A modest proposal for Phys Ed

So the other day I was pondering the cancer which gnaws at the heart of our country (that’s sports, guys) and I was thinking that it seems to me that basically we have two problems:

  1. Academic administrators aren’t even remotely mature enough to handle sports at the high school level, and IMO are often not entirely mature about it at the college level, either.

  2. People love pro sports, and we need a way to train athletes.


Why not simply have no sports in high school (except for extracurricular teen sports leagues,) and have students who want to go on to become athletes train at special sports colleges?

I realize that there are some problems in the implementation of this- namely, the parents will squawk about killing high school sports, and it would be bureaucratically difficult to split off sports programs from colleges into separate institutions. But it appears to me that as an ideal, this solves the problem of schools being “sports schools,” and of athletes being passed in courses which they actually failed in order to keep them on the field. I mean, if the goal of school sports is to create pro athletes, why make a pretense of teaching them how to compose an essay? Why waste the taxpayer’s money on turning bullies into stars? If parents want sports for their kids, they can pay for it themselves.


Well, I think I have the exact opposite opinion. Think of the situation reversed. We need to train scientists, so why not get rid of science in high school and send the people who want to be scientists to special science colleges? Both of these, science and athletics, require a lifetime is experience and training.

Personally, I’ve always felt that school sports should be mandatory (unless you have a medical condition or something) because, IMO, developing yourself physically is just as important as developing yourself mentally. I think throughout someone’s elementary and high school carreers, they should be taught: basic team sports, gymnastics, martial arts, firearms, track and field, swimming, weightlifting, calesthenics, nutrition, sex-ed, basic first aid and CPR, etc.

And how to drive a car.

And this is coming from a fat, slow geek who trips over cordless telephones.

I don’t think the two are parallel- science education isn’t associated with the sorts of abuses you see in sports education.


What kind of abuses? The fat kid getting made fun of by the teacher type abuses? I assure you, the exact same thing happens to the stupid kid in AP physics.

I think the solution to your problem is better teachers, not an elimination of a valuable program.

Perhaps you should clarify what you mean by “abuses.”

Ben I must disagree with your position that sports should be eliminated from high school. I beleive that sports and physical education need to be included. I relate sports to be the honor classes of physical education. It does more than train people to be professional athletes. Having a good education in physical education enables people at a very early age to learns ways to manage stress, cholesterol levels,and obesity. Sports also develops teamwork, good sportsmanship, and sense of fair play.

Since not every student goes to college, removing physical education and sports from the high schools would deny those children with the opportunity to learn how to participate in sports. Some children enter sports at an early age and feel that they would never want to become a professional athlete. Yet as they learn the sport, they find that they like it and have a talent for it. Some times they even make a career out of it.

You mention that “abuses” take place in sports, on that point you are correct. “Abuses” also take place in every other field of education, the work place, and personal relationships. It is human nature. Since it can not be totally eliminated, why not have our children exposed to it at an early age so they learn to deal with it in positive way. I think that when a teacher or coach is found to be “abuseive” then his/her services should be terinated.

Feh and bah. Do we really need to train people to be professional athletes? I mean there’s what, a couple thousand paid positions available? For the single most useless and overpaid occupation in the history of the universe. I don’t see why taxpayers should pay money to fill this demand.

There are many ways to handle stress, and it would be far more cost-efficient to pass out those little-squeeze balls during freshman orientation. Or better yet, hand out gift certificates for free massages during finals week. Choleseral, obesity, and general bad health is the second great bogeyman, but we don’t have to chase down our food anymore and I really don’t see how being fat is that huge of a disadvantage in this day and age. Granted you won’t get as much, but shouldn’t parents protest that, by promoting physical fitness, public schools are making it more likely their children will have sex?

If you want to learn teamwork, join the damn drama club or chess team. Athletics only promote sportsmanship and fair play when the teachers/coaches promote those values, and the same teachers (but not coaches) can promote those valuse in other settings. All mandatory athletics teaches is that some people are good at/interested in sports, and some people aren’t. It teaches competition. It promotes a hierarchy among youths based on physical prowess, rather than inherent goodness.

And granted, most of the above can be said of art, algebra, history, or whatever. But I’d rather live in a world where the artists and intellectuals are the only ones with an easy path to self-esteem than our current one. And forcing a jock who has a one in a million chance of becoming a pro athlete to learn skills he might never need is a sounder investment than forcing someone who has a one in one chance of becoming an accountant to learn how to throw an oblong ball in a tight spiral.

