Monday, July 16, 2018

Post 5700 - Gym Class

Okay, the set of ideas Jennifer Walton-Fissette is selling are a bit crazy, if the report over at PJ Media is correct. (Not a guarantee.  They leave out important details when it suits them.) But there is a lot wrong with gym class, both in my personal memory and what I heard from my sons. Changes are in order.  It is unsurprising that gym class elevates the status of the athletically talented, and I don't mind that at all. Those are a different group than those who have their status elevated in math, or music or public speaking, and it's nice to have some variety. But the second group it favors are the violent, cheating pricks. Used to be, anyway.

I don't know what happens in the girls' classes. Maybe it's as good a balance as can be achieved there, maybe it's worse.

There is some advantage to teaching boys early how to deal with violent, cheating pricks, as they will encounter plenty in their lives. There is also some advantage in teaching boys how to strategise around rules that don't favor you. The trouble is, not all boys are up to that task, as they are starting from too far behind in athletic, intellectual, or social skill. And there's still that bit about rewarding the worst behavior in the room.

The article isn't quite clear whether it is referring to gym class and the formal instruction given to all students or to the team sports that the school sponsors.  I don't think there's much lacrosse instruction in gym class, and I'm not seeing how you work hiking into a 45 minute class. The complaint about "white" sports has some validity. Expensive sports will allow some black and hispanic kids in, but only a few. Fancy baseball bats can cost $250 now.  Gloves, cleats, batting adds up.  Soccer, basketball, track - those are more egalitarian. Field events usually require fancy equipment.

Quite aside from any social justice issues, people have been advocating for years that schools should teach sports that kids can continue as adults. That would deemphasise but not eliminate team sports. The list of alternatives looks pretty good to me.  The best day of freshman gym class by far was the day we did folk-dancing with the girls. I took that lesson to heart and took interpretive dance in college, in a mirrored room with 40 girls in leotards. Sweat on the soccer field all you want, junior. And this room is air-conditioned, too. Other guys scoffed at my having to wear a leotard myself.  I would have worn a clown suit, Jack, squirting flower and all.

I suppose you have to include yoga, because people actually do that as adults. There are more athletic versions of posture exercises, it could be made to work. Rope-climbing?  Climbing wall is better. Swimming?  See leotard, above. I think I missed that trick in school.


Christopher B said...

I don't see much wrong with getting away from skill game playing. One learns little from simply playing, and less from playing poorly. Run skill drills and group exercises, which have the advantage of teaching kids how to practice.

james said...

"If we are not going to teach about social justice issues, then who will?"
Hmm. Is that a typo for
"If we are not going to teach about PE, then who will?"

I was no good at PE at any age--the only time I enjoyed it much was when I took swimming in college in a class with some attractive young ladies, but I wasn't much good at swimming either--never did get the hang of the front crawl. I didn't drown, which is something.

In team sports I was picked last and given positions that didn't matter much--but it still beat doing pushups or running laps. At least the exercise had some clear purpose, and we were all together.

The sports we did in PE didn't usually require much equipment, and most was supplied--at some level. So there wasn't so much class distinction.

Sex distinctions, though--some things boys are better at than girls. If you design games around those things, boys will do better. If you want girls to do well, you either have to segregate them or design some sports based around things they _do_ do well. IIRC the most famous sharpshooters are Annie Oakley and William Tell.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

There is that. There is value in being on a team and working together. Teams can compete against each other, or against the clock, or against some obstacle, such as building a rope bridge. But the former is what brings forth the most focus and energy.

Grim said...

The Army, which has been falling ever more deeply under the spell of Social Justice these last few decades, has recently decided to make its fitness test 'gender and age neutral.' What that means is not that, in fact, the test will be neutral in the strict sense, but that they will modify the standards so that everyone is doing roughly the same number of reps of roughly the same kind of exercise. So instead of asking everyone to do pushups, but women to do fewer pushups for the same score, they will ask everyone to do the same number of deadlifts -- but the weight asked to be lifted will vary by sex or age.

There are some arguments for the new test in terms of the fact that it may do a better job of testing different types of fitness than the current one, but the neutrality benefit is more psychological than actual. Because the soldiers never experience the task their opposite numbers are being asked to perform, they have the sense of doing the same thing. So if we're both doing pushups, but you can only do half as many (and at a lower bodyweight), then I have the sense that you're a lot weaker than me. But if we're both doing deadlifts, and we do the same number -- you may even do more than me! -- then perhaps we are at a parity, or indeed I might have to respect your strength compared to my own. Yet you lifted half the weight I did, or even less.

They're still going to retain the run, in which all soldiers have to aspire to the same time, but of course women are pushing smaller, lighter bodies over the distance. But the psychology remains the same: the women may finish in the same time, or even faster! Clearly their prowess is to be respected as at least equal.

