So much for the ‘physical’ in physical education
As a young boy, I constantly heard my parents condemn the state of the world. In their minds, my generation was responsible for many of society’s ills. Of course, my actions reflected the transgressions of my generation. If I walked to the bus stop in subzero weather wearing no more than a jean jacket, it was not a singular incident; it was a reflection of Generation X.
“When I was your age, teens were responsible,” my parents would collectively grumble. “We didn’t care about fashion or fitting in,” they would continue. “We cared about not getting hypothermia.”
Whenever a child (me) complained about attending the opera, my mother would turn to me and say, “When I was a your age, children were obedient and did not complain.” My generation proved to be lacking in a number of areas.
Now that I am a parent, I have tried to shy away from the aforementioned expression. Many times, I have had opportunity to justifiably use the phrase on my children. I’ve heard complaints about the Internet being down for five minutes. When I was your age, we had to take the bus to the library to perform academic research. I’ve been chastised for my generation’s destruction of the ozone. When I was your age, the issue wasn’t a slow, drawn out deterioration of the world; the concern was whether we’d nuke the planet to ashes.
Despite thinking up a litany of snarky “When I was your age” rebuttals, I have refrained from verbalizing that oh-so-familiar line.
For the record, my complaint is in no way directed at my offspring. My beef is with the state of America. Specifically, I have a problem with the way the American school system defines exercise.
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Not long ago, I struck up a conversation with my son. This is a relatively unexpected event since Alex — a junior-high student — usually answers parental queries with a single-word response. (How was school? Fine. Anything new to report? Nah. Figure out the meaning of life yet? 42.)
Me: So, what are you guys up to in gym?
Alex: (slowly) Staaaacking.
Me: So, is that a game where you jump on stuff and “stack,” a la gymnastics or parkour?
Alex: No. It means we arrange cups. In a stack. Stacking.
Suddenly, I found my mouth moving involuntarily:
“When I was your age, physical education would never, EVER involve stacking cups. When I your age, when people stacked cups, it was called doing the bloody dishes!”
I just can’t accept stacking as a reasonable phys ed activity. It’s the equivalent of the English teacher who plays movies to pass time. It’s bullcrap. It’s lazy! Here’s the kicker: Alex agreed. He hates stacking.
I’m fully aware that today’s athletic landscape is quite different than the 1980s and ‘90s. In my day, just about every kid took part in multiple sports. None of this “specialization” crap. Back then parents just wanted their kids out of the house. As a result, kids participated in several sports — anything to get them outside. Despite being a skinny, uncoordinated kid, I played tennis, soccer, baseball and football — football! My parents didn’t care that Lance Papenfuss — the biggest guy on the team — might inadvertently rip my head off in practice. The point was I would be out of the house when the aforementioned decapitation took place.
Another difference between then and now is the kind of sports that are popular. I’m perfectly fine with alternative athletics. Skateboarding and snowboarding are fine examples of activities that weren’t exactly du jour when I was younger. Of course, the Olympics have taken alternative sports to the extreme. Now we’ve got bloody synchronized diving and rhythmic gymnastics instead of baseball and wrestling.
But even with the evolving landscape of athletics, I just can’t condone stacking.
Whatever happened to the “physical” in physical education? Sure, one could break a mild sweat when stacking. I recently saw a YouTube video of a kid who could speedstack like crazy. Still, a few beads of perspiration do not necessarily make an activity worthy of physical education. I mean, people sweat when they are taking a crap—but I don’t expect loaf pinching to become a PTA-approved physical education pursuit (though the Olympic committee is considering sphincter-related events for the 2016 games).
And don’t tell me that stacking is a sport. It isn’t. Yes, it requires hand-eye coordination, but so does the game of quarters, and I don’t expect that one to make it into the phys ed curriculum anytime soon.
I mean, if stacking is considered “physical,” America just needs to admit that we’ve lost the war on obesity. That’s right, Lard 1 America 0. Game OVER.
We are headed down the road to pudgy perdition. We might as well just accept that in a generation or two, the term “American” will be synonymous with double chins and growing gluteus maxima. Sure, we’ll still have some lithe bodies here and there, but the torporous shift toward bodies that resemble Jabba the Hut has already begun.
But there’s no need to worry. Americans will be able to stack the shit out of cups, which makes us the perfect labor force in restaurants across China’s eastern seaboard.
David Weinshilboum, who is perfectly fine with silly hybrid games like “football basketball” and “tackle badminton,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.