In an ideal world, teachers and students would work to figure out what the student’s talents and predilections are at an early age, and then they’d be allowed to concentrate on and master that, rather than being held to this forced eclecticisism until they’re halfway through college. But its even more maddening when:

A) Part of the forced eclecticism is something as mind-numbingly assinine as baseball.

B) The mind-numbingly assinine part of this eclecticisim is often held to be of more value, and usually goes a long way to shaping social structures for pre-pubescents.

C) I’ve probably mispelled eclecticism a bunch of times.

And, let’s face it, kids will play sports on their own if they want to/are good at it. Forcing people to take phys ed. is like having a mandatory cotton candy eating class. Those who are drawn to cotton candy don’t need to be forced, and those who don’t care for cotton candy are only made miserble.

I think there are a lot of negative stereotypes associated with high school athletes, expecially in the major sports like football, but these stereotypes aren’t usually accurate. To call these athletes “bullies” that “abuse” others in physical education classes is an unfair generalization. In my experience in high school (class of '97), the typical athlete was in no way a bully, and didn’t really abuse others. True, sometimes the athletes got an inflated ego or got a little cocky, but I didn’t see any true abuse in PE or anywhere else.

I hate most team sports. I was never exceptionally good at them, and I despised being among those who faced scorn and ridicule from their teammates because I wasn’t a good enough player.

But I value exercise a great deal, and I don’t feel that I got enough of it when I was in school.

Personally, I would like to see MORE time devoted to Phys Ed (every day for an hour, plus at least a half hour to shower and change). But NOT to team sports. F— learning how to play baseball. How does standing in left field improve my health? I would like to see more time devoted to individual/small group activities that kids are likely to continue throughout their lives: running, weight training, martial arts, hell, even dance.

I understand that it’s tougher to keep kids interested in pumping iron or taking a three-mile run. So I wouldn’t kill team sports altogether. Just reduce them, esp. once you reach the high school level.

Yes, there’s nothing more enriching or character-building than an 8-year-old child being called a “faggot” because he can’t catch a football. Or allowing larger, stronger children to team up against smaller, weaker children and throw a large red rubber ball at them repeatedly. Let’s by all means expose kids to that as often as we can.

One reason why this system should not be implemented is that lots of kids would probably want to train to be athletes but only a very select few would make the grade. The rest would fail, knowing they’d just wasted god knows how long in the Sports College. For example I always wanted to be a sprinter. I could do the 100meters in 11 seconds when I was 16. I used to train after school for a couple of hours every single day and I just couldn’t break that record. By the time I was 18 it finally sank in that I wasn never going to break it and as such, I should turn my mind to something else. If we instituted special Soprts Colleges there would probably be very many failed athletes who would have wasted an opportunity to go to college. They would have to wait for a year before applying again. In that time they may have become more disillusioned with education and they might choose not to go back at all. I can foresee that happening to a great many people, it nearly happened to me and it would have been quite a disadvantage to me if I wanted to apply for University (which I do) because I would have been a year behind everyone else and probably would have had to redo at least part of my tertiary education.


Would you care to explain how sports is a cancer which gnaws at the heart of our country? Of my top list of things society needs to worry about sports isn’t anywhere near the top.


It seems to me that most schools aren’t having all that much difficulty with sports. I don’t see what the problem is and you haven’t explained what you see as the problem.


The vast majority of high school athletes go on to professional sports. It isn’t an issue.


Why not have sports in high school? You haven’t illustrated the problem with sports.

You keep switching from high school to college so its hard to keep things straight. I can’t think of any colleges out there with heavy involvements in sports that doesn’t also care about academics. I’m sure athletes are given preferential treatment but I don’t think the answer is to get rid of all sports. That seems rather silly to me.

Why not get rid of all extra-curricular activities? Music, drama, art, and all those other nifty activities?


And by the way your characterization of athletes as bullies is unfair I think.

How does chess promote teamwork? In addition to providing a chance to compete and test your will against others, a good athlete learns to really work with others. I can’t think of another high school activity that places such a high value on utilizing each person’s unique abilities and learning to work together.

I play fair because it’s the honorable thing to do. If your teammates don’t respect you or your actions, you won’t play as a team.

