Thursday, September 2, 2010

Physical Education/Cultural Standards

We had a good, slightly heated, discussion yesterday in the class I teach, "Fundamentals of Physical Conditioning" and here are some of the questions I posed:

Should an individual be able to perform 10 pull-ups (chest to the bar, all the way to a dead hang, no bicycle legs or swimming stroke kicks) in order to be able to graduate high school?

Be able to run a mile in under 7 minutes?

Attain a specific average in the 300 yard shuttle test (2 trials with 2 minutes recovery between reps)?

Demonstrate 30 push-ups with precision technique?

Maintain a high level proficiency in a scored movement assessment of running, jumping, climbing, and lifting techniques?

The list could be pretty extensive, but you get the idea.

My argument is that somebody has to step-up and (re-) 'up' the standard. Why not school P.E.? Or are we just too soft?!

The other situation I presented was an at home example. The other evening my 4 year old daughter wanted to watch a video after we got done eating dinner (it was a sing and dance along video I'll have you know, so it wasn't a totally passive video). I told her she could if she did 100 push-ups first. She gladly obliged and proceded to perform push-ups. Her technique leaves a little to be desired but she's working on it... she just turned 4.

As she's off in the living room counting "... 19, 20, 21... ", my wife 40% jokingly, 60% not (that's what it was, I tested it with a tone meter) argues,"Don't you think that's child abuse?"

"No." I immediately responded turning back to continue to monitor Eva as she continued doing push-ups after a brief rest.

All this got me thinking a little more, and I've often wondered, 'is something like this, having my daughter do push-ups just for an opportunity to do something, bad?' What's more abusive, paying with push-ups for a privilage or making a kindergartner sit still in a desk for a total of 2-3 hours out of a day... setting the stage for the beginning of the end for many when it comes to an active lifestyle? Or better yet, feeding our kids the school lunches?



jleeger said...

Nice one, Aaron!

Two comments.

First, "should students have to be able to do xyz in order to graduate?" Goes beyond physical education. I was told recently that many schools in various places don't teach cursive anymore. Should a child have to be able to do certain mathematical problems, etc.? What is the purpose of school? Not to belabor this, or get off topic, but school is a reflection of societal values. So, if we say we're going to change school, can we do so without first changing societal valuations of things?

My response to your question, right now anyway, is "Yes. I think children should have to be able to perform at a certain physical level, and have certain physical knowledge, in order to graduate from high school." However, to achieve those things, the structure of school (and after-school activity) would have to change starting from day 1.

Is telling your child to do pushups child abuse? All communication is coercion, so it depends on your definition of abuse. I think of abuse as the use of something beyond its healthy use. To abuse is to force something to operate in an unhealthy way.

Of course, both of these depend on definitions of "health."

In a sense, your treatment of your daughter is abusive, because you've given her a command that forces her to override her own natural tendencies. But this process is also called "socialization."

I don't think it's abusive. I think it's teaching her about negotiation while simultaneously making her physically stronger. But that's just me.

Aaron Schwenzfeier said...

Great comments Josh.

I completely agree, and I am just 'dabbling' on the surface of a much deeper issue. I only have so much time with the students and even though I like to get off topic on tangents, I need to stay close to the subject at hand; yet still, many of the students did bring this up in the discussion.

I am sure we could take this in circles until we had an entire sphere, as definitions and contexts change all the time.

magn6494 said...

Aaron - just saw your blog at joels the other day. would love to have a larger conversation sometime - i like reading about your thoughts both about physicality and other things (like education). i've spent a bit of time thinking and developing my own ideas about human physical potentials, training norms, etc that would be nice to get feedback on from someone like yourself....

cheers -

Aaron Schwenzfeier said...

Andy, oddly I was mentioning this same idea to Joel last night. I'm game.