Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Great debate over merits of ‘gym’ class

It was with some interest that I read a Chicago Tribune report about several school districts across the state that are hoping to take advantage of new laws allowing them to reduce the amount of physical education class time they require of their students.
Will future generations not climb the ropes?

It’s meant to be a potential cost-saving device if they don’t have to maintain proper facilities to offer gym class to every student on a regular basis. It’s also seen by some as a way of allowing local school officials to set their own priorities.

ALL I KNOW is that it would seem my memories of spending an hour per day in high school in gym class, engaging in whatever athletic activity the teachers/coaches felt was timely are a part of the distant past.

Modern-day kids aren’t engaging in such activity. Which may be for the best.

Since my own memories of gym class usually bring to mind spending some 45 minutes or so ambling our way through some game that nobody seriously cared about.

And for some, were anxious to ignore at all costs.

MY OWN PERSONAL horror story was a time when we were supposed to play badminton, and the person I was partnered with was something of a klutz. Not that I was ever one to excel athletically. But that day, I was the “elite” player, which wasn’t saying much.

It was also the day I was trying to hit the so-called bird and my “partner” flailed away with his racket – smacking me in the back of the head in the process.

Yes, we lost that game. I was dazed for a few seconds. I’m not sure anybody’s physical fitness was improved with such activity. Gym class always added “C’s” to my report card, just because I didn’t care.

Which supposedly was the purpose of having daily gym class – to get us engaged in a little bit of physical activity that might actually improve our overall fitness. It’s a nice ideal, but I’m sure the way that gym class was handled back in the day usually meant the only people who benefitted were the ones who had their academic struggles in all their other classes.

MEANING GYM CLASS was the one bit of the day where they weren’t aimlessly flailing about. Unless, by chance, they were also clumsy. In which case, the entire educational experience they endured was something of a loss for them.

I’m also sure that the people who went through school thinking “gym class” was their favorite part of the day are the ones who grew up to become individuals who bad-mouthed former first lady Michelle Obama and her own efforts to focus attention on physical fitness.

They probably wanted to think that gym was all about the actual ballgames played in class, and are probably among the people who are going onto the Internet to bad-mouth the current Illinois policies as somehow “sissifying” physical education and our society, in the process.

I do wonder at times if that time I spent in gym class could have been put to more productive use. Although I’ll also admit I mostly remember gym class as something of a break in the day. My own horrid memories of the experience come from the one year in which physical education was my first activity of the high school day.

TO SHOW UP at high school about 7 a.m. and have people immediately expect me to be active was a little cruel. Although I remember having high school newspaper activity scheduled at the end of my school day always seemed like a pleasant way to end – regardless of the nonsense that had occurred in the hours leading up to it.

Remembering high school gym and the hour devoted to class does bring back one memory that I must admit repulses me if I think too much about it. Remember I said it was 45 minutes of activity? The rest of the time was devoted to getting dressed for gym, then changing back into regular clothes for classes.

My own memory is that I rarely showered after gym class. Very few people did. I’m sure there were times I was sweaty and smelly as a result of gym class activity.

It must have been a funky experience – one whose aroma I’m pleased to confess I seem to have suppressed.


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