Sunday, July 12, 2020

Jocks and Chicks

To teach is to learn. That Chinese proverb captures why I love being a teacher. Learning sustains me.  I value the time, opportunity and importance that my career places on it. Learning is not without effort. At times, it will lead to confusion and frustration. To learn demands patience, diligence and clarity. There really is something to be said for accuracy, especially when it comes to the words we use. Why? According to William O'Malley, the author of Building Your Own Conscience: "the first step toward wisdom is to call a thing by its right name."
Nomenclature "the devising or choosing of names for things, especially in a science or other discipline" can help us call someone and something by its right name. This is something we teachers give attention to and must learn. Why? O'Malley contends, "Then, you'll handle it as it deserves." I also know that words have power. Language is necessary for communication and understanding, promoting respect and dignity. If you don't agree, please consider how you feel when another calls you by the wrong name...or something you are not. 

Thus, the purpose of this blog post is to offer two pleas, two recommendations for calling another by the right name.

Jocks: I have no doubt that when you hear this word, a strong visual comes to mind. I hear my colleagues—other teachers—referring to their own students as jocks and I cringe.

While defines jock as "an enthusiast or participant in a specified activity," Urban Dictionary captures what I believe most people really mean when they refer to an athlete, in particular football players, as "jocks." According to Urban Dictionary, a jock is "rude, arrogant, stupid, beats up people, dates only cheerleaders and hangs around other jocks." 
interesting that the term is being used more often....

Though less common, (young) women are also referred to as jocks. This term is used to describe a female who is extremely athletic. She is not rude or crude. While the male jock is never considered intelligent, the female jock's GPA is of no consequence. In either case, I don't know why we can't simply refer to students who play sports as student athletes? If a person is outstanding in sports, why not just refer to him or her as a great athlete?  

I hate the presumption that football players are stupid. I despise the assumption that any athlete is. In "Success is a Journey" Bill Russell writes, "Actually, in any sport, I've never met a great athlete who was dumb. It is no coincidence that the two greatest guards in the game, Oscar Robertson and West, are also the two smartest." 

Athletes ought to remind us there are different intelligences. Though I may have excelled in the classroom, I stopped playing basketball after seventh grade because my basketball IQ was subpar. I didn't take to understanding plays quickly. I struggled to determine pace and space, the intricacies of timing, and how it all comes together to complete a task. To this day, I value the unique intelligence and physicality that is demanded of basketball players. 

I'm afraid that using the term "jock" sets an athlete up for a self-fulfilling prophesy: one that discourages excellence in learning on and off the court, and good sportsmanship. I would prefer that this term be one of the past. 
Chicks: According to the New York Times, The Dixie Chicks Change Their Name, Dropping the ‘Dixie’ 
The platinum-selling country trio will be known as the Chicks, the latest example of sweeping cultural changes brought on by nationwide protests spotlighting racial inequality. 
In a brief statement on its new website, the band states simply: “We want to meet this moment.” For the Dixie Chicks, the pressure had come over its use of the word Dixie, with commentary in the news media pushing the group to change its name just as the country debates issues like removing Confederate monuments.
To me, this country trio missed an equal opportunity. Why stop at "Dixie?"

I do not refer to myself, to any of my friends, to my nieces, my female students or my golf team as "chicks." In stating the obvious: 
a woman is not a chick—never has been, never will be. 
This is a term that I find men use to refer to women more than women refer to other women. I seldom find the word "chick" being used in a professional or personal setting. Chicks often describe women in social venue, usually from afar. About thirty years ago, some men referred to women as "broads" instead of, or in addition to chicks. Perhaps women did too. Regardless, let us call women by their proper name: women. I no longer refer to myself as a "girl." Though the term may be an affectionate one, I am making strong efforts to call myself and others by the right name.

Some have made claims that band "The Chicks" are the ones who chose the name. Why bother? While I am not losing sleep at night over this debate, I believe we all have to do our part toward growing in wisdom and treating one another as we deserve. Thus, let's a person—an athlete, a woman, and so forth by it's right name.

Feel free to weigh in on these terms and more. 

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