I am getting a lot of mail about P.E. and JROTC, and a great deal from P.E. supporters who don’t think the course should be allowed as an alternative to P.E. I’m sorry, but I disagree.
It’s true that in recent years, the state has made great progress in raising standards for physical education. It has beefed up its content standards, as well as its requirements. It’s important for us to teach students to value and achieve physical fitness, to understand how to live healthfully, and help them draw the connection between physical and emotional health. It’s also true that earning a credential to teach P.E. requires a significant commitment of time and effort.
What I disagree with is the insistence that only P.E. can achieve these goals. Yes: in many (and even most!) cases, traditional P.E. can help students learn what they need to know in order to live a healthy lifestyle and be physically fit. But in some cases, traditional P.E. is counter-productive, and I question whether it’s a wise course to insist on a one-size-fits-all approach. The fact is that there are alternatives, from competitive athletics, marching band, dance and, yes, JROTC, which can all provide the vigorous physical activity required by the state, while also engaging students and involving them in activities they are committed to and which they enjoy.
I applaud our efforts, through the P.E. Master Plan, to improve our P.E. instruction and better align that instruction to the state content standards. However, I don’t see that work as the only way to get to our overarching goal of helping students learn the benefits of being physically fit. To my mind, the most important thing is to help students find a physical activity they enjoy, and one they will stick with in order to live a healthy and fit life. So I’m sorry, but I think it’s important to allow students as many alternatives as we can if the outcome is that they will ultimately learn how to respect themselves, respect their bodies, and make choices that lead to a healthy, long, and fulfilling life.
I also reject the contention that allowing qualified alternative courses to satisfy the state’s P.E. requirements somehow cheapens the credential that certified P.E. teachers work so hard to earn. This isn’t about the teachers! This is about finding the best ways to reach and engage every child in the quest to help young people live healthier lives. I’m sorry if P.E. teachers feel their professional qualifications are somehow dismissed; I don’t endorse that view. But I also don’t endorse the view that it’s disrespectful to P.E. teachers to allow students a range of options to satisfy a requirement.
Finally, it’s come to my attention that a district employee, acting in an official capacity as a supervisor, sent an email to many of our P.E. teachers claiming that some high school P.E. teachers could lose their jobs if the district again allows students an alternative pathway to traditional P.E. Aside from the fact that this claim couldn’t be further from the truth, it’s also an outrageous abuse of this employee’s responsibilities as a supervisor and a blatant attempt to manipulate teachers in order to influence an action of the Board. (Wouldn’t you write the Board if a supervisor told you your job might depend on it?)
Bottom line: with the new P.E. master plan we will have need for more, not fewer P.E. teachers, regardless of what happens with JROTC. Also, the deadline to send out layoff notices for next year is long past, so even if we WERE planning to lay off P.E. teachers (we aren’t!), we would not legally be able to.