Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving, Sports, and Ward 6

Thanksgiving is a day of many activities, including sports. Sociologists explore many aspects of sports and society. Just one example is the work by U of Minnesota sociologist Doug Hartmann. In his article "Sport as Social Intervention," Hartmann examines the interest among policymakers in midnight basketball and other programs that use sports as a tool to lure "at-risk" youth away from crime and back to school. In this article, he discusses one particularly successful program that goes far beyond offering only sports programs. Hartmann notes that midnight basketball programs too often are just ways that athletic administrators can obtain some funding for their limited sports facilities in an era of cuts to school budgets and to social services. He also warns policymakers not to expect too much from such programs. When expecting too much,
such misunderstandings can actually serve to reinforce and exacerbate the problems faced by at-risk urban youth by deflecting public attention away from deeper social sources of their problems. 'If we are not cautious,' as Jay Coakley has put it, such programs '... may unwittingly reaffirm ideological positions that identify young people, especially young people of color as 'problems' and then forget that the real problems are deindustrialization, unemployment, underemployment, poverty, racism, and at least twenty years of defunding social programs that have traditionally been used to foster community development in ways that positively impact the lives of young people.'
In the 1970s, Friendship House next to the SE Library and the Eastern Market Metro provided a wide range of programs for youths and their families that dealt with this range of "real problems" that they faced and still face today. Are young people of color in Ward 6 considered only as "problems"? Are sports the only programs provided to poor youths to succeed within massively unequal Ward 6 and society more generally of today?

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