According to a recent A.P. article, P.E. classes have changed since the old days. That is, in the schools that even have physical education anymore.
Now there's less emphasis on team sports and more on doing exercises and other individual activities.
More attention is being paid to limitations of overweight or obese kids, which is another reason, the article says, why individual activities are preferred. This way the heavier kids can go at their own pace. And "even if the lesson is about a team sport like football, they focus on skills like passing the ball."
You can kind of tell from the tone of the article that we're supposed to think this is all a great thing--and I'm not saying it isn't, exactly. But the lead paragraph starts off like this:
"With music pumping in the background, the kids in Terry Wade's physical education class are in constant motion, going from sit-ups to jumping jacks to curls with light weights"--and the picture is of two wildly happy looking adolescent girls jumping up in the air.
Well, at twelve I would NOT have been wildly happy about that sort of P.E. class.
Back when P.E. was just another word for "recess" to me, occasional drills and calisthenics and walking/jogging around the track seemed like cruel and inexplicable punishments. Why were we stuck doing boring hard icky things when we could be playing something?
I loved playing. Pretty much anything: soccer and basketball and softball and tennis and volleyball and dodgeball and kickball. Even if my lungs were burning and my legs were aching, I'd be having a blast.
But I was lucky. I was a reasonably well-coordinated tomboy. This was back in an era when girls were not allowed to play full-court basketball until high school, and we weren't supposed to know to know how to swing a bat or even which end of a tennis racket to hold. We were all supposed to throw "like girls." In other words, expectations were really freakin' low. So even though I had no special athletic talent, I was considered "good" at sports. Playing them was fun 'cause I was better than a good percentage of the other girls. (I am pretty much incapable of finding things "fun" when I suck at them.)
In fact, once I went off to college, and sports were no longer mandatory so everyone who hated them or was lousy at them didn't play anymore, I found out I wasn't actually all that good at anything. Not coincidentally, sports became a lot less interesting to me and I haven't played any for years.
So for all the people who weren't motivated or coordinated or were self-conscious about their bodies or whatever: I can totally understand why the total elimination of team sports in gym class might seem like a phenomenally awesome idea. (And if you want an off-color but amusing take on why high school gym class sucks, as usual our friends at the Midwest Teen Sex Show are all over it. Warning: NSFW.)
Still, reading the article I had mixed feelings. Sure, P.E. classes should be as inclusive as possible. And there should be a variety of activities so that at any given time, only half of the kids are totally miserable, and not always the same half every day.
But isn't something missing if the kids can't play any team sports during P.E.? Should we not teach algebra because it's going to make some kids feel bad that they're no good at it?
Sure, competition can be ugly sometimes, and I think the whole "character building" aspect of sports is grossly overrated. (A rant for another time). But dang it, I hate to think of a whole generation of kids having to take aerobics classes and do sit-ups everyday and coming to dread them at 13 when they could save that dread for later, when they're 30 or 50 0r whatever. Can't they spend some days at least trying to kick a goal or catch a fly ball or hit a home run? 'Cause that stuff can be, you know, hella fun. Sit ups are never hella fun; I don't care WHAT kind of music is pumping.
So this whole post is really just an excuse to hear about your gym class experiences. Any fond memories or horrible nightmares? It's my impression that the mere word "gym class" can induce in many people the sort of visceral reaction normally associated with "tax audit" or "colonoscopy." Or how do you feel about team sports? Play any voluntarily these days? Feel free to share!
We're getting some strong feelings and amazing stories in the comments section--honestly, I had no idea gym class was so awful for so many people. If you don't normally pop in to read comments, today is a good day to check it out!