Re: Bird Flu and Badminton
- From: "Ulrika O'Brien" <ulrika@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: 22 Mar 2006 12:28:31 -0800
Wilson Heydt wrote:
In article <1142882557.741427.163540@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>,
Ulrika O'Brien <ulrika@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Wilson Heydt wrote:
In article <r9nt12lt0la2n9f8fvrtqt93sjlfq4ch3o@xxxxxxx>,
Jenn Ridley <jridley@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Dorothy J Heydt wrote:
If mandatory PE took the form of getting everyone out and making
them walk for an hour, hopefully leading up to running, I'd be
for it. Instead, it's "team sports" where most of the class stand
around watching a few overachievers score points.
How do you know? How long has it been since you've had a kid *in*
school and seen what their PE class is like?
About 12 years. She wasn't very enthusiastic about it, either.
Given her parents, one can hardly be surprised. Of course Dorothy is
paying for her lack of physical exercise in younger days by barely
being able to get out of her own way now. This doesn't seem like it's
really a bias that recommends itself.
I'm in lousy shape, too. If PE had been interesting (recall my comments
about what could happen if it isn't mandatory)
Okay, here's the thing: PE can be interesting even if it *is*
mandatory. Choice within the requirement that one take physical
education can happen, and does happen, and has nothing whatever to do
with whether or not PE is mandatory or not. Taking a PE class every
term was mandatory throughout middle school and high school for me and
yet *what* PE one took generally included two or more choices, not
counting going out for a sports team. Among the activities available
over that span of time were: weight training, archery, badminton,
tumbling, gymnastics, flag football, softball, fencing, field hockey,
basketball, volleyball, track and field, cross-country running,
swimming, water polo, diving, golf, soccer, tennis, and undoubtedly a
great many things I'm now forgetting.
I might have been more
active as an adult. Or maybe not. A big part of Dorothy's problem
is CFS, and since no one knows what causes that, on can hardly blame
it on a dislike of PE.
Yes, and no. Studies have linked low-activity levels and lack of
fitness to the likelihood of contracting CFS, so there may actually be
some causal relationship.
That doesn't sound like PE anywhere around here. Maybe 20+ years ago,
but not now, not around here.
Just you wait until it's mandatory agian....
Yes, because absolutely the intervening thirty or forty years of
culture and practice are going to just drop away because PE is
mandatory. Pull the other one, it has bells on.
I think I'll get the last laugh on this one.
Yes, I'm sure you think that. But since your reasoning on why you
think so is based on a false premise, I'm afraid I'm not much
Watch the PE staff
if it becomes mandatory again. They'll toss everything that had
to be used to *attact* students because that won't be needed any more
and they'll 'revert to type'--the type several of us have described.
There's no compelling evidence that the people who teach athletics now
are products of the same background and culture that produced the
people who taught you, so even assuming that there is a "type" to
revert to, there's no reason to suppose the people currently in the
system are of it in the first place.
Bunk. Pure unadulterated bunk. PE takes all sorts of forms, in my
experience, and even the team sports generally insist that everyone
participate. One of the common ones played these days is soccer, and I
promise you, other than possibly the goalie, nobody gets to just "stand
around watching." Ditto swimming, track, tennis, badminton,
volleyball, lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, and flag football.
Baseball/softball I will grant you, but frankly, baseball is a stupid
sport to play if fitness is the objective, and even that is usually
only played in spring.
And mostly to get the kids outside, while still giving them something
to do inside when it's snowing/raining.
I see...PE is a way to shunt the kids out of the way for an hour a
That certainly isn't what she said, nor implied by what she said, so I
infer it's just your own bias talking. PE is a way to make sure they
get up and move about and burn some pent up energy and learn some
physical skills during a day of unnaturally enforced sitting down and
holding still. If it were a means to "shunt the kids out of the way"
presumably no one would bother with teachers and equipment and locker
rooms and gymnasia and all the things that go into making PE possible.
If a school merely wanted to shunt kids away for an hour the
traditional means is by sending them off unsupervised to the library or
the cafeteria for a study hour.
Ah, but it *is* what you said. Jus rephrased to remove the polish and glitter.
You sau d (it's right up there) 'mostly to get hte kids outside'. Pardon
me for being able to read what you said and draw the obvious inference.
