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Member since: Wed Dec 14, 2011, 07:40 PM
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It depends on the school district.

There are a few good programs. PE4Life, which has been shown to actually reduce bullying, is excellent.

But different school districts have different programs and policies. Here's a rhetorical question: Would the school districts of Berkeley, California, and Philadelphia, Mississippi, be expected to have the same P.E. program? Several years ago Coach Tim McCord, who is a leading proponent of PE4Life, informed me in an e-mail that the "old P.E." is still with us in some districts. I've read posts submitted at other websites by nonathletic teenagers who have indicated that they're struggling with exactly the same kind of P.E. that I had had to endure when I was a boy.

There is another problem, and that is prejudice. Unfortunately, some boys' P.E. coaches are afflicted with machismo -- which means that when the coach sees a nonathletic boy who is scrawny or fat, he sees a student who is inferior. A boy who's unmanly or effeminate simply because he isn't good at sports. By the way, would a high-school football coach be willing to "shift gears" and teach nonathletic boys about exercise programs such as bodybuilding?

I'm well acquainted with machismo. I hate it with every fiber of my being. When I was in the eighth grade, an incompetent psychologist sent me to a judo instructor, a white guy who had played football at a local university. I always felt like an outsider in his dojo. I also felt patronized because he promoted me to brown belt, a promotion I clearly did not deserve. He didn't even require me to take a test of some sort. I finally decided to put an end to this nonsense and quit during the spring of my junior year in high school -- expecting to hear a protest from him, but receiving none.

Eight years later I paid him a visit at his home. Without any solicitation from me, he told me, "James (not my real first name), I saved you from homosexuality." What the ... I thought you could save someone from something only when it was about to be forced upon him against his will. What had happened was that on the first day we met, he saw a physically weak boy who had no self-confidence, liked to read H.G. Wells and books about wildlife, and did not resist bullies because they were all stronger than he was. So, naturally, I just had to be a sissy; right? The only problem with that garbage is that I'm not gay and have been happily married for over 30 years as the proud father of two sweet and beautiful daughters.

Whether on this particular occasion or another, he also told me that only athletes and men in certain blue-collar vocations were "real men"; and he even denigrated Andrei Sakharov, the now deceased Soviet physicist who had become a human rights spokesman. My former judo instructor denied that Sakharov was very courageous, that he felt free to speak out simply because he was supported by the international media. (Dr. Sakharov had more courage and compassion in his little finger than my former judo instruction does in his entire misshapen body.) And to top it off, he indicated that bullying was no big deal, that the guy bullied at work by his boss could always give the family dog a big kick when he got home. Nice guy!

By the way, he happens to be a Republican; but I dare say there are also so-called "progressives" who have the same stilted view of what supposedly constitutes true masculinity.

This rant has come to an end, but I don't regret it.
Posted by radicalliberal | Wed Nov 28, 2012, 07:21 PM (0 replies)

"I played a lot of sports and sucked at most of them ..."

"... but i was accepted by the jocks in school because I tried."

I assume you're speaking in the context of mandatory boys' P.E. of the traditional sort -- which does not provide genuine fitness programs, but is centered exclusively around sports. If you're speaking of only the voluntary association of wanting to play a game of some sport with other guys in the neighborhood, then never mind what I'm about to say. Notice that I used the word "voluntary." What people choose to do for their own recreation is none of my business. Each to his own, I always say.

But if you're referring to mandatory P.E. (a class that nonathletic kids are forced to take against their will), that's an altogether different matter. Where in the world do we get the notion that virtually all boys must be forced to participate in sports in the setting of mandatory P.E. classes? Just what is the purpose here, huh? Why can't some people accept the fact that some boys simply have no interest in sports? Why must nonathletic boys be constantly penalized for not liking sports? Why do even a lot of "progressives" go along with this mindset?

You say the jocks accepted you because you tried. Did you have a choice? If you wanted to participate in whatever sport they were playing, then that would be a different matter; and I would leave it alone. But as far as these jocks were concerned, you had to participate in their sport. If you indicated that you had no desire to participate in any sport, then they would denigrate you and say that something was wrong with you and that you were inferior and deficient and possibly be gay. Although these jocks supposedly accepted you, they were still manifesting an intolerant attitude; and that is because they did not respect the FREEDOM OF CHOICE of nonathletes to not participate in sports. Instead, they question the manhood of any nonathletic guy who simply has no interest in sports. Even if the nonathlete respects what athletes do as athletes, that is not enough. If he doesn't want to participate in sports, then he is a sissy or a wimp or a "fag" (which is not a word in my approved vocabulary, but is still used routinely today by many teenagers and even some coaches to label nonathletic boys). So, these jocks you mention get no commendation from me; and that is because at the heart of the matter, they don't respect freedom of choice and they are, in fact, intolerant themselves.
Posted by radicalliberal | Sat Oct 6, 2012, 06:41 PM (0 replies)

Being 62 years of age, I happen to be of your generation ...