What is lost is the hard fact that the man can lift a lot more, can move over the distance carrying more, and all the other ways in which the male body is generally a better fit for physical combat. The same for the old versus the young: I'll show those whippesnappers by out-doing them in the dealift! (But at my age, I'm being asked to lift a whole lot less per lift according to the 'age neutral' tables.)

RichardJohnson said...

I got some negative social consequences for not getting with the sports program in 6th-7th grade. I got with the program, had better social relations as a result, but most important, had a lot of fun playing those sports.

Perhaps as a consequence of being sick for several months in 4th grade, I put less emphasis into playing sports. The spring of 6th grade, where 6th graders played softball with 7th and 8th graders, was humiliating for me, given the differences in size and strength.

Gym in 7th grade was an interesting lesson in social relations. In fall and spring sports I held my own. As basketball was a relatively new sport for me, I didn't do as well, but I was definitely not the worst in my class- lower third. But a number of the 8th grade boys took it upon themselves to scapegoat me- teacher's words- for my less than stellar play. This scapegoating was most likely because I was the brightest kid with an annoying "little professor" schtick. (When I look back, I am amazed at how tolerant most of my teachers were at my correcting them for factual errors.)

The guy who was the biggest yeller stopped that when he got out of 8th grade. On a Lion's Club bus to a Red Sox game that summer after he got out of 8th grade, he had a cordial conversation with me and a friend about his 8th grade class trip to NYC. And we got along fine in high school- he occasionally gave me a ride home after sports.

In 7th grade I began playing sport of the season every day with a group of neighbors. I was never top dog (one of the group pitched the high school's only no-hitter), but I held my own. One of the gang. I have very fond memories of that time. I improved both my athletic talents and my social relations.

I was alienating other kids with my "little professor" schtick, and playing sports gave me a way to get along better with them- and to get away from the "little professor" schtick during bull sessions before and after playing. I learned a lesson in social relations: talk to people about what interests them. Having learned that lesson, I had some very interesting conversations during my hitchhiking days.

It was an era that apparently cannot be replicated, as nowadays kids do nearly all of their sports in adult-run leagues. Yes, there is overall better play, but kids lose a lot in self governance.

Regarding sports teaching character, I am reminded of the only fist fight I witnessed in all my years of playing sports. The guy who initiated the fight- over some chickenshit reason- later killed his wife over some alleged infidelity. While none of us would have predicted he would have killed his wife, witnessing his bad temper on the playing field meant that we fellow sportsmen weren't as shocked as others at his act.

I ran track and cross country in high school. I wasn't good enough to play on college teams. Running and soccer helped me get through a challenging STEM major. Your mind has turned to mush after studying for hours, but a 3-5 mile run can clear it.

Regarding SJW ideology being put into gym- recall that Phys Ed majors are close to the bottom of the SAT barrel. Which makes Phys Ed a path of least resistance to SJW stuff.

I am uncomfortable with the mixing of female and male physical fitness standards. I am also uncomfortable with those of indeterminate gender winning awards as female athletes.

Grim said...

It occurs to me on reflection that the same psychological processes might be helpful as long as they don't occur in the context of masking a weakening of the military force. In just day to day society, which is all 99% of Americans encounter, there's nothing wrong with reinforcing a notion of social equality by structuring exercises for that purpose. Such a notion is always an illusion to some degree, but it can be a stabilizing one.

For example, if you ever go to a strongman style event, you'll find competitors of all ages, numerous weight classes, and both sexes. Teens lift less than novices, who lift less than open competitors; masters, i.e. older folks, lift one degree of difficulty less than the open class at their weight. Women have classes that mirror the male ones, but that lift far smaller weights. There are even adaptive classes for people with injuries or handicaps that allow them to participate as fully as they are able.

It really does foster a sense of fellow-feeling, in that everyone is pushing himself or herself to a high degree; and they are all doing the same thing, so they have the same set of experiences to some degree. It does build friendships and mutual respect. It's praiseworthy, as long as it isn't in the military context.

Texan99 said...

My HS experience was in the 70s, when all this was changing fast. I had truly ridiculous Mickey Mouse teachers who made girls play a weird variety of volleyball in which each player was required to stand inside a small circle--something to do with preventing us from getting hurt, I think. But I also had teachers who offered girls the chance to do whatever they were actually capable of. I ran a sort of track for a while, but it was not a very serious or competitive affair. I think they do it better now. I thought the whole thing was silly at the time, but in hindsight of course I wish I'd developed better habits concerning physical fitness at an early age. It probably would also have been an excellent idea to get a better grip on team dynamics. Sports to this day are deeply boring to me, with rare exceptions.

I took a karate class for a while as a teenager. They did a pretty good job, as I recall, of integrating the boys and girls without lying to themselves about the boys' obvious greater strength or denigrating the girls' ability to learn some techniques for compensating for their small size. It's pretty obvious, though, that I know absolutely zero about fisticuffs, never having struck anyone or been struck myself. It's an area of complete mystery. My mind just doesn't go there.