February 18th, 2011

piranha - crazy eyes

Writer's Block: Sweat it out

Should physical education in schools be mandatory, and why?

Y'know, as much as I hated P.E. in school - and believe me, I disliked it with the heated passion of one thousand suns - I do think American society has reached a point where we need this class.

It seems laughable.  We need a class to teach kids how to be active?
Well, yes.

Neither of my parents had been particularly athletic in their youth, and as a result an interest in sports was not passed on to their children.  My mom half-hearted attempted to get us involved in Little League T-Ball and soccer when we were in elementary school, but when neither of us showed a particular aptitude for the sports we were allowed to drop out.  It's not that I didn't go outdoors - I ran around at recess, went hiking with my parents, and I remember a lot of time spent on playgrounds - but when it came to organized sports, I had little exposure.

If, in junior high and high school, I had not been forced to do physical education, I doubt I would have ever learned about stretching before a strenuous workout or proper breathing when running.  I would have never learned the basics of tennis, volleyball, or line dancing.  I guess when I think about it, having experienced these things hasn't changed my life.  I no longer recall any of the lessons learned in P.E.  But at least I was exposed to them.  That never would have happened otherwise.

I guess it's like taking an art class, or a music class.  A lot of kids who take a year or two of art in high school never paint again, but at least they've been exposed to it.  I have friends who learned to play the flute in junior high, but haven't touched an instrument in years.  That past experience, however fleeting, did help round them out as a person and give them a better life experience.  Do I think art and music classes should be mandatory?  Yes!

So it would be hypocritical of me to say that physical education should not be mandatory, simply because I don't like it.   It adds to one's knowledge base in a way that writing or mathematics cannot, because it gets you in touch with your physical body.   Everyone has to use their body on a daily basis; it's far more central to everyday life than algebra or grammar.

Besides, if I had to suffer through several humiliating years in the gym, there's no way I'm letting future generations off the hook.