Scholastic.com has reported physical education programs are shifting from a team and competitive sport focus to a more life long, self-referenced perspective. Is this change a good thing?
Superficially, the change may seem beneficial. Physical education has recovered from a period of de-emphasis. The Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA (2012) has found the number of states mandating P.E. has increased across