Monday, April 11, 2011

March Madness and Civilization

I think it's interesting that people in America, in general, get way more excited about a college's sports teams than their actual educational achievements.

I remember when I was applying to graduate schools, I was looking into different universities' literature programs. I was over at a friend's house, watching a football game between Notre Dame and another school. I said, rather excitedly, "Did you know that Notre Dame has one of the best medieval literature programs in the country?!" My friends gave me weird, quizzical looks.

It was at that point that I realized there was something wrong with the way higher education is viewed in this country. People know the starting lineup of a university's basketball team, but have no clue or interest in the actual academic work being done at those universities. Gues what, America? Universities are, first and foremost, for learning, not sports.

I remember another time, when some friends were going to a UCI sports game, and I said, "Hey, did you know that Jacques Derrida, the pioneering postmodern literary theorist, lectures at UCI?" More blank stares.

This obsession with sports, and indifference to academics, speaks volumes about American culture.

So here is my solution. During March Madness, I would propose a non-sports related competition. Professors from different schools will enter a no-holds-barred academic debate tournament! Princeton vs. Harvard on contemporary philosophy! NYU vs. Yale on cultural history! UCI vs. Berkeley on literary theory!


Jacques Derrida (RIP)


  1. I feel the same way about The Olympics.

  2. Don't know if you're aware of this, Jesse. In Germany, and probably the rest of the world as well, there are no team sports in the schools or universities. If you want to participate in sports, you join a sports club, which has nothing to do with education. I wonder how our educational system evolved the way it did, incorporating sports into itself, when most of our ancestors came from Europe where it didn't. Over there school is for learning and nothing else.