Monday, February 20, 2012

Gym Class

If you're like many people, you remember high school gym classes as horrible, tortuous hours. You had to stand on a scale in front of all your classmates. You also had your body fat tested using calipers. Then you ran thorough some physical fitness tests that only the gymnast girls and runners could pass. Then they split the class up into athletes and fat kids. Instead of teaching all the kids how to be as fit as possible and eat healthfully, that information was only given to the out of shape kids. The rest of the fit kids went off for gymnastics or something else considered fun.

In my high school, to avoid being a "fat kid" you had to run a mile in 11 minutes and 1 1/4 miles in 12 minutes. I don't understand the different pacing goals at all. We had to complete the 12 minute run, also called the Cooper test, every quarter in high school. That was why I hated running until I was 35. I still remember failing the mile run as a freshman and getting no sympathy from the teacher.

Other skills that had to be conquered to avoid embarassment and placement in the dreaded class were pull-ups, sit-ups, standing long jump, vertical jump and the sit and reach, something a person with tight hamstrings can't do, especially when we did the test with no warm-up. I've been working out really, really hard the last few months, and I still think I'd do poorly at the test I had in high school.

There are people claiming to have tweaked the dreaded tests to make them less humiliating, but they sound just as bad as they did 20 years ago. There are some educators who seem truly committed to making high school gym less dreaded and more applicable to the real world. Although I enjoyed handball, racquetball and badminton in high school, I really could survive without knowing all the rules of those sports I probably won't ever play or watch again.

Instead of having these classes appear designed to encourage bullying and separation, I wish they lived up to their name of physical education. Educate kids on how building muscle will help them as they get older. Teach them about the importance of good nutrition. Teach them about illness avoidance. Just like algebra taught me about variables and solving for them, PE should have taught me about moving, without dreading it.

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