... and I can tell you that the mandatory boys' P.E. of our generation was a hypocritical joke at the expense of nonathletic boys. At least that was my experience and was also the experience of every other nonathletic guy I've talked to over the years. Physically unfit boys were ignored by the P.E. teachers and coaches and were sometimes viewed with outright contempt. The P.E. classes I was forced to endure were exclusively centered around sports. No remedial programs were ever provided for the nonathletic boys -- neither for the purpose of helping them to get into shape by means of exercise programs, nor for the purpose of helping them to be better at sports (not to mention learning how the games were played). I never so much as even heard the words "exercise program"; and with the exception of a single minute my 6th-grade P.E. coach once spent showing a few wrestling holds, there wasn't even any instruction in the sports themselves! None of my P.E. teachers or coaches ever explained how the games of baseball, football, and basketball were played. We were never shown how to properly throw a baseball or a football or how to shoot a basketball. There really was no education in "physical education." I knew nothing about sports or fitness programs because although he watched an occasional game, my father was a nonathlete who had no interest in exercising because his professional career demanded most of his time. So, I had to be taught; but all I ever learned was to fear coaches and athlete classmates.

The "old P.E." was totally useless for nonathletic boys, who often were humiliated and bullied. The cruelest place on a junior-high or high-school campus is the gym. Instead of being encouraged to become physically active, the scrawny boys and the fat boys were often discouraged from becoming physically active later in their adult years. This is because they associated their neglect or mistreatment in P.E. with physical exercise. Not entirely rational, but perfectly understandable.

I challenge the notion that virtually every single boy should be forced to participate in competitive team games in the setting of a mandatory P.E. class and that if a boy has no interest in sports, he should be ridiculed and subjected to demeaning stereotyping that makes the "dumb jock" stereotype pale in comparison. Sports aren't for everyone, and they shouldn't be compulsory in the schools. Such a policy will actually discourage fitness for those boys who are the most in need. The most efficient way to get into shape is by means of a progressive exercise program. Participating in a sport is a way to maintain physical fitness, although some sports clearly present health risks. A sport is a physical contest, not an exercise program. They're not the same.

About five years ago I joined a local health club and started to work on a bodybuilding program. I put my money where my mouth is and hired a personal trainer to work with me, and have continued to do so to this very day. When I started mandatory "sports only" P.E. at the beginning of my 4th-grade year, I was weak and scrawny. When it mercifully came to an end during my 8th-grade year, I was ... (you guessed it) still weak and scrawny. In contrast, as a nonathletic client of personal trainers at my health club, I have gained over 30 pounds (most of which is muscle mass). In my P.E. classes I never had occasion to even work up a sweat. (Well, whatever sweating I ever did experience did not result from physical exertion, but was out of anxiety of being humiliated or bullied.) I get more exercise in a single workout than I ever did in an entire year of mandatory P.E.

In recent years I've learned that some physical educators have finally realized that the "old P.E." did not meet the needs of the nonathletic kids, to put it mildly. For example, the innovative PE4Life program is excellent. So, the President's Physical Fitness Test was a program that really did nothing for those who truly were unfit. I'd say it was rather pathetic.

Posted by radicalliberal | Thu Oct 4, 2012, 12:17 AM (2 replies)

I truly wish I had cause to not believe what I'm about to say, but the reason why some boys ...

... go out for sports is because they think they are proving their manhood by participating in them. In fact, masculinity is often defined solely in terms of physical strength and athletic prowess. Alas, machismo is alive and well (I dare say thriving). Since the popular culture is saturated with sports, nonathletic boys are often considered to be "unmanly" and "feminized" and are likely to be bullied simply for having no interest in them.

To add injury to insult, the traditional approach to mandatory boys' P.E. historically has been exclusively centered around sports, but often without any instruction in the sports themselves! In none of my P.E. classes was there even any mention of exercise programs, not even bodybuilding. Nonathletic boys were often penalized for not already knowing something they would never be taught by their coaches. There's no denying that some of the worst physical bullying has taken place in junior high and high school gyms. To me the very idea of forcing nonathletic boys to participate in sports is boneheaded and counterproductive, not to mention cruel.

I'm not denigrating participation in sports. If a boy will feel better about himself by participating in a sport, by all means he should do so; and I say more power to him. But I would tell those who want to impose the institutionalized bullying of "sports only" P.E. on nonathletic boys (instead of supporting genuine fitness programs that actually work) to please leave those kids alone.

