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Phys. Ed Gets a Facelift

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In PE class, Oregon students are handing in their dodgeballs for hiking boots, compasses, and table tennis paddles, according to The Oregonian. The state is getting serious about gym, making curriculum changes aimed at teaching specific skills, building self esteem, and reducing obesity rates. Traditional team sports leave too many students standing around, and promote competition instead of exercise, according to proponents of the new standards.

The state deparment of education added PE to a list of subjects that must have textbooks, in an effort to provide consistency statewide and prepare districts for a new state law doubling the amount of PE hours in schools by 2017. While critics see the new mandates as ignoring subjects like math, science and reading, PE teachers are hailing the developments as long overdue.

"All of us collectively have to embrace the notion that a well-balanced curriculum including music, the arts and PE is going to contribute more effectively to the kind of citizens we want than just longer stretches of time devoted to math and literacy," Don Zehrun, a 35-year Beaverton PE teacher, told the newspaper. "In the long run, that will provide what we're after -- better students, better citizens who are healthier, happier and more productive."

2 Comments

PE did not exist when I went to school, and I don't think we were any worse off than kids today ... perhaps we were better off since we got outside and played. I suspect the real thing we need is more outside time for our students (which does not impact on school time) not more PE time (which is not to say that we should cut the time we now have). I wonder if there is any research to back up the suggestion that "In the long run, that will provide what we're after --- better students, better citizens who are healthier, happier and more productive." Could these small changes in music, art and PE do all that????

I didn't necessarily think a whole lot about phys ed in high school--where we were required to take 4 years of it--until my family moved to another state with only a 2 year requirement. I am not certain, but it is possible that my 4 year requirement was local-exceeding the state minimum. Because it was also of high quality. It was a large high school, with an actual phys ed staff (as opposed to a single teacher) for each gender. We rotated each grading period and we were required to have one team sport, swimming, one individual sport and one elective. Electives included things like modern dance. It seems as though what my own kids have received (actually only 1 year required in HS) consists of huge numbers of kids playing volleyball in a gym that always seems to have other stuff going on at the same time (based on the number of kids sitting around on the bleachers). Where is the gymnatistics, aerobics, weight lifting, yoga? Any of these things certainly fit into phys ed (even hiking, for goodness sake) and many require no special equipment. It seems as though the field (that is the phys ed teachers) would be smart enough to move forward without the state mandating that they do something more sensible. Are they seriously interested in teaching physical EDUCATION?

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