Monday, November 24, 2008

Revisionist History

"Historical revisionism is the attempt to change commonly held ideas about the past. In its legitimate form it is the reexamination of historical facts, with an eye towards updating historical narratives with newly discovered, more accurate, or less biased information, acknowledging that history of an event, as it has been traditionally told, may not be entirely accurate.

"Historical revisionism" (also but less often in English "negationism"), describes the process that attempts to rewrite history by minimizing, denying or simply ignoring essential facts." (source: Wikipedia)

Since I started teaching undergrads three months ago, I've learned a few of things: 1) I love it! I enjoy being around the students I have. They respond well when I can relate topics to things they see everyday in sports. As I get more comfortable in the classroom, it's going to be even more fun. 2) Teaching and prepping for classes takes a lot more time than I imagined, at least for the first time. I have a feeling it will be easier next year after I've taught these classes once. 3) Undergraduate students are different from graduate students, and the grad students I worked with at Ohio University last year are some of the best. This last part is what I want to focus on for this post, along with the second part of the definition above.

The idea of writing this blog was not to say that I or my peers did all of the things I've written about and have advised you to do when we first started in sports. Some we did, but a lot of them we didn't. If you really pay attention, I often say I learned "x" from someone or a boss advised me to do "y." The point is that I didn't know a lot of this when I started working in sports. The idea of the blog was to pass this info along to current students so they learn it earlier than I did, and therefore, hopefully have an advantage moving forward.

I was talking with one of the grad students at OU when I was in Athens in October. He was telling me about an alumnus who sent a written tirade about everything that a couple of people did wrong during a presentation that he saw. While we were talking, two other students jumped in and were giving additional information. Feedback is always good, but this feedback wasn't necessarily given in the most positive way. It was mostly ripping these students apart from what I could gather. These students took it way better than I did, that's for sure. This feedback came from someone who graduated around the time that I did. (Although the name was not given to the students, they could figure out who it was by references he made to his career.)

I was really annoyed because since I was one of the few alumni in the Athens area last year, I had the opportunity to see these students present on multiple occasions and participate as a judge for those presentations. One of the things that I can definitively say is that they are way better with their presentation skills than we were when we were grad students. And I don't mean just a little. I'm talking off the charts better. Their information is well-researched, the presentations are interesting, their PowerPoint skills are phenomenal, and speaking ability is something that Jim Kahler has made sure they have when they leave Athens. This person who gave the "feedback" was comparing them to what his current ability is. Yes, we're better than we were as grad students (at least I hope we all are), but it's not fair to compare these students to us ten years removed, with ten years of experience and currently in middle and upper management jobs. Experience almost always trumps classroom education, and ten years of it definitely does.

There are a lot of things by which we judge students, but lets remember that they're still students. If we could find someone who didn't need any coaching and development, we wouldn't be paying them an entry level salary of <$30,000/year. We look for students who are very good and only need a little tweaking to become great. If they have the right attitude about learning and their career, chances are that a lot of the things they need to "fix" are ones they'll pick up quickly. The level that grad students at a program like OU have reached is one that is well above most students. Trust me, I work with undergrads everyday. Give these guys a break. Stop with the revisionist history and acting like the skills we have now are the ones we had when we were their age.


Janae Laverdiere said...

Great blog post Michelle! It's very true and I think we all fall into the "revisionist history" mode at times. Working with undergrads on a regular basis now, I often wonder what types of things I knew/didn't know, did/didn't do when I was an undergrad sports management major. I don't remember but I tend to think in the "revisionist" mode often and I need to stop for sure.

MyStrategyCoach said...

I agree and disagree. Yes we need to cut students slack when they don't get it right the first time, or even the second, and it is our responsibility to show them how to improve. However, college is the perfect opportunity for students to test drive the life that they are saying they want to create, and I am a firm believer that actions speak louder than words. So when students are truly going one step further, breaking away from being only "a fan", but a "professional in-training" it isn't hard to miss by faculty, employers, or other students, and it easily spills over into the work they are producing as a student. Our students are attempting to enter an EXTREMELY competitive job market where only the strong (or well connected) survive and thrive, and the skills/muscles/networks we help them develop hopefully allows them to comprehend what statistically will be expected of them once they get out there in the thick of it. I may be guilty of falling into "revisionist history", but the fact remains for myself , I entered OU as an undergrad with 3 years employment under my belt with a professional sports team, and I continued to work each summer as an undergrad with the same organization (bother internships and entry-level) and I viewed college as the platform to further develop my skills and become a true student of the industry. I feel now, as a professor, that I must set the bar high for my students so they can develop habits that will hopefully prove beneficial as professionals, and if they truly want what they say they will see my requirements as opportunities, rather than obstacles.

Dr. Chrystal
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Anonymous said...

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