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Education Literally Saved My Life

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Track cyclists competeAs a former elementary secondary school teacher in Poland and as a current college educator in the United States, I have been exposed to many different approaches to educational or pedagogical methodology. However, I have always believed that education at its best is a combination of classroom, field, and real life experience.
 
Whenever I teach a sociology class, I depend not only on textbooks but on field trips, inviting outside speakers, engaging them in extracurricular activities, and nowadays harnessing social media as a teaching assistant. These activities enable students to learn things in a deeper way, and they feel a greater connection with the topic.
 
As a teacher, I firmly believe in second chances. I am also a seasoned realist. In addition to school, I also see family, religion, and peers or even neighbors as molding social institutions. I am fully aware that my work needs to be done in an atmosphere and willingness to constantly forgive and forget, especially when I deal with cases of pure innocence and immaturity.
 
This essay is a personal reflection that draws on my experience not only as an educator but also as a father, the husband of a math teacher, and son-in-law of two teachers. It also includes my role as teacher and mentor to the thousands students who have taken my sociology classes since I started my career in higher education. It is an essay intended to focus on one of the most important educational aspects in the lives of every human being; the life defining self-taught moments and experiences, which have the potential to abruptly shape our outlook, beliefs, and our set of ethical values.

Blog post of the month: Cycling is everyone’s business

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This post is also available in French and Spanish .
“I’ve seen some of the highest performance bicycles in the world, but I believe the most powerful bicycle is the one in the hands of a girl fighting for her education, or a mother striving to feed her family.” 
- F.K. Day, Founder of World Bicycle Relief

  
The rainbow jersey, Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, or Vuelta a Espana—that’s what usually comes to mind when we think of cycling. However, elite cycling is only one small spoke of a much larger wheel.
 
By some estimates, there are already more than two billion bikes in use around the world. By 2050, that number could be as high as five billion. Over 50 percent of the human population knows how to ride a bike. In China, 37.2 percent of the population use bicycles. In Belgium and Switzerland, 48 percent of the population rides. In Japan, it is 57 percent, and in Finland it’s 60 percent. The Netherlands holds the record as the nation with the most bicycles per capita. Cyclists also abound in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark. The Danish capital, Copenhagen, is considered the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. It’s known as the “City of Cyclists,” where 52 percent of the population uses a bike for the daily commute. Bicyclist commuters are generally healthier than those who drive motor vehicles to work. They also remain unaffected by OPEC decisions about crude oil production or the price per barrel.
 
Due to the size of China’s population, and the need for bicycle transportation, statistics on the country’s bikeshare program are staggering. In a database maintained by Russell Neddin and Paul DeMaio, more than 400,000 bikeshare bikes are used in dozens of cities on the Chinese mainland, and the vast majority of those bikes have been in operation since 2012.  There are an estimated 822,000 bikeshare bikes in operation around the world. China, therefore, has more bikeshare bikes than all other countries combined. The country with the next-highest number of bikes is France, which has just 45,000.

On the road towards the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Mayor of London Boris Johnson promotes bikeshare“Imagine if we could invent something that cut road and rail crowding, cut noise, cut pollution and ill- health – something that improved life for everyone, quite quickly, without the cost and disruption of new roads and railways. Well, we invented it 200 years ago: the bicycle.”Boris Johnson, Mayor of London 
 
This follow up reflection of my previous blog post has been encouraged and inspired by the enthusiastic response from the worldwide community of cyclists — individuals who depend on and use this very reliable mode of versatile transportation on a daily basis. At one point in the first 24 hours after it was published, the number of views to the initial blog post exceeded 1000 per hour, and it totaled over 200K views. The article has been adopted by the World Economic Forum Agenda Blog and even landed on the Facebook page of the United Nations, with great support from the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and World Bicycle Relief. It has been translated into French and Spanish, and a German language version is in the works. The conclusion, based on comments that were made, was very clear: the world still loves the velocipede whether as a form of transport or as an Olympic sports event.
 
Union Cycliste Internationale President Brian CooksonIn response to the previous blog Brian Cookson, UCI President summed it up well with this reflection, “Cycling is one of the most popular sports in the world, but it’s also a mode of transport for millions, helping to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and keep people healthy. UCI wants to contribute to a future where everyone, regardless of age, gender, or disability gets the opportunity to ride and bike, whether as an athlete, for recreation, or for transport. In ten months’ time, the Paris climate talks will provide the final opportunity to plan for a sustainable future: cycling - a truly zero-carbon form of transport - must be part of the solution.”
 

