Tuesday, January 18, 2005

What is the real problem?

The AP points out lackluster PE programs in our schools:

As American children grow fatter and more out of shape, physical education classes are being found wanting. Experts say there's little accountability for P.E. teachers in most schools. They say the classes are often poorly run, and students don't spend much time in them anyway.

What do you know? They also mention TV in an interesting comparison:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2003, only 28 percent of high school students nationwide attended a daily P.E. class, but 38 percent watched television for three hours or more each school night.

As I recall from not too long ago (I graduated from public high school in 1996), the individual student's motivation was the key to how much benefit PE class produced.

My school offered several different categories of PE: a freshman course that taught basics, including classroom work; regular PE, which consisted of lots of standing around and huge basketball or volleyball games, and advanced PE, which involved 3 days of weight training and 2 days of cardio each week. (there may have been others, but I don't remember)

I took the advanced class, and it was hard work - the class size was small, and we got as much individualized attention as we could handle. However, from talking to my friends in the regular class, I know that it was pretty much how the AP describes it - a waste of time.

I have only that limited experience, but I know that the differentiating factor at my school was student motivation, not inexperienced or uncaring teachers. Had more students expressed interest in the advanced PE, they would have probably added more classes, but most kids preferred to spend the hour hanging out and occasionally shooting hoops.

As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.