The recent case of Bob Stoops kicking University of Oklahoma freshman Joshua Jarboe off the OU football team following the posting of a profane and disturbing YouTube rap video has understandably created a big stir here in Oklahoma. According to Carey Murdock’s August 1st article, “Jarboe dismissed from OU football team:”

A freestyle rap video by OU freshman Joshua Jarboe was released on the Internet Tuesday afternoon. In the video, Jarboe’s obscenity-laced rap talks about guns and shooting people in the head. After plenty of debate on Internet message boards and talk radio, a conclusion to the situation has been rendered. Joshua Jarboe is no longer a member of the OU football program.

Regardless of your opinion about OU football specifically or college athletics more generally, I think we should all agree that coach Stoops absolutely made the right decision in this case. The one minute, 14 second video of Jarboe on YouTube (which I won’t link here because of its content, but it’s certainly not hard to find via Google) is not debatable in terms of its propriety. I am curious about the background of who posted the video on YouTube, since that act proved to be the tipping point ending Jarboe’s prospects for a collegiate football career at the University of Oklahoma, but details like that are of minor importance compared to the biggest issues:

  1. We should all feel a debt of gratitude to YouTube and similar “publish-at-will” websites which allow us to gain insightful windows into the behavior, thoughts, and actions of others.
  2. As community members, we need to proactively and aggressively face the issues which Jarboe’s video raises. Why did Jarboe talk about women with such disrespect in this video? Why did he celebrate the use of violence to hurt and kill others? What opportunities for meaningful, constructive relationships with adult males did Jarboe have in middle and high school? What are we doing about crime in our communities and about gangs? Are we trying to paint over the broken windows which reveal deep-seated, complex problems in our societies, or are we trying to thoughtfully and constructively work together to address these issues? Who is helping Josh Jarboe NOW put together the pieces of his shattered collegiate and life dreams, channeling his passion and energy into constructive rather than destructive pursuits?

Rather than talk disdainfully about the digital communications landscape in which we currently reside, I encourage us to see the concrete benefits of this environment. Thank goodness this video made the decision for coach Stoops easy concerning Josh Jarboe’s membership on the OU football team. If this video reflects Jarboe’s attitudes toward women, violence, and other topics as a high school senior, it is doubtful they have changed 180 degrees in the weeks following his graduation, and doubtful he would have made a good role model for thousands of OU football fans (young and old) and others who followed his college football career down the road. It is good in my view that he was removed from the team, but larger questions remain. What now? Both for Jarboe individually and for our society which has many young men with attitudes similar to those Jarboe reflected in his video, what are we doing and what are we going to do?

Josh Jarboe

My June 2006 post “Blocking social networking sites is an insufficient response” included the following statement regarding the “windows” which technology provides into the problems we face individually, as families and as communities:

The problems highlighted in this article do relate to technology, but I think they also DO have a lot to do with education. Technology is more the window to the issues and the problems, rather than the problem itself. That is why simply blocking social networking sites on school networks is an insufficient response. This response is analogous to a principal who hears a report about people in the community seeing students fighting inside the gym as they look through the window, and ordering the custodian to paint the window black so the public can’t see inside the gym from outside. Responses like this don’t fix problems, they mainly serve to mask them and challenge those involved to adapt to changed circumstances but persist in their same, problematic behaviors.

broken windows

Are we working on fixing these broken windows together?

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On this day..

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  • http:/www.stager.org Gary Stager

    If I am reading this all correctly, shame on OU!

    Really, does this mean that this young man will now be deprived of an education as well?

    If so, what a great solution for curing ignorance.

    After all, the tastes of OU fans is really what is at stake here. Not the First Amendment. Not the right to an education.

    I don’t understand what the broken window metaphor has to do with this issue.

    I do know that colleges exploit young men like the one in question for their entertainment and fundraising value, often with little more than starvation, ignorance and broken bodies as compensation. Now the same enterprise exploits the young man by parading its moral rectitude in public at the STUDENT’S expense. The stench of hypocrisy is too much to stand.

    It is this NCAA plantation system we should be upset about, not a rap, even if I have serious misgivings about that form of expression.

  • http://michelemartin.typepad.com/thebambooprojectblog/ Michele Martin

    I have to agree with Gary here. I think it’s appalling that rather than using this “insightful window” as an opportunity to work in a productive way with Josh, OU chose to exclude him instead. The roots of rap actually lie in this sense of exclusion, so I find it ironic and sad that the response to this situation is further isolation.

    I think that as a society we’re sliding down a slippery slope if we use our increased knowledge of people’s activities through social media as a reason to punish them. I know that at 18 I engaged in a lot of behaviors that if caught on tape or posted on a social network would be considered questionable at best. Why do we punish young people for these lapses in judgment, rather than using them as opportunities for learning? If we’re educators, that’s what we should be doing, not judging kids for making bad decisions. The last I heard, poor judgment is part of being an adolescent. Our role as adults is to help kids learn from those instances.

    I also wonder if the response would have been the same if Josh was white. I am white, married to a black man with a son and I can tell you that I routinely see the double standards that apply to my stepson, compared to my white middle class daughters. Like Gary, I think the NCAA plantation system is the issue we should be worrying about, not the rap.

  • Eric Nicklas

    Regardless of whether OU acted appropriately in dismissing Mr. Jobe from the team, this is an excellent teaching moment for all.

    I think the main keyword in the discussion so far is “ignorance”. He did not anticipate the full impact his actions. Unfortunately there are many more that will be making the same mistake.

    It will be interesting to see if Mr. Jobe is picked-up by another football program.

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