Education, The Physical Part

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June 30, 2010 by David Gillaspie

How does it work out that every time schools have a shortage of funds, PE, art, and music get targeted for cuts first?  Does anyone on a school board, or in curriculum planning, read about fat kids in America? 

If lumpy children grow at an epidemic rate, shouldn’t PE be last on the list of cuts?

Maybe a sharp administrator asked how badminton makes a difference in today’s youth.  How does hitting something called a shuttlecock over a high net with a small racket benefit anyone? 

The answer is improved eye-hand coordination.

If you drive a car, or ride a bike, eye-hand coordination is essential.  Why?  What you see in front of you enters your nervous system through your eyes.  If it’s a pothole, a deer, or another person in the way, you avoid them by steering your vehicle away by using your hands, thus a complete eye-hand circuit.

Poor eye-hand coordination results in over-steering, then over-correcting, then ending up in a ditch after running over whatever was in front of you.  Badminton requires speedy reflexes, quick decisions, and exact movement, just like riding a bike or steering a car.  Plus it improves cardiovascular health.

Badminton isn’t the best example of PE class, but it is one activity that gets little attention.

Would a PE section on wrestling improve students?  Most certainly.  At every grade a kid would learn more about themselves and about their classmates by wrestling.  Who wouldn’t like to see the class bully get worked by the music student; the best athlete get taken down by an art student.

Frame it this way: the more we know about ourselves, and those around us, the better prepared we are to participate in unexpected challenges.  No one goes through life in an easy chair, and if they do there comes a time when they can’t get up from that chair.

Imagine the dream of a disabled person, “All I want to do is walk again.”  The able-bodied among us do it by standing up and putting one foot in front of another.  No big deal.  But the person who neglects their own mobility out of sheer laziness has another take on it. 

Regret.  

It sounds like this: “No one told me I’d need to stay active to have a good life.  I thought PE was just for jocks.  Now my legs are so swollen I can’t stand up.”

For the sake of comparison, look at the kids at the bus stop and the elderly with a tank of oxygen strapped to the back of their wheelchair.  No one wants to usher a kid from one to the other, skipping the fun in between, but cutting PE sets the process in motion.

Call a retired person and ask them what they’re doing.  How often do they say they are sitting on their butt watching TV?  Or eating?  Or headed to a doctor’s appointment?  Stay on the phone long enough and you’ll hear how hard it is for them to get around like they used to.  Or how hard it is to lose weight.  The main theme is living an increasingly difficult life.

Life is hard enough.  PE can be hard too, but it is an artificially induced hardship.  After PE class, everything else is easier.  In that way it follows a quote from the great Dan Gable, “After wrestling, everything else is easier.”

Another quote from the man who holds the coaching record for most NCAA titles for any sport in a row, “Wrestling is not for everyone, but it should be.”

Some people avoid art, saying “I can’t even draw a straight line.” 

Some avoid music, saying “I can’t play an instrument; I can barely even blow my nose.”

Some avoid the basics of PE, saying “I just don’t like to sweat.”

Here’s a heads-up: Get a workout before it’s too late and you can’t even get out of bed.  Improve your wind and play a harmonica.  Feel yourself push towards your limits of endurance and write a poem about what that feels like.  

Don’t throw art away because you’re not DaVinci, or quit on music because you can’t sing Italian opera.  Do what you’re capable of, then improve on it.

Most of all, don’t throw away PE, because if you’re not physically able to function, everything else drops a few notches.

Who is the smartest guy in the world?  If it’s Stephen Hawking, do you suppose he thinks what it would be like to stand up?  If it’s Christopher Langan, do you suppose he thinks what it would be like to achieve his potential?

Can you stand up?  Do you work toward your goals?  Use physical education to get there.

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