I love sports. What I do not like is math. My conceptual skills are fine(680 Math SAT) and I know more than enough to get around in the world. I am not interested in math. Should I be forced to spend 100s of hours studying math that I will not need? Should I have to be constantly reminded that my Calculus abilities are inferior to those of my classmates?

“Inherent goodness” is not a measureable quality and is very subjective. The world has a hierarchy too. It isn’t based on “inherent goodness” either. Some people are naturally good, some aren’t. If you aren’t good, you better work your ass off if you want to succeed.

Ohio State University and Indiana University, among others. In his recent book, [url=“http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0805038647/qid=980508685/sr=1-6/ref=sc_b_6/105-5827138-7569562”]Beer and Circus[/url, Prof. Murray Sperber discusses (among other things) how substandard many Div. I school undergraduate programs are, and how they lure students with the promise of a party atmosphere and big-time sports.

I am going to assume that Ben did not call baseball a ‘cancer which gnaws at the heart of our country’.
School sports are great extra-cirricular activities. I agree that there are abuses, but IMHO, that’s no reason to throw out the good with the bad.

Phys-ed should be just that. The emphasis should be on instruction on physical conditioning to promote better health, not sports. Sports should happen after school.

Ohio State University and Indiana University, among others. In his recent book, Beer and Circus, Prof. Murray Sperber discusses (among other things) how substandard many Div. I school undergraduate programs are, and how they lure students with the promise of a party atmosphere and big-time sports. The purpose of doing so is to build a large undergrad student body (while not teaching them adequately) and use that tuition for athletics and research grants.

This is why I hate public fucking education. Not because of gym specifically, but because of these types of arguments.

friedo said it best way back in the beginning:

Yep. I whole heartedly agree we should collectively mold our children into fine young Americans, its for the public good! Nothing like mandatory anything.

Phys Ed always was mandatory in my school: two years of it.

But, if we are going to have phys ed, we should learn about sports (I actually had tests in gym about who invented what sport, tec) and general calisthenics or aerobics. No need to point out someone’s deficiencies IMO.

BTW, I don’t remember ever picking on someone for not knowing physics. Though I did pick on a kid for being a senior struggling through pre algebra. sigh Kids are mean, aren’t they? Maybe we should make niceness mandatory too to fix everything.

Well, I can’t speak for Indiana but I can for Ohio. That was a party college. Not that there wasn’t a good education available however. But that wasn’t why most people went to Ohio State.

Or Bowling Green, for that matter.

I’d like to clarify something I said in my last post, that we should learn about sports but actually do aerobics and such.

slight hijack, boxing gloves on

It is absolutely ridiculous to think that any major college does not care about academics (except maybe UNLV…just kidding). Anyone who thinks that a school with 30,000 students is there only to cater to the 1,000 who play sports is nutty. Do you want to know why college football and basketball are so big? It’s because they have to be. They pay a majority of the expenses of the whole athletic department. How is that a problem? Nothing is taken away from the academic departments. Anyway, you get what you put into it. You work hard, you get a good education. You don’t, you won’t. Regardless of the school. Most 18-yr-olds can’t see that. If I had gone to college at 24 instead of 18, I would have had a much better education.

By the way, this is the first time I’ve heard my alma mater, Indiana University, described as a party school. Maybe things have changed, but back in '79 I saw just as much partying going on at Northwestern.

I can’t speak for Ben, but the abuses that come to my mind are things like special privaledges for athletes. The most egregious example IMHO is atheletes getting a free ride through college in the financial and academic sense. (I’m not saying this is true of all atheletes, but it is certainly true in other cases.) At the high school level, I’m thinking of coaches who can’t teach worth doody, and even if they were decent teachers, it was coaching, not teaching, that was their priority.

It is very strange to me that extracurricular sports are so intimately entangled with academics in this country. However, I think that physical education should still be part of the curriculum, because it teaches valuable skills to all students.

Might I suggest that it might be prudent to read the book before disagreeing with the author’s conclusions? His conclusion (and he teaches at IU) is that undergraduate educations across the board are becoming less rigorous, and often the worst undergrad programs are those at colleges with a significant NCAA football or basketball presence. He proposes sports as a symptom, not a cause; the more students you can attract with your glamorous sports program (either to play OR watch), the more money can be directed upwards to other functions, at the expense of a good education.

Enrollment slots and scholarship money (esp. at Div. III schools, where athletic scholarships are not allowed, so student athletes often get other scholarships then fail to graduate).