Apparently you have been confused by Usenet quoting conventions. The
person who said "And mostly to get the kids outside" wasn't me, it was
Jenn Ridley. Moreover, the inference from "get the kids outside" to
"shunt them out of the way" is not only not obvious, it is false. The
point of getting the kids outside in this context is clearly to get
them out of doors, into the fresh air and sunshine, to gain the
benefits thereof, not to get them out of the way of some imagined
someone who doesn't have to deal with them for that span of time. For
one thing, and this may have escaped your notice, it isn't as if the
kids do not still have teachers when they are doing PE, nor, more
damningly, it isn't as if all the non-PE teachers don't also have
students while the ones who are in PE are at it. It would be as well
to say we send kids to Social Studies to "shunt them out of the way" of
the Chemistry teachers, or we put them in Math to "shunt them out of
the way" of the English teachers, as if the English and Chemistry
teachers would then sit in cafes reading Sartre while the kids had been
"shunted away," instead of teaching their *other* sections of English
and Chemistry all bleeding day long.
In the lower grades, the 'move about and get rid of pent up energy' is
taken care of by recess, which is traditionaly totally unstructured.
In the lower grades mandatory PE never existed in the sense I'm talking
about and as such is completely irrelevant to my point, and in any
case, doesn't address the needs of middle- and high school kids, which,
given the topic was mandatory PE, is rather what I thought we were
Once you establsih PE classes, the staff are going to demand that money
be spent on what *they* think is important and push activities *they*
think the kid "ought" to do.
Yes, absolutely school budgets are determined and driven by the desires
of the *teachers*. What color is the sky on your planet again?
The gyms are just the *place* to put the
kids in inclement weather, but the PE staff wants them for competitive
games that are normally played indoors. There is no need for the bleachers,
floor markings and other acoutrments just to have a space for activity in
bad weather. Locker rooms are just a logical consequence of getting the kids
sweaty, but those are also going to be "important" to the PE staff pushing
Okay, you're bordering on incoherence here. Is your claim that the
reason schools have gymnasia and locker rooms because the athletics
department demands them? Is your claim that schools having locker
rooms and gymnasia is somehow a bad thing? I really don't understand
what it is you think you're driving at, here.
I never claimed that the PE staff were *stupid*, nor have I claimed they
won't build empires with the best of them.
Again, this is a complete nonsequitur to the conversation so far, and
as such, I have nothing to say to it.
Wouldn't it be just as easy to make the school day an hour
shorter and send them home, where there is just as much "outside"
for them to be in, and save the cost of the PE staff?
It would absolutely be easier, but far less beneficial to the kids.
On the point I commented on, there was nothing said about being beneficial
for the kids.
But there was, you just apparently don't know how to read it in
context. As I say, it's quite clear from what Jenn said that the whole
point of getting kids outdoors is to benefit the kids, because it is a
pretty common belief in Western culture that simply being outdoors,
breathing outdoor air is beneficial . You may disagree with that
belief, but that was implicit in the statement.
And it never hurts to know
how to catch a ball with something other than your face.
Two points...First, how often have you ahd to catch a ball since you
were in school?
How often have you had to solve a quadratic equation since you were in
Quite a number of times, actually.
This makes you a rarity in the population, and statistically, I would
suggest that a great many more people wind up with reasons for catching
balls after leaving school than solving quadratic equations. I don't
think I've ever been in a workplace that didn't have organized softball
games between groups or departments, for instance. But the rhetorical
point stands, even if you personally don't find it applicable: most
specific academic content is useless to most of the people who learn it
after they leave school. This demonstrates nothing whatever about the
value of having to learn it in the first place.
How often have you needed to know the primary source of
chemical Boron in the United States since you were in school?
Haven't needed that specific datum, but I did work for a major
chemical company for several years and being able to hold up my
end of a conversation with research chemists was extrememly useful.
Yes, but you see, the minute you get away from the specifics of the
datum, you get out of parallel with your own supposedly devastating
query, and effectively make my point for me -- that is, the value of
the course is not in the specific minutiae, but in the broader skills
acquired in the learning. After all, if you had asked Jenn how often
she needed to know how to swim, or use her reflexes, or be able to run
for a sustained period, you might not have been as confident of an
answer in the negative.
an idiotic argument to take against anything that is taught in schools,
irrespective of the subject matter. Most of what schools teach are the
underlying skills, disciplines, and habits of thought and action that
can then be applied to other tasks later on. Having the reflexes and
eye to be able to catch a flying ball is just as applicable for
catching a cup or jar you just knocked off the counter, or deflecting
an object falling off a shelf at your head, and balance, grace, and
stamina are useful to any physical endeavor you want to undertake.
The problem with your counterargument is that PE didn't actually *teach*
No, that would be a problem with my counterargument if it were
universally true that PE didn't teach anything. But in fact, at most
you can say that PE didn't teach anything to you, in your opinion. I'm
quite certain there are thousands or hundreds of thousands of American
adults who would offer similar opinions of academic classes they took,
and on the whole, it would be as dubious that their assessment were
accurate as it is dubious that your assessment is accurate. But even
if it were true for you, the rhetorical force of asking Jenn how often
she's had to catch a ball since leaving school is obviously to imply
that no one much has need of the specifics of PE after leaving school,
and it is that pernicious thesis that I am arguing against, not your
Such knowledge I had of the rules of various sports I had
before the bulk of my PE, and PE didn't increase that knowledge. The
ability to catch falling objects isn't taught in PE. Any skill I have
there has more to do with being a primate than anything I ever got out of
PE class. One thing you appear to have failed to realize is that some
of us, even when "picked" for teams (last or nearly so, in most case)
put us in positions where the controlling object never came near us.
