Thursday, January 19, 2006

P.E. Rant

n I've yet to meet anyone who thinks that this country's physical education system has beesuccessful. In thinking about this, I believe the failure starts when a junior high or middle school enrolls children, who are used to running around, playing games, and otherwise are active and having fun. This new school then takes away the children's recess time, does not provide the familiar play and game quipment, and instead tells the children that they are taking a class to learn team sports and because they can't do a lot of push ups and pull ups, which no one has shown to have any health benefits, they get to do a regime of boring calisthenics. Oh yes, it's mandatory to shower with each other.

My junior high physical education class in the late 1960s was usually an impossible struggle and often an exercise in sadistic humiliation. The two coaches were the prototype crew-cut rednecks with whistles around their necks, and they encouraged older and bigger students to slap and taunt smaller and slower kids. Special attention was reserved for those who had the talent, but not the motivation to try out for the school teams. Heaven help the boy who tried to use a doctor's note: one poor asthmatic had to walk and carry a locker drawer full of weights because his parents and doctor had successfully argued that he couldn't run around a sandy track.

In addition, the coaches were hell bent on resisting the hippy invasion of the High Desert in southern California and ruthlessly enforced dress and haircut codes. They kept a pair of dull shears to trim any hair that dared to creep over an ear or touch a shirt collar.

The only time I saw one coach smile was when he used a thick wooden paddle to publicly punish a bent over student. One unfortunate fat student had been accused of stealing a wallet, and this coach grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, and repeatedly slammed his head into a wall locker reducing him to a bruised and blubbering heap on the floor. That summer I read "The Last Picture Show" and began to understand what type of psychological problem that coach had.

The other coach could be charming and amusing in a aw-shucks sort of way, but only when he was flirting with the girls who were not suited out because of their menstrual cramps. I think he also had aspirations towards stand up comedy, because when he handed out report cards he usually had a rehearsed comment or joke. "What's the middle initial "A" stand for? Aloysius?" was one of his standard lines. I left him at a loss for words once, but only briefly; he looked at my report card, paused, and finally looked down at me and asked, to the amusement of the class,"How can anyone get a D- in arts and crafts?" My reply, "The same way I got the C- in this class," drew a bigger laugh and 12 laps around a hot, dusty track the following day.


Steve said...

I agree. PE is a joke in most schools. It designed only to help those already in good physical condition and skilled at sports. I'm shocked though by your descriptions of teachers actually striking students. That was forbidden in school district even back in the late 50s and early 60s.

Steve said...

Let me correct that paragraphy above. The last sentence should read: "That was forbidden in my school district even back in the late 50s and early 60s."