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Physical Education

Should physical education be required for AS kids, even if they do not enjoy it?

My Opinion:
I was near suicidal in high school because I was tormented by my peers. I was considered a "curve wrecker" by most of my peers, I occasionally said and did strange things in public, I did not understand social interaction at all, and I have numerous visible physical difficulties. I was tormented endlessly because of these things, which also caused me to basically give up on myself too. I soon figured out that if I was going to survive high school, I needed to find some sort of "friends" who would allow me to hang around with them, to provide me with some measure of insulation against those who would physically abuse me.

Because of my physical limitations, I am unable to participate in any physical activity without hurting myself, with the exception of basic walking on a flat surface, and swimming. So I volunteered to assist the coaches for the girls’ volleyball and basketball teams, and I joined the school swimming team. This allowed me to develop "friendships" with the other kids on those teams, plus it was nice to be active also, without hurting myself.

As a side benefit, I lettered in swimming for three years and I actually received a 6th place medal in Southern California Regional Championship CIF swimming competition. I enjoyed very much my experience as an assistant and as a swimmer during my high school years. The peers I knew as friends from these experiences, altho probably not friends in the true sense because I did not socialize with them outside of these activities, are the only peers I really have good memories of from this time period.

My coach was a wonderful person who adapted many of the weight-lifting workouts and other things, to enable me to participate and enjoy myself, to allow me to become a better swimmer, and he also allowed anyone who wanted to, to participate on the teams, even a severely overweight and otherwise disabled boy who had to struggle mightily simply to remain legal in the performance of the different events while he was swimming. On one particular day, for one event he actually was in "danger" of not being the last-place competitor, and even members of the opposing team were standing next to his lane and cheering for him. When he finished for his first, last, and only non-6th place finish, the members of both teams jumped in to the water to congratulate him, including the person who finished in 6th place, because that person was glad to simply finish legally at all, having just returned from a hospital stay following a car accident. I also remember specifically at the end of my last season with the team, this boy's mother spoke briefly to us at our award banquet, and told us that it was because of our offer of friendship to him despite his obvious disabilities, that he actually enjoyed high school and did not continue with his suicidal activities from his previous school. It surprised me to learn that he was very similar to me. My swimming coach, and two wonderful teachers of regular "academic" subjects, taught me that there are some good people in the public schools, who can look past the visible and invisible difficulties and struggles, and actually care about the soul of the person inside.

However, I do not believe children should be *forced* to participate in what is currently called "physical education" in today's public schools. There is adaptive pe, which would be good for kids like me who are physically unable to participate in most sports. But I believe the emphasis in most all pe, especially for kids like me, should be participation and individual improvement, rather than competition and "winning". Today’s regular pe teachers seem to forget about that. And there should be offerings for things like archery, and other relatively low-intensity physical activities. Physical activity can be fun, but only if the child has chosen something that is fun for the child. Forcing "fun" activities on a child because other people think they are fun, and not because the individual child thinks they are fun, is guaranteed not to work.

Also, I do not believe grades should be assigned, or if they are, should be based on effort and individual achievement, rather than the meeting of pre-established goals for all kids. But I do believe physical activity should be a part of every child's school day, with the provision that it is an activity the child selects and enjoys, and obviously is one in which the child is physically able to participate.

I like physical activity to make me tired. It is a different sort of tired than mental tiredness, and it makes me sleep better and wake up more refreshed. It also gives me more energy, not less, to engage in other daily activities such as "chores". But if I was *forced* to participate in an activity which I did not enjoy, and one which caused me to be physically injured, then obviously I would not enjoy it.

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