This lead logically to arranging that the situation continued that way.
One of my sisters has remarked on numerous occasions that her favorite
position in baseball was 'left out'. I suspect a survey of those who
have posted would have quite a few agreeing.
Yes, I myself didn't care for *baseball* in PE, but unlike you, I don't
draw all sorts of unrelated conclusions from it.
Second, does this really take formal PE to learn and does PE actually *teach* how to
do this? (Certainly didn't do so in my day.)
It is certainly possible that kids will learn those skills without
taking PE. It's certainly possible that kids will learn how to spell
and what the parts of speech are without taking English. But it's more
haphazard, for one thing, and for another, it's dereliction on the part
of the school if they neglect it. Especially in the case of children
from poor and underprivileged backgrounds. Affluent kids are going to
get ballet and AYSO soccer and t-ball and ice skating and so on and so
forth, with all the capital expenditure that that entails, even if
their school provides no PE at all. But kids whose parents don't own a
minivan to drive them to league games (or indeed, own a car at all) and
can't afford to give to the fundraisers for uniforms, and can't pay for
the lessons, and don't have the free time to attend games and hold
carwashes and ghu knows what all, are very likely to have a lot fewer
opportunities to discover sports and build skills. And part of the
point of universal public education is to make sure that even poor kids
have comparable opportunities to learn. That includes learning sports.
Yabbut...the PE classsess *didn't*actually*teach*anything*. Are you asserting
that you expect the kids to pick it up by osmisis, because the PE teachers
sure weren't doing anything to transfer knowledge?
Here you go again. You are making a false leap of logic. Just because
your experience was that PE didn't teach anything doesn't mean that PE
doesn't teach anything, full stop. The fact that there is an x, such
that ~A(x) does not imply that for all x, ~A(x), and yet your argument
is abjectly dependent on supposing that it does. You keep leaping from
"PE didn't teach anything to me" (which may or may not be true) to "PE
didn't teach anything to anybody" (which manifestly is not true) by
eliding the direct object of the teaching in your sentence
What I am saying is that PE classes *do* teach things. I can play
badminton, and know the rules of badminton, precisely because I took a
PE class and learnt the rules and the skills involved, and learned them
all while in a mandatory PE class. In PE classes I learned to swim the
butterfly, back-, and proper freestyle/crawl stroke. I learnt the
correct frog kick, and the flip turn, and how to tread water for long
periods of time, and that I can do this, even while fully clothed, but
that getting rid of the shoes helps a great deal. I greatly improved
my flutter kick, and learned how to engage my gluteous muscles better
for greater power. I also learnt how to right a swamped canoe, what to
do when someone is actively drowning, and how amazingly much work it is
to rescue a swimmer with little or no body fat. I learned how to
correctly pick up and carry someone in a fireman's carry, and I have
done it. I learned the basics of high diving. I also learned the basics
of football in PE, though I confess I promptly forgot a lot of them
afterwards, but for a brief shining moment, I could actually throw a
spiral pass and get the ball to spiral rather than tumble. In PE I
learned proper stance for shooting a bow, how to knock an arrow, how to
draw correctly, and how to roll my elbow out of the way so as not to
get abrasion burns and foul my shot. I learned that mythic Amazons
cutting off their breasts to shoot was awfully silly as a literary
conceit, because breasts don't actually get in the way of shooting if
you're drawing to your chin. I learned how to group my shots for
consistency and then worry about moving my aim point. I learned that I
personally prefer fibreglass arrows to wooden ones, if given a choice.
I learned to dribble a soccer ball, and the basic rules of soccer,
which I also eventually forgot and am still not entirely clear on when
the offsides rule applies, but I think I knew once.
And so on and so forth. Obviously PE teaches things. Precisely
because I did not pick these things up by osmosis. I *learnt* them.
I learnt by doing them over and over, and also from my peers.From teachers who taught them, and from a context of practice in which
So, mandatory PE can and does teach skills and specific knowledge. If
it can, then eliminating it from public school programs privileges the
affluent who can go buy those skills and that knowledge for their
children from private sources (or, more commonly, move to more
expensive houses in wealthier school districts where athletic programs
are still supported). And it is precisely this sort of privileging
which the public schools are supposed to act as a thermostatic balance
against, to help provide (of all things) a more level playing field.
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