Did you know that in some public schools P.E. (Physical Education) is not required at every grade level but could be considered an elective? With childhood obesity at an all-time high, you might find the lack of importance placed upon PE participation as one of the root causes. However, when you look at what the PE programs are attempting to teach students, you might begin scratching your head even more. Today’s physical education curriculum has very little to do with the education of the physical body, but it used to.
Dating back to the late 1800’s in America there were two approaches to physical education: The Jahn method and the Ling Method. They were developed in Europe and mainly consisted of gymnastics and calisthenics. These two approaches were developed to improve health and vitality. These methods remained as part of the public school P.E. curriculum for many decades, but eventually were replaced around 1920-1930, with games and competitions. Nothing monumental has changed since that time with the exception that kids are more overweight and out of shape than any time in history.
I recently asked a couple of high school students from different schools to tell me what they were doing (not studying) in P.E. Each one told me the same thing: Badminton. Badminton? Really!?! Before that it was basketball. Before that, it was flag football, and before that, it was swimming. I asked if they had done any exercise in the class and they replied that they spent a couple days in the gym.
My hopes increased until I got a look at the gyms they referred to. Cramped rooms cluttered with outdated, clunky machines with no place to move. Students could sit at these machines (after sitting all day) and tighten up their bodies by pushing or pulling weight stacks. The equipment requires minimal balance, coordination, awareness or supervision.
Physical education used to incorporate climbing ladders, vaulting, swinging rings, rope climbing, Indian club swinging, handstands, tumbling and so much more. The majority of students today would be unable to perform a fraction of what physical education demanded a hundred years ago. We have greatly diminished the need for our children to move and because so, they are suffering. Without regular movement a student’s energy drains, ability to focus wanes, confidence fades, and overall sense of well being is compromised.
A complete overhaul of modern physical education is desperately needed. Fortunately, there are small factions who are attempting to do just that. Unfortunately, it is not occurring at the rate where our children will directly benefit, but perhaps our grandchildren will. I have no snappy retort or conclusion for this blog. Just know that Rocky’s offers after-school P.E. for our local kids which incorporate the wisdom of yesteryear and the fun and games of today.