---- — To the editor:
I was recently surprised when I saw your article “Windham school officials drop dodgeball” featured on the popular website known as Deadspin. I am amazed at how this story continues to pop up in the news once or twice a year, as more and more schools come to the conclusion to outlaw this game. I also continue to be amazed at how the exact same debate carries such passion from both of those in favor of and against this decision. As someone who is in his sixth year of teaching secondary physical education, I felt compelled to add an angle that I have yet to hear considered by the public.
From the countless conversations that I have had with people, I have found that physical education is widely considered a step above recess; essentially recess with a grade. Most people I talk to are in favor of it as a subject. People tend to be concerned about growing obesity rates and have a vague feeling that P.E. will help curb these trends. Yet at the same time, I am hard pressed to find anyone who holds my subject with the same esteem as math, science, or any other subject, for that matter. Physical education is at the bottom of the food chain and this is a problem for my profession. Personally, I can see the writing on the wall. I, as a physical educator, am an endangered species.
The cost of educating a child is extremely expensive. In these tough economic times, the public wants justification for every penny that they spend on education, and rightfully so. They want reassurance that they’re not throwing their money away. It is for this reason that every year at budget time, I cross my fingers and hope that this isn’t the year that P.E. gets cut.
Fortunately, colleges have sniffed this out as well, and are training their future physical education teachers to teach differently. You may not have noticed a change in your school district, but sure enough, a change is in motion. It will take some time, but physical education is fighting to show its importance. At my school, I am now responsible for gathering data to show student learning and I even assign fitness and sport-based research papers to help support my school’s goal of improving student writing. Above all, I view my primary obligation as making sure that my students understand the importance of living a physically active lifestyle and developing a positive attitude towards physical activity.
Which brings me back to The Great Dodgeball Debate. People can take sides and argue whether dodgeball is good or bad and whether it encourages bullying or not. However, I believe that those people are missing the point. The true issue is that dodgeball is no longer relevant. It lacks any substantial value. It is merely a relic of the good ol’ days. In today’s world, physical education classes need to have relevance and should revolve around teaching students sports that they can play throughout their lifetime. Classes should give students enough of an introduction to fitness concepts so that when they are adults, they will feel capable of joining a gym and establishing a workout routine.
Education is constantly evolving and it is essential that physical education evolve, too.