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The Olympics are back and ASU has great opportunities to learn about its history

With the Olympics around the corner this summer, take to the classroom to learn more about the game's history and culture


A new course, The Olympics and Philosophy, focuses on the philosophical principles, themes, and ideas that embody the games.

ASU will send many athletes to the 2024 Olympic Games, but it is also providing knowledge about the games through philosophy courses.

For the Olympics specifically, the philosophy department at ASU offers the Olympics and Philosophy and History of the Olympic Movement for the Spring 2024 semester.

Shawn Klein, an associate teaching professor at ASU, will teach the Olympics and Philosophy course in the spring. As the name suggests, the course focuses on the philosophical principles, themes and ideas that embody the games. 

Klein said the class focuses a lot on the topic of "Olympism," which he said is a philosophy of life, mind, body and integrating those by using sports. 

"(Olympism) is also a part of the intention of the founders of the modern Olympics, to use the Olympics as a way to better our lives in general," Klein said.  

In the course, Olympism is defined and then seen in the spectrum of the Olympics. Students then go deeper into the concept and look at how these same principles and theories can be applied to their lives on a grander scale. 

Ian Slade, an ASU student getting a certificate in sports, ethics and cultures, is taking the Olympics and Philosophy class in the spring. He said he looks forward to it because he thinks sports and the Olympics bring people together. 

"On the philosophy side, we can really learn more about a person or a country and their values and add an actual layer to the Olympics besides just sports," Slade said. 

According to the Olympics and Philosophy syllabus, some of the main objectives of the class are to be able to describe and explain philosophical and ethical concepts in relation to sport, and be able to recognize problems in playing or watching the Olympics. Units within the class include the value of the Olympics; Competition: nations or individuals; and Olympics and Politics.

Victoria Jackson, a clinical associate professor at ASU currently teaching the History of the Olympic Movement, first taught the course following the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. She said the course is an excellent opportunity to dive into the games' social, cultural, political and economic themes. 

"The history of modern sport is the history of various actors trying to use sport for various political and power games," Jackson said. "International sport is very much bound up in international politics."

Jackson said the course incorporates "the international politics of global sport" and discusses the domestic and foreign agendas associated with the games. She said even if it is not an Olympic year, the course is always at its cap, with no room for additional students. The course is available for both in-person and ASU online students. Because ASU is such a large university, she got to hear many perspectives from international students online or in person about their home country regarding the Olympics. 

Jaxon Donovan, a senior studying philosophy, has taken sports philosophy classes and is enrolled in Klein’s class this spring. He said the materials he reads in class are "really interesting," and if students are interested in sports, this class is a good fit. 

"It's not too rigorous, not a ton of paper writing, not a ton of reading," Donovan said. "It's just really entertaining to learn about that stuff."

However, it's not the content that makes the courses great. It's the professors who teach them.

Jackson ran track and field at ASU and at the University of North Carolina, and although she was never able to make it to the Olympics, she has many friends who have and are very familiar with the culture. 

She said these classes are like “wedding my two loves.” 

Slade said that he had taken a class with Jackson and described her as a cool, very nice and chill professor. 

The class is interesting, but when people begin to learn from Klein, they become even more excited about the course. As a professor, he is very knowledgeable about the topics he is teaching and is a fun guy to talk to about philosophy and sports, Donovan continued.

"I would like to start off by saying Dr. Klein is a great teacher," Donovan said. "It's fun to talk to him about sports or really, whatever. So any class that he does is usually pretty engaging."

Edited by Grey Gartin, Walker Smith and Shane Brennan

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