Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The purpose of PE?

Time with Family Bratii and, as seems to be inevitable when children of a certain age are present, talk turned to school. Other than the odd "You don't know how good you've got it" directed at Major the dominating topic in this round was Physical Education.

The initial question was quite innocent "Did they ever teach you the rules to any of the games they made you play?" to which the majority response was "No". They just gave us a ball and told us to sort ourselves out amongst ourselves. In this instance I was fortunate in that I had at least one competent teacher in this subject who did indeed attempt to teach us how various games were played, however I did seem the odd one out in this regard.

Timings came up next to which when PE lessons were scheduled. Who in their right minds puts such a lesson directly after lunch; young we may have been but digestion is digestion. In this vein a hitherto unknown snippet was let out - PE lessons started when the bell sounded and finished again when the bell sounded. All the preparation in terms of getting changed, and the final showers all occurred on 'your' time.

"I didn't know that" said my father. "If you'd told me that I'd have had words"
Once again proving that when you hit an age certain understandings of childhood disappears.

Next up was the topic of which sports you played.
"So in the Summer when it's baking hot we'll have you doing laps on the hot shade-free track; but when it's wet and soggy we'll make you play football on the grass, sorry mud" I said.

All agreed this made little sense and led to cross-country running. To keep a more consistent account it was found that the older generation did actual cross-country running whereas I did cross-town running. Major stated they used to do more country running, but that it's starting to switch to town running.

During this I had a minor rant. "I'm a sprinter, my entire build is for sprinting. In the short distance races I was normally in the top three never out of the top five. Yet 'now it's time for the 5000 metres, gosh you're slow have an extra lap as punishment' - I'm a damn sprinter"

To this everyone agreed and pointed out that those who compete in the 100m races don't also put in for the marathons and vice versa. Now I can understand at the beginning of terms to determine an aptitude, but to my mind and personal experience nothing puts someone off something than making them do something they clearly can't.

It's not a question of laziness or apathy - put a basketball in my hand, a hockey stick or a tennis racket; give me a set of hurdles and I'd be one of the first picks for any team. Not wanting to blow my own trumpet I was good; not the best, but good.

Anything that required (to be blunt) sustained stamina and forget it. Short bursts that's me.

The topic of teams led to how PE was broken up; again to keep this account moving; my elders were split into tiers or streams and each tier took every lesson including PE together. Both mine and Major's reckoning was that PE was split between Home classes which contained a mix of tiers. At this point revelation occurred.

"So you were split up into tiers and if you were in the top tier you were put into top Maths and top English etc. regardless of your actual ability in those diverse subjects; whereas we are assigned a position in each subject separately." I said
"Yes" responded the elders
"So your method of sorting for PE was based on your academical status and mine and [Major's] is purely random"
"Yes" came a more thoughtful reply
"Why? Why isn't PE split into the same structure?"
After some laughter and thoughtful silence
"Because it's a made-up subject" came a reply "It's just there to ensure that the kids get some physical exercise and has no educational value in and of itself"

And that fair readers was our final conclusion. A point I found interesting was that Major who is a normal teenager when it comes to sharing information in this regard i.e. "Grunt!"; not only joined in, but made some valid points.*

Multiple generations all united in one passion - heaping scorn on Physical Education.

*It helps that past discussions have primed the pump so to speak by debating the purpose of homework with a conclusion that it is of little use "and no that doesn't mean you can not do it [Major]" "Awwww!"