Cycling Is Everyone’s Business

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

This post is also available in French.
“I’ve seen some of the highest performance bicycles in the world, but I believe the most powerful bicycle is the one in the hands of a girl fighting for her education, or a mother striving to feed her family.” 
- F.K. Day, Founder of World Bicycle Relief

  
The rainbow jersey, Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, or Vuelta a Espana—that’s what usually comes to mind when we think of cycling. However, elite cycling is only one small spoke of a much larger wheel.
 
By some estimates, there are already more than two billion bikes in use around the world. By 2050, that number could be as high as five billion. Over 50 percent of the human population knows how to ride a bike. In China, 37.2 percent of the population use bicycles. In Belgium and Switzerland, 48 percent of the population rides. In Japan, it is 57 percent, and in Finland it’s 60 percent. The Netherlands holds the record as the nation with the most bicycles per capita. Cyclists also abound in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark. The Danish capital, Copenhagen, is considered the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. It’s known as the “City of Cyclists,” where 52 percent of the population uses a bike for the daily commute. Bicyclist commuters are generally healthier than those who drive motor vehicles to work. They also remain unaffected by OPEC decisions about crude oil production or the price per barrel.
 
Due to the size of China’s population, and the need for bicycle transportation, statistics on the country’s bikeshare program are staggering. In a database maintained by Russell Neddin and Paul DeMaio, more than 400,000 bikeshare bikes are used in dozens of cities on the Chinese mainland, and the vast majority of those bikes have been in operation since 2012.  There are an estimated 822,000 bikeshare bikes in operation around the world. China, therefore, has more bikeshare bikes than all other countries combined. The country with the next-highest number of bikes is France, which has just 45,000.
 

Blog Post of the Month: Quest For Green, Clean, and True Sport For All

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Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.

In January 2015, the leader of the pack was Leszek Sibilski's post, "Quest For Green, Clean, and True Sport For All", which covers the corruption of international sport.

Leszek elaborates that, "Due to its size and global reach, two types of corruption plague contemporary sport:
  1. On-the-field corruption by athletes, team officials, referees, and the entourage, for example through hooliganism, doping, and match fixing; and
  2. Off-the-field corruption by sport managers, sponsoring organization officials, and operators through, for example, bribed decisions, rigged contracts, misuse of authority, influence peddling and insider information."

He believes that "both types of corruption are detrimental to the integrity of sport and create unacceptable situations for states and society at large, including money laundering, kickbacks, illegal betting, public health issues, and human trafficking."

So what can be done to alleviate this problem?  Read the post to find out!
 

Quest For Green, Clean, and True Sport For All

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture
“Sport has the power to change the world… it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
- Nelson Mandela
 
I was not surprised by the reaction of the readership to my last blog on sustainable, addiction-free, fair, and ethical sport for all. I expected that the World Bank Group’s international community would react to the topic, knowing how important sport is for many of us —and I decided to expand the discussion. Here, I’d like to elaborate further on corruption in an international industry that captures the attention of billions of people, employs millions, and according to a recent A.T. Kearney study, generates $700 billion yearly, or one percent of global GDP. "With seven percent per year growth between 2009 and 2013, the sport market has grown faster than the GDP in most countries in the world, especially in major markets including the United States, Brazil, the UK, and France." It’s imperative we clean up sport now.
 
Due to its size and global reach, two types of corruption plague contemporary sport:
  1. On-the-field corruption by athletes, team officials, referees, and the entourage, for example through hooliganism, doping, and match fixing; and
  2. Off-the-field corruption by sport managers, sponsoring organization officials, and operators through, for example, bribed decisions, rigged contracts, misuse of authority, influence peddling and insider information.

Both types of corruption are detrimental to the integrity of sport and create unacceptable situations for states and society at large, including money laundering, kickbacks, illegal betting, public health issues, and human trafficking.

