Monday, March 24, 2008

Let's Get Physical! And Postal, Too!

I met a woman this weekend who works at a local high school and is responsible for the office aides. And, if you ever went to high school, you know that this is not tying a kid to the fast track. These are the seniors who have earned all the mandatory credit and have a little breathing room on their schedule before graduation, so they take the cool route and hang in the office, shuffle papers, answer phones and generally don't do any serious learning for about an hour. OR SO YOU WOULD THINK. When this woman's stack of pre-paid postage envelopes ran out and a mass mailing was looming, she handed the aides a stack of blank envelopes and a roll of stamps and said, "Here, use these." To this stable of teens, this was akin to pulling out a bag of Russian currency and asking them to convert it to the American dollar. They peeled off each and every stamp and STUCK THEM TO THE LEFT CORNER OF EVERY ENVELOPE. Nice.

This is a handy little precursor to today's education news in the Great State of Alabama regarding a piece of state legislation that proposes high school students take four years of P.E. Parents are mad. Kids are mad. School boards are mad. Why? It would cut into the number of hours that kids can take advanced courses and electives. Clearly, quantum physics and German grammar are not the problem. Stamp application is.

From The Birmingham News, quoting State Rep. Ken Guin:
"Alabama is one of the most obese states in the nation," Guin said. "For children born in 2000, there is a one-in-three chance they will be diabetic. While it is important that we stress academics, we have lost sight of the importance of a child being physically fit." (And, apparently, of a teenager knowing how to mail a letter. But I digress.)

For a multitude of reasons, I am so very grateful I am not in high school. This article goes on to highlight about half of them. But not having to take P.E. 225 minutes a week doesn't even make the Top 100. If someone gave me the choice between higher math and suffering social humiliation in P.E., I would say, "Point me toward the gym!" Run some laps, do some deep knee-bends, climb a rope ...

P.E. is as much a part of the American high school experience as driver's ed, the prom and (in my day) the Smoking Area, which effectively carved out a Who's Who in high school society. Without a Smoking Area, I don't know how the high school caste system works. Same goes for the apparent reduction of P.E. courses over the years. Without high school P.E., our kids get more obese, health care costs escalate, and TV and movie scripts suffer. (Just ask John Hughes, who marinated in high school angst and banked on P.E. to prove his point more than once; see Pretty in Pink. LOVE John Hughes.)

Bottom line: If teens aren't getting Postal Education at home (which apparently they are NOT), where are they learning Physical Education? On the streets? Ours is a nation in crisis. Let your tax dollars do the work...