The Truth About Our Physical Education History

Remember high school gym class? You played volleyball, ran a mile on the track, and ducked before being hit in the face during a vigorous game of dodge ball? Physical education has been part of the educational scene for nearly 200 years. It is vital that students participate in physical education to keep their mind and body in peak learning condition. Currently, the childhood obesity rate is dangerously climbing to epidemic levels. Therefore, the focus on physical education is more important then ever before.

The question is how should physical education be conducted? First, take a look at physical education history. Physical education has evolved over the years. Physical education is defined as “instruction in the development and care of the body ranging from simple calisthenics exercises to a course of study providing training in hygiene, gymnastics, and the performance and management of athletic games (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).” This definition is broad because you can learn several topics ranging from the rules of basketball to sex education. It depends on the school policies of your state educational system.

Physical education was officially recognized in the United States in the early 1800’s. Colleges and Universities began to offer physical education programs throughout the 1800’s. Finally, in 1866 California was the first to mandate physical education. Many states followed this mandate within the next 30 years. The importance of training the body as well as the mind became prevalent in the educational system.

The 20th century brought varying levels of physical education to each state. Presidents such as Eisenhower and Kennedy promoted physical education and fitness. Children took the Presidential Fitness test each year to assess their physical fitness level. This arose from the need for U.S. students to be as physical fit as their European counterparts.

Controversial issues have played an integral role in physical education history. For example, in 1972 Title IX banned sexual discrimination in schools regarding sports and academics. This allowed female athletes to actively participate in team sports other than cheerleading with the financial and emotional support of the school system.

Another controversial issue is sexual education. It has been the subject of intense debate for many decades. Each state has specific guidelines about what will be taught and whether students can opt out of the sexual education program. Some states allow students to watch a video of a child being born while other states only discuss abstinence.

The official employment of physical education programs has a 200 year history which has become home to controversial issues, social reform, and overall child well being. Physical education will continue to evolve as the needs of the student population changes, societal attitudes fluctuate, and the flow of educational funds towards physical education is maintained.

Journal Review – Teaching Physical Education Considered

We all know that we have an obesity problem here the United States, and we also know that unfortunately it is happening to our youth. Most teenagers are overweight, and that’s the wrong way to set up your body for later in life. These young individuals should be not only flexing their mental muscle, but also their physical muscles.

It’s pretty important for healthy humans to exercise, and we must teach our young people the importance of physical education to make sure that they live a well-balanced life, as it does also aid in learning. If you are a teacher, there is a very good Journal I’d like to recommend if you are involved in any way in physical education. The name of the Journal is;

“The Physical Educator” this is a publication of Phi Epsilon Kappa, Indianapolis Indiana, ISSN: 0031 – 8981.

Why do I like this journal so much? Well, as a former track star and athlete, I believe physical education is just as important as science and math, and it appears to me that sports have a lot to do with physics, as you are dealing with all sorts of forces when you play sports. This is a great publication, and I’d like to give you a couple of for instances. In the fall 2010 addition volume 67, number 3 – there was a great article;

“Physical education for the severely physically challenged children,” and you can tell just by the title that the authors were very passionate about how to overcome the obstacles involved in physical education training for such a segment of a school’s population. It’s great to know that they are working on such things, because it is even more important for the physically challenged to participate in physical activity.

In fact, they may be able to overcome some of their health issues by exercising their bodies. It’s pretty important. Of course, that was only one example of the many articles in this journal each month. Indeed I’d like you to consider this journal, and all the wonderful and excellent articles which are posted in each and every issue. Please consider all this and think on it.

Stealing the Football Coach’s Spotlight and Refocusing it on Physical Education

In most American school systems coaches are also physical education teachers, and physical education teachers are also coaches. Historically speaking most physical educators don’t choose to go into the field because of their love for gym class, but because of their love for football, basketball, baseball… sports of some kind. And for a high percentage of these folks coaching (their first love) occupies 90% of their attention, while physical education class (their job) occupies 10% of their attention.

In other words the games, and practices for those games is where the coach’s heart is, while PE class is an afterthought, a stepchild, a second class citizen that’s tolerated because it’s the means to a highly regarded, highly valued, and often highly publicized (it’s also the most potent PR vehicle in the world for most schools systems) end – the games, the sports, and the 5 to 10% of students who actively participate.

Physical Educators and Pink Slips

Under these conditions is it any wonder why Physical Education has inadvertently climbed all way to the bottom of the academic ladder in most school systems? The people who are in charge of the classes don’t even value them.

In contrast math and science inevitably occupy the top two positions, while art, music, and physical education occupy the bottom three positions, and everything else is sandwiched in between. Under these conditions is it any wonder why physical educators are so often at the first pink slip recipients when local budget slashers start chopping away at their school system’s budget?

A Strategy Designed to Steal the Football Coach’s Spotlight

In this light I’d like to introduce a strategy that’s designed to steal the football program’s spotlight an to refocus that spotlight on the 90 to 95% of the students who have historically been overlooked, ignored, and basically shortchanged by sports dominated physical education departments, educational administrators, school boards, and American culture in general.

In the process we’ll aim to breathe new life into physical education, rescuing it from the depths of academia, placing it right up alongside math and science. After all, a mathematician or a scientist who lacks a physical body is pretty hard to value.

Solving a $100 Billion Dollar Problem

Think about this scenario. Over the past fifteen years obesity in this country has grown into an epidemic. According to government sources two thirds of Americans are overweight. One third of Americans are obese. And childhood obesity is a forest fire raging out of control costing American taxpayers a cool $100 billion annually.

I contend that physical educators can tackle this problem with a simple and cost effective intervention and successfully eliminate childhood obesity one child at a time, one school at a time, and one school system at a time. This in turn will cause local communities to see physical educators in an entirely different light. Check it out.

In Less Than Five Minutes Per Week

Here’s how it works. Show all your kindergartners how to use a height adjustable pull up bar together with a technique called leg assisted pull ups in order to grow stronger week after week, month after month, all year long while learning to do conventional pull ups. In less than five minutes a week you’ll find that 90% of your kids will learn to do conventional pull ups in year one, and the other 10% will be well on their way.*

Eliminate Childhood Obesity in Your School District

But why in the world are pull ups so important you ask? They’re important because kids who can do pull ups are NEVER OBESE. And once they’ve learned to do pull ups, all they have to do is maintain the ability and they’re IMMUNIZED AGAINST OBESITY FOR LIFE. Now if you repeat this kindergarten based scenario with each new class for five straight years, and make sure your graduates maintain their ability, childhood obesity will be eliminated in your school within five years.

Much Bigger Than a Win on the Football Field

And if you let the media in on what you’re up to it won’t be long before the junior high and high school have implemented their own respective editions of this (Operation Pull Your Own Weight) strategy, and within one decade you and your fellow physical educators will have eliminated childhood obesity in your school district completely.

Changing the Communities Eyeballs

Do you suppose that would be worth a headline or two in the local (national) newspaper, TV or radio station? And in the process what do you think that would do for the value of physical education in your community? At worst I’m talking about great job security! At best I’m talking about helping lots of kids live more productive lives while avoiding the obesity related problems that plague so many lives today. Now remind me one more time, why are math and science are so important?