Thank God I grew up in the 90s. Really, I can’t be grateful enough for that. Especially with each new story about how the schools are becoming tailor-made to the feelings of the most emotionally challenged child or their parent. There was the school that banned balls (congrats, none of the boys at that school will have any in the future), score can no longer be kept (spoiler alert, every parent, coach, and child at that game is keeping score in their head), and even playing tag is out because someone might get hurt (either from running or feeling targeted). Now they’ve gone a step further and revamped the PE program to be gentler and kinder to those who just can’t handle the pressures of athleticism.
Instead of the far too involved sports like basketball, floor hockey, and the beloved dodgeball, children are encouraged to do what they feel like. Jumping rope, archery, and yoga are the new options. Competition is a thing of the past, because someone might have his or her feelings hurt. Running the mile is out, which is a shame, it’s something we all had to suffer through. I hated the mile, mainly because I could only run for so long before I had to walk it, 27 laps around the soccer field. Here’s the great thing that would happen though, other kids in class would have to walk the mile as well and we would walk it together. Students you hadn’t spoken to all year were suddenly by your side. We also never had the pleasure of picking our own teams in high school, that damage was done in middle school. High school we counted off and that was the team you were on. Sometimes you were with the super athletic kids, other times you were with the stoners, it was that simple.
What happened in the last 10 years that changed PE so drastically? When I was in school we generally enjoyed the class, even the less than athletic kids. Everyone had at least one area that they were capable in; personally I was awesome at hockey. Dreadful at basketball, but when those hockey sticks came out and the game ball dropped I would at some point hear the teacher shout out “Nice work, Sara! Good hustle!” And at some point during the class you were given the option of continuing to play the sport of the day or go to the weight room. The weight room was where you could really develop habits that you can keep later in life. I still use methods of lifting weights and endurance that I formed in gym class.
The statistic I’ve seen cited most often with these stories is that of the school children, one in three is overweight. You know a great solution for that? Dodgeball. Sports that actually make you sweat and run around. You know what isn’t a great solution for weight loss? Archery. Honestly, I would’ve faked an injury if my PE teacher had been foolish enough to give the boys in my class bows and arrows. There’s no way that would’ve ended well.
But these bans speak to a larger problem with the schools nowadays. People are so terrified of children possibly feeling anything less than successful that they remove all obstacles. Might fail? Let’s get rid of tests. Actually failing? Let’s punish the students who actually did their work. Can’t play a sport? That’s okay, precious snowflake, go jump rope for an hour. It’s insulating an already coddled generation of children in a bubble full of fake success, a bubble that will quickly burst once they get to the real world. Schools do children a disservice when they remove competition and the situations to learn how to cope with failure. It’s a terrible feeling to be picked last, between kindergarten and 8th grade I was picked last on a regular basis, but you learn to get over it. I’ve taken a basketball to the face, a field hockey ball to the thigh, and a lacrosse stick to the head; you put ice on it and go back to class. The great lessons of PE: be a gracious loser, a humble winner, learn how to contribute to a team, and learn from your mistakes. Sometimes you’ve got to take a dodgeball to the head so that you learn to duck next time.