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Race to the Jobs teaches students about privilege

Race to the Jobs teaches students about privilege

Health and Sport Sciences classes are often seen outside on the football field or track, testing out new athletic techniques or strategies. So it was a natural connection for one Otterbein course to use the athletic fields in a new way — to teach about privilege in society.

Assistant Professor of Health and Sport Sciences Kristy McCray wanted to illustrate to her Sociology of Sport students that the societal “playing field” isn’t always equal for everyone in a very visible way. To really get her students’ attention, she knew she had to head out onto the turf.

“Everyone starts at the 25 yard line facing toward the end zone. I stand in the end zone, representing each person’s ideal or dream job,” McCray explains. “I then proceed to read statements that if it applies to them, the students would take a step forward or step back, depending on the directions given. Once I’m through all the questions, they then sprint to my position and win the job. However, it’s clearly seen that not everyone had the same advantages as the others.”

Statements read by McCray range from “take a step forward if you come from a two parent household” to “take a step back if your race or ethnicity was blatantly depicted negatively in pop culture.” The majority of statements read are out of the students’ control. After the race, the class discusses what it was like and how it felt to be at different positions on the field. They then connect it to previous course material through journal entries and small essays.

McCray says that by the time they are ready to run toward their dream job, her class is already noticing things about themselves and those around them.

“It really begins to sink in once they look around and see how everyone is staggered across the field. It becomes a springboard for better understanding of our own privilege and how we can all help create more opportunities for those who need help to overcome an obstacle. Doing this active learning makes it that much more impactful and poignant,” said McCray.

First-year student Regan Wilson was part of the “Race to the Jobs” activity, and it really opened her eyes to things that you can’t really see.

“This is a lot more than just words on paper,” Wilson said. “We get to see what has made our classmates who they are and not just what they portray. It really pushed me to want to work on evening out the inequities of our culture.”

This is the second time McCray has conducted “Race to the Jobs” at Otterbein, but she’s been teaching it much longer. She says that taking a different approach to showing these issues is what really can make a big difference in student’s perceptions.

“It’s a wonderful way to open their eyes and to become more self-aware. The students begin to see that, in regards to our lectures, not everyone can be a LeBron James, born into a relatively difficult situation and rise to the levels he has based on luck or talent alone. We examine our privilege, because if we don’t know who we are we will never see the blind spots.”