May 01, 2007
Public school physical education stinks. Along with that, we see record obesity, record low fitness, and record low activity levels among school-age kids in the United States. How many schools in the U.S. have a requirement for daily physical education? How many schools provide adequate staff, equipment, and time for physical education so it has a chance at being effective?
Although administrators everywhere in the U.S. will say they do, it is a sad fact that, over and over again, the norm is that free-for-all recess is counted as physical education in many school systems. It is also common that physical educators, like one I know in Bowie, Texas, have 65 kids and only 45 minutes, a gymnasium, limited resources, and a state-mandated curriculum to work with. The curricula tend to be focused either on short units on various team sports or on "health" and "lifetime activities"--but never on fitness.
All these factors are a recipe for failure of epidemic proportion. One of my master's students chronicled this failure in a thesis research project that assessed fitness improvement over two years of junior high school physical education. Of the three junior high schools studied, only one set of kids made even minor improvements in standard physical fitness scores.