Friday, November 17, 2006

California Students Out of Shape

I've maintained for years that physical education has been a failure in this country. Here's more proof: Majority of California students fail fitness test: "A 14-year-old girl should be able to hit the mile mark in under 11 minutes. "

From my own experience, the abrupt transition from grade school to junior high was marked by having to take PE classes. Previously I had run about with boundless energy and whacked at balls to my heart's content three times a day. Suddenly, this type of play was replaced by formal classes where I had to learn how to participate in organized team sports; in addition, there were calisthenics and intimidating quarter mile tracks. Any infraction in attire or attitude was dealt with summarily and savagely, and heaven help those of us with breathing problems. PE was made up of equal measures of boredom and terror. And let's not forget about naked communal showering. Certainly adds a prison-like flavor to the whole experience. After I learned that colleges didn't look at junior high PE grades (or any other grades in junior high for the matter), my PE performance became perfunctory and less than half hearted.

So let us fast forward to the 21st century, where American children, when not glued to their couches, are are grossly overweight, short of breath, and have great difficulty in deciding where their right leg might be when asked to move it forward. What is the priority and pedagogy of a modern California PE class? Looking at one school ( I couldn't guess, other than there is the same obsession with locks and uniforms (what does wearing a uniform with a school's name has to do with health and conditioning?). The culture of the whistle blowing redneck with a crew cut lives on, and another generation learns nothing about being healthy or what the human body is truly capable of doing.


Steve said...

I have to agree with you that gym class (physical education) in most schools is a waste of time and money. I share your experience and opinion, gym teachers do not want to teach conditioning, all they want to do is test the student's condition.
Plus, there is also the usual teacher bias to spend the time and effort on the best performing student, i.e., a football or basketball player. The other students are just distractions from the teachers' dreams of getting some fame from coaching an all city or state player.
In addition, the life kids have to live today, gives them less opportunity to be physically active. Gone are days when a child could hop on their bike and spend the day riding around exploring the neighborhood, as long as they back in time for dinner. Now, in addition to being racked with worry about the safety of my kid, I would also be taking a chance of having child services swoop down on me and writing me up for being a neglectful parent by allow my kid to roam free. A parent must now find a place and time for the kid to be active.
Those of us who were baby boomers did deserve the label of being lazy if we were fat or out of shape, but it's unfair to put that on our current kids. They are now forced to stay close to home and inside for safety.

Mitch Kief said...

You're right our whole culture has changed. Staying in shape by playing lawn darts is out of the question. This really doesn mean that schools must do more help children be active and healthy.