellectually capable, by using standardized measuring scales. Education is “about selection, not inclusion.” Aside, from this theory being pretentious and elitist, I believe that it is wrong. There is no actual way to standardize anything, because there are many extraneous factors that affect standardization.

standard

 Let’s go back to the original example, the SAT’s. Okay, yes that is great and all that The College Board removed the analogy section from the SAT’s, but the fact remains that the privileged will still have the upper hand. The National Center for Education Statistics did a study of the SAT’s and looked at students of high, medium, and low socioeconomic statuses. The study found that 32% of students coming from a high socioeconomic household earned a score of 1100 on the SAT—they outperformed those with a low socioeconomic status significantly. Only 9% of students coming from a low socioeconomic household earned the same score. Wealthy students consistently and significantly outperform other students, not because they are smarter, but because they reap the benefits of having disposable money. Wealthier students can afford expensive tutors and fancy test prep services; while, students coming from more humble backgrounds barely can afford to pay the $51 test fee, let alone afford to pay for any additional prep service. Therefore, even the “standardized” test used for college admissions in the US, is not in fact standardized.

income

Alright, so we established how the SAT’s are not standardizable and geared towards the upper crust. Now, let’s move on to college. See if you agree with any of the following statements:

  1. I have taken a certain course because it is considered an “easy A”
  2. I have decided to not take a certain course because the professor was said to be a difficult grader/the course material was difficult
  3. I have been in a class where the professor has curved the grades
  4. I received a high grade on a class for any of the following reasons: it was easy, I had an easy-grader, my professor liked me and graded me leniently
  5. I have cheated on an exam and gotten away with it

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, I am reporting you for violating the code of Academic Integrity. Only kidding, but you have just proved my point: there is no such a thing as standardization! Undeniably, some universities are more rigorous than others; therefore, GPA and test scores are not equivalent across all universities. Thus when sorting mechanism become inflated, the system is no longer a reliable measure of merit. Therefore, college itself is not an accurate system in determining the most intellectually capable citizens because the process itself is skewed.

Grade-Curve-VS

So let’s continue. Our measures of standardization are: SAT’s, Universities, and job applications. Let’s get to the last method: job applications. You would think: you get a job application, fill it out, and the person most qualified gets the interview, right? Wrong! In the innovative yet provocative book, Freakonomics, economist Dr. Mullainathan sets out to see if having a very “black” name as oppose to a very “white” name, makes finding a job all the more difficult. Mullainathan sent out 5,000 resumes in Boston and Chicago, half were applicants with “white” names and half had “black” names; aside from the name changes, the resumes were identical. What he found was that the same resume, when it had an African American name, was 33% less likely than his white counterpart to land a job interview. So if a white person is looking for a job for ten weeks, an African American person will be looking for fifteen weeks. Those are five (long and hungry) weeks of unemployment!

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 10.53.37 PM

Watch the video here 

To put it briefly: standardization does not exist. Every system that exists for the purpose of doing so (i.e. the SAT’s, universities, and job applications) is flawed. A top dog and an under dog will always exist, that’s nature and reality for you.