If I sound bitter, so be it. This was my personal experience, as well as that of other nonathletic guys I've talked to over the decades. I respect athletes for what they do as athletes; but neither will I place all of them on pedestals, regardless of the way they treat others away from the game. I grew up with a now former university football player who was an arrogant bully; but even though he was a contemptible jerk, his social standing did not suffer at all. Many of the local fans seemed to believe that any kid who excelled at a sport could not possibly be anything less than noble.

And now I'll make a positive statement. High levels of physical fitness can be achieved without participating in sports. In fact, the most efficient way to get into shape is by getting on an exercise program. Several years ago I took up bodybuilding at a local health club. I even hired a personal trainer and continue to do so today. I love working out! I love the feeling of being completely exhausted when I drive back home. I was scrawny when I was a kid, but I've achieved muscular development that has amazed me in the last several years. All the personal trainers have liked me because they know I work hard. The mandatory P.E. of my youth had done absolutely nothing for me, except to teach me to fear coaches and athlete classmates.

I'm both amazed and puzzled as to why I didn't join a health club when I was young. I'd urge nonathletic guys who need to exercise, especially those who had negative P.E. experiences, to consider joining a health club. Health clubs aren't the exclusive property of athletes. My own health club experience has even been psychologically therapeutic.
Posted by radicalliberal | Fri Aug 24, 2012, 03:11 AM (0 replies)

For all practical purposes, I'm still a newbie here at DU; and since I'm apolitical, ...

... I guess I should also be considered an outsider (with all the attendant suspicions).

Take a look at this photo ...

It was taken sometime during the first half of the last century. The 100th anniversary of his birth occurred just last month. Surely, he must have passed away by now. There is controversy over the time when he likely died.

Look at this man. What is your initial impression of him? He looks like he probably was a sensitive guy, I guess (if it could be said that sensitive guys can be recognized by their physical appearance). Well, he wasn't all that good-looking. Kind of drab in appearance. (Probably didn't score with the ladies.) He also looks rather scrawny. See how the sleeve of his jacket sags. In fact, his half-sister once said he "detested competitive team sports." Something must be wrong with guys who aren't interested in sports. Just a sissy, a wimp. So, he wasn't a real man. Probably just worked as a bank teller somewhere.

But wait, there's more ... It turns out that he was one of the greatest heroes of World War II -- even though, as a citizen of a neutral country, he wasn't a soldier. This scrawny Swede was Raoul Wallenberg, businessman turned civilian diplomat who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazi SS and the Hungarian Arrow Cross fascists. He definitely was a sensitive man. He also had great courage, as his compassion drove him to repeatedly risk his life to save others who had had no hope.

Regarding sensitive men whom I know personally, a close friend of mine played football in high school and still looks like a "jock." Great build. But he is a tender-hearted, empathetic guy who is easily moved to tears by the sufferings of others.

I'm amazed by what we men do to each other -- subjecting guys to one negative stereotype or another, putting other guys into confining boxes and whatnot ...
Posted by radicalliberal | Thu Aug 9, 2012, 11:11 PM (2 replies)

Mandatory P.E. itself desperately needs to be reformed.

Unless reforms are instituted, the problem of obesity among children will not be solved. At least not from the standpoint of mandatory P.E.

As a 62-year-old man who has been very physically active since the summer of 2007, I know from my own personal experience what doesn't work and what does work for nonathletic kids. As a nonathletic boy growing up in the 1960s, I had the experience of enduring four years of mandatory P.E. Since 2007 I have been working with a personal trainer at a local health club on a bodybuilding program. My boyhood mandatory P.E. experience and my current health club experience are as different as night and day. My intention is to not just talk about myself, but to show how much of a need there is to reform mandatory P.E.

The mandatory boys' P.E. of my generation was a disgrace, an exercise (no pun intended) in hypocrisy. There were no exercise programs in those classes. Not even bodybuilding. I never even heard the words "exercise program." At the time I took P.E., even though I had no interest in sports, I was ashamed of being physically weak; but being as ignorant as I was, I did not know I could do anything about it. No "physical education" of that sort was provided. Actually, hardly any education of any kind, except learning to fear coaches and athlete classmates.

All boys were forced to participate in sports, no exceptions; but no exercise programs were provided. The fact is I really got no exercise. At least not enough consistently to make any difference. I now get more exercise in a single workout session at my health club than I ever did in an entire year of mandatory P.E.

When I started the fourth grade in the fall of 1960, the unsupervised recess period (with which I had had no problem) was replaced with mandatory P.E. (without the gym). When I think about it now from the standpoint of having a lot more knowledge and awareness than I did at that time as a boy, I'm astounded at the hypocrisy on the part of the policymakers who instituted a class that was of no benefit to nonathletic students, all in the name of "physical fitness"! During the last two years of my elementary schooling, the boys were required to take physical fitness tests; but those of us who apparently were in trouble (as far as fitness was concerned) never received any offers of remedial assistance. (Ever hear of "Remedial P.E."? The very idea is a joke.) So, what was the point of the tests?

