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Reply #203


Response to Atman (Reply #165)

Thu Oct 4, 2012, 12:17 AM

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

Last edited Sat Oct 6, 2012, 08:04 PM - Edit history (1)

... 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.

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