Olympic Medals and Test Scores

For two weeks every couple of years many countries get involved in counting medals earned by their Olympic athletes. One of several problems this brings up is how does one determine an accurate medal court? You can stack countries in a number of ways; total number of medals, total gold medals or some arbitrary point value attributed to each different medal. In a Fibonacci weighted point system (3:2:1) a gold might be worth 3 points, a silver 2 points, and bronze 1 point. Perhaps an exponential weighted point system (4:2:1) where each medal is worth twice as much as the one below. So a  gold is worth 4 points, a silver 2 points, and bronze 1 point.

First of all, let’s be clear that the IOC has no part in this and has made a point of stating that medal ranking is a media fabricated event. The Olympic Charter states: “The IOC and the (organizing committee of the Olympic Games) shall not draw up any global ranking per country.”

Does this sound like some other media fabrication that happens every fall where schools and districts are ranked based on provincial or state testing? 

Any way you slice it you end up with an artificial, media created ranking. Just like with schools, most provincial and state tests do not support the manipulation that media outlets choose to spin. The idea of selling houses based on school rankings is as absurd as ranking a country based on their medal count. Is a country with more gold medals better than any other? Is a student who achieves at a certain level better than any one else? I hope not.

So if you get all up in arms about school rankings based on provincial tests, shouldn’t you be just as upset that the media ranks how well your country performs against others every couple of years?


3 Comments on “Olympic Medals and Test Scores”

  1. rodmurr says:

    Compare the medal standings at the sochi.ru, CBC Olympics and the NBC Olympics for a great media lesson. It seems that the US media like to rank countries differently, so long as the US appears to be higher in the count.

  2. Royan Lee says:

    I’ve found it difficult to enjoy these Olympics as an educator because there are far too many elephants in our classrooms and hallways being unattended to. We no longer live in a world where the very modernist concept of the pure, noble athlete honourably representing his/her country in the pursuit of a wholly positive, meritocratic goal is tenable.

    I wish, instead of ignoring the human rights violations of host countries, corruption, cheating, and homogenous representation of ‘the world’ in these games, we could watch and take part in the games with full enjoyment but also critique. I am dumbfounded as to why these things seem mutually exclusive to people.

    It’s just a reminder that when we talk about critical thinking in education, what we often mean is the sanitized kind.

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