COLUMN:Schools losing their focus on physical education

Blaine Moyle

It’s a rather well-accepted fact that schools as we currently know them are little more than institutions for learning to take tests, and learning just enough to allow students to function when they enter the real world to be sorted into their categories and help society.

It’s a nice idea that we are given the knowledge that we require to function as a well-rounded individual mentally, but what about physically?

With so many people being overweight in the United States, do our schools have a responsibility to make sure that our youth are physically fit? It sure looks that way.

Like everything else with children, schools are the one refuge where kids can go to learn almost everything that mom (i.e. television) and dad (who?) don’t have the chance to provide.

Curriculum taught by teachers is expected to teach children moral behavior aside from what is directly dictated on the playground.

The knowledge of the classroom is supposed to infuse students with the ability to function in the work force.

And yet, gym is such a small portion of most schools, and ample time isn’t given to the students to make sure that they are physically fit enough to function in the real world.

But it’s not just the overweight kids that aren’t in shape, which is a widespread misconception.

Slimmer students are also likely to be physically unfit. The problem comes when children don’t understand proper nutrition, aside from learning what the food pyramid is in middle school and the half-hour they spend in gym class.

Visit a larger airport and you will get the chance to experience one of the fine technological advances that avoids doing exercise – the moving sidewalk. One of the few things that the Jetsons didn’t lie to us about.

We’ve gotten to the point where walking with a bag on wheels for ten feet has become so much hassle that we need assistance.

Another instance of the laziness that has permeated our life-styles only requires a trip to the mall.

Even in Ames it doesn’t take more than a few seconds to spot at least one car that circles the parking lot looking for a spot that is within five feet of the door, because walking any other distance would be a waste of time, not minding that these same people usually drive around the parking lot for several minutes anyway.

It could be that gym isn’t taken seriously, even by the teachers.

Grading for gym based on attendance could be the reason. It’s the easiest A. Students don’t have to take it seriously.

There are several ways to get around all of this. First, we can take an example from schools in other nations, and require morning exercises. Not only does it give the students a good routine of exercising, but it also gets them ready for the day of learning.

The next thing would be to get serious about grading participation in gym. While most classes do give points for participation, they aren’t serious about it, and even if they are, an “F” in gym doesn’t mean anything until the high school level, if then.

Third, gym class needs to be longer. As the only class where students get a chance to move around, it should be longer than a standard class to make up for the sitting that children are doing the rest of the day.

Fourth, many students that are overweight are allowed to not participate, because it’s understood that they can’t keep up with other students. This is the most obvious sign that there should be some scale for what activities students go through. We don’t expect students to be at the same level as every other student when it comes to classwork, so why does gym put all students together and expect them to come out the same?

Finally, it’s time to bring back dodge ball. Far from being the most violent sport played in gym, it’s one that actually combines multiple abilities, as well as things like team work. Where only a few students excel at football, basketball or hockey, dodge ball is a game that any student can play, and doesn’t exclude students, unlike the more popular sports.

A more well-rounded take on physical education is needed. A new program in schools focusing on physical education as well as the mental preparation is what we need as Americans.

We have to stop being lazy and actually go out into the world, rather than watch it from a distance because walking is too much work.

Blaine Moyle is a senior in English and secondary education from Des Moines.