Another amazing fact is that almost the entire time, no instruction was provided about the sports themselves! The assumption seems to have been made that every boy was an athlete or an athlete-wannabe. In none of my P.E. classes were we ever taught how the game of baseball was played or how the game of basketball was played or how the game of football was played. We were never shown how to throw a baseball or how to throw a football or how to shoot a basketball. These are physical skills that must be taught and practiced over time. They are not innate.

The attitude of my P.E. teachers and coaches toward nonathletic boys was one of indifference or outright contempt. There were no exceptions. Over the years I would hear other nonathletic guys say they had the same experience. Even today masculinity is often defined solely in terms of physical strength or athletic prowess. When I was growing up, boys who had no interest in sports were called sissies. Today they are called "fags." In my view, the negative stereotyping of nonathletic boys is quite similar to racial prejudice. Why should nonathletic boys have to put up with prejudiced coaches who look down on them?

Incidentally, boys who were physically disabled were not exempt from P.E., no matter what the disability. I have a friend of my generation who was born without depth perception and another such friend who was crippled in one of his knees as the result of a car wreck when he was four years old. No consideration was given to either of them; and they were both bullied, in spite of the fact that they were not responsible for their physical handicaps.

Speaking of bullying, mandatory P.E. was a nightmare for the boy who was scrawny or slightly built and the boy who was fat. In those school districts in which traditional "sports only" mandatory P.E. is the reality, this sort of bullying is also the reality. Some of the physical bullying I've heard about over the years has been nothing less than physical assault, but it was and has been condoned.

I have an online friend who is an Englishman in his mid-thirties. In one of his mandatory P.E. classes (which, again, did not provide bodybuilding or any other fitness program), his class one day was divided into two teams for a game of cricket, a game that my friend was unprepared to play. His team lost. (Mind you, this is just a team game in a lousy P.E. class, not a competition between two schools.) One of his teammates (who eventually would become a professional rugby player, if I remember correctly) blamed him for the loss. When the game was over, he walked over to my friend and smashed his face with a cricket bat and broke his nose. The young thug was merely suspended for a few days (big deal!). When he returned to school, he showed his remorse by shoving my friend into a locker. Who has ever spoken up for these bullied kids? Ask yourself if any sportswriter or sports columnist has even mentioned the problem of bullying in school sports. You already know the answer.

If you don't believe this is a problem, do a Google search on "p.e. bullying" and see what you come up with. You will find plenty of messages from men who say how terrible the bullying was that they either witnessed or personally experienced. You don't even have to leave this website. Do a site search here on "p.e. bullying" or "jock bullying." Read about the personal experiences of some of your fellow DUers. These claims of bullying can't all be false.

Several years ago I learned about an innovative P.E. program called PE4Life that actually promotes physical fitness. The program was instituted in the Titusville, Pennslyania, school district. An unforeseen result of the program was to help reduce bullying. "Jocks" and "techies" actually started socializing with one another because they were no longer interacting under a system that set up nonathletic boys for ridicule and bullying. (Seems to me nonathletic girls sometimes have the same problem today.) I've posted a link about this program below.


I've felt the need to post a lot of negative comments because of what I consider to be the desperate need to reform mandatory P.E. I have offered a positive solution to a pathetic long-standing problem.

I might also add that different children have different physical fitness needs. In other words, the "one size fits all" approach does not work. It never has worked, and it never will work. Regarding obesity, Richard Simmons is right: The best exercise for overweight people is constant physical movement. A fat boy in a baseball field who is just standing there will not get the exercise he needs. Also, obesity is a medical problem. The services of a physician or a dietitian are especially needed.

I am sorry I have taken up so much space, but I feel very strongly about this issue and believe it requires more discussion than just a few short sentences. I do favor the retention of the "old P.E." as an elective for the students who want to play sports. Genuine fitness classes should be provided for the nonathletes, or they should be given the option of joining a health club. I have been surprised how great my own health club experience has turned out to be. I'm now more muscular (at the age of 62!) than I've ever been in my life. My health club is like a community. All the trainers respect me because I work so hard. There is no bullying at my health club.

Anyone who is opposed to P.E. reform and insists that the "old P.E." be mandatory for all students not only is supporting an approach that definitely will not work, but also (in effect) is mandating some of the worst bullying in the schools -- which definitely is not very "progressive."
Posted by radicalliberal | Wed Jul 11, 2012, 11:38 AM (1 replies)
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