Popular Sport and the Modern World

We are coming to the end of the term here at Centre College, with commencement only a few days away. This semester has proved to be very, very busy for us here. I have been completely wrapped up in my new class “Popular Sport and the Modern World.” I had buckets of fun, and was treated to thirty enthusiastic and adventurous students. I underestimated how much work a completely new class becomes, though. It’s not the first time and will not be the last.

I designed this class with a clear online component: we will be publishing podcasts produced by small groups of students with minimal assistance beyond advice and feedback. They could pick their own topic and then had to research it and make decisions on how to present that information in a podcast. I also asked them to write blog posts, one each, on a topic of their choosing with a clear historical element, dynamic or context. The idea was to produce a class online platform similar to what we are seeking to do here at Centre Trail.

I was very happy with how they did, and in truth it was only through working on this class that the clear pedagogical value of the podcasts came through. The major decision students had to make was where the line should lie between adherence to scholarly expectations and engaging with a popular audience in an accessible way. They also had to do this in agreement with three or four other people, itself sometimes an interesting challenge.

For me, this is a central question facing our discipline: how do we as historians continue to be not just relevant, but actively engaged with the broader public? Dare I say it, how can we be fun and still be good scholars?

I do not have the answer just yet, but I thought my students did some great work here. We will be sure to share their podcasts soon, but perhaps you might swing on by and read some of the blog posts they produced. They covered a wide variety of topics from investigations of the “yips” in public performances to the Munich Olympics massacre. This was a rewarding class.

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