Saturday, December 14, 2013

Physical Education

I was always awful at PE because of my asthma. I wasn’t fast, I couldn’t run more than a quarter of a mile without coughing up a lung, my hand-eye-coordination was appalling, and the list goes on and on. I always dreaded fitness testing--madly puffing my inhaler, face as red as a tomato after just a couple laps, everyone else running effortless as ever, like they’re made of air.
As a result, I sought out every possible escape. I used the “period” excuse so frequently my teachers must have thought I was perpetually menstruating. I even tried twisting my ankle to get out of running the mile--my middle school arch-enemy. Eventually, I started getting migraines, real migraines, mind you. I was committed.
But looking back, I could have gladly and comfortably pursued my physical education, had it just been structured differently. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses. Physically, I’m flexible, but slow. But had there been a selection of sports and classes to choose from instead of a standard one-size-fits-all PE class, I might have found myself a better fit--a class in which I could actually embrace my fitness, like gymnastics, or dance, or volleyball--all of which I would have gladly pursued well into college, had they been available for PE credit.
This is why I believe we should abolish one-size-fits-all education, especially physical. If instead there was an annual physical education requirement (meaning each year each student must receive this many credits in a sport or PE class of his or her decision) this may ultimately be the difference between a student’s fitness or lack thereof. There are some obvious arguments against this, which I’ll get to in a second, but I believe the benefits outweigh the costs. So consider my argument not necessarily as it pertains to you, but to the student population as a whole.
The plus of all-inclusive, standardized physical education is it covers everything, thus supplying students every flavor of fitness, from cardio to coordination. This ensures we exercise each type of fitness equally, and leave no muscle forgotten or neglected. This would not be the case if, say, I chose gymnastics instead of general PE. In this case, I would exercise my flexibility, leaving my asthmatic lungs woefully under-used.
However, consider how the class reflects the students’ fitness. In a general PE class, I compare terribly to the national average in almost any cardio activity. However, my muscle elasticity is off the charts. So in my case, although I would perform abysmally in general PE, I would have excelled in gymnastics. I would have identified myself as fit. I would have noticed my own physical potential. I might even have pursued it.
Instead, I’ve gone my whole life knowing how pathetically I physically perform. I am substandard. That’s a label, by the way. As a result, I have no confidence in my body whatsoever. I can’t dance to save my life. I certainly can’t do the splits anymore (although I probably still could, had I pursued gymnastics). But all my physical education has cultivated is a desperate fear of fitness or any related facility. A zombie apocalypse could strike, and it could be the last building standing: I’d rather die than step inside another gym.

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