#7 from 2014: Being a Guide Can Be More Rewarding than Running a Marathon on One's Own

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2014.
This post was originally posted on November 17, 2014


I'm often asked what I think about as I run. Usually the people who ask this have never run long distances themselves. I always ponder the question. What exactly do I think about when I'm running? I don't have a clue.”    ― Haruki Murakami
 
This reflection was inspired by the contemporary Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, in his 2009 memoir on his obsession with running and writing while training for the New York City Marathon entitled “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.”
 
I only read two books in my life in one sitting: Quo Vadis by the Polish Novelist and Nobel Prize Laureate, Henryk Sienkiewicz, and now Marakami’s funny and sobering, playful and philosophical personal contemplation. One of the reasons why I enjoyed the story is the fact that Tokyo, New York City and Boston are cities to which I have special sentiment. Tokyo due to its magnificence as the Mega City, The Big Apple is a place where both of my kids were born, and Boston due to my daughter’s Alma Mater, which instilled in her the joy of running along the Charles River banks in Cambridge.
 
I am a former track cyclist, where speed is the winning factor; as such endurance competition translates to me as boredom and long, self-imposed unnecessary torture. My relationship with sport is love-hate mixed with a lack of interest on a good day, but when I am in, I am into it big time. In my wildest dreams, I would not have dared to envision myself as a marathon runner, but what is so appealing in it: to do something which seems impossible. I was always fascinated with the notion of turning the impossible into the possible, and I was blessed to get a semi-regular taste of these sweet moments in my life.

Mobilizing Sport to Tackle Climate Change

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Sport matters to us. Most of the world passionately follows sports, whether it’s football, baseball, cycling, tennis, or the athletes competing at the Olympics or at the World Cup.
 
Climate change also matters to us. There’s no point denying it – temperatures are going up. According to the World Bank Group's "Turn Down the Heat" reports, the planet could warm from its current global mean temperature of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels to as high as 4°C by 2100, even if countries fulfill current emission-reduction pledges.
 
This rise in temperatures can particularly affect athletes. According to a new study from the University of Waterloo, Canada and Management Center Innsbruck, Austria, even with conservative climate projections, only 11 of the previous 19 Olympic host cities could hold the Winter Olympic Games in the coming decades. Climate conditions around the world are changing at an increasingly rapid rate.

Being a Guide Can Be More Rewarding than Running a Marathon on One's Own

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

I'm often asked what I think about as I run. Usually the people who ask this have never run long distances themselves. I always ponder the question. What exactly do I think about when I'm running? I don't have a clue.”    ― Haruki Murakami
 
This reflection was inspired by the contemporary Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, in his 2009 memoir on his obsession with running and writing while training for the New York City Marathon entitled “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.”
 
I only read two books in my life in one sitting: Quo Vadis by the Polish Novelist and Nobel Prize Laureate, Henryk Sienkiewicz, and now Marakami’s funny and sobering, playful and philosophical personal contemplation. One of the reasons why I enjoyed the story is the fact that Tokyo, New York City and Boston are cities to which I have special sentiment. Tokyo due to its magnificence as the Mega City, The Big Apple is a place where both of my kids were born, and Boston due to my daughter’s Alma Mater, which instilled in her the joy of running along the Charles River banks in Cambridge.
 
I am a former track cyclist, where speed is the winning factor; as such endurance competition translates to me as boredom and long, self-imposed unnecessary torture. My relationship with sport is love-hate mixed with a lack of interest on a good day, but when I am in, I am into it big time. In my wildest dreams, I would not have dared to envision myself as a marathon runner, but what is so appealing in it: to do something which seems impossible. I was always fascinated with the notion of turning the impossible into the possible, and I was blessed to get a semi-regular taste of these sweet moments in my life.

Sport and Social Media: Perfect Partners for an Imperfect Climate

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

From the melting snow of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics to the stifling heat of the Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne, climate change is proving relentless.
 
So are we going to sit back and let it ravage our lives and love of sport? As a former member of the Polish National Olympic Team in cycling, I definitely hope not. Let’s unite the power of sport with the might of social media and face up to the world’s environmental enemy number one. 
 
Fact – temperatures are rising

According to the World Bank, Earth could warm from its current global mean temperature of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels to as high as 4°C by 2100.
 
What does that mean? More extreme heat waves, causing global health, socio-political and economic ramifications. The President of The World Bank is calling for action to hold warming below 2° C. The question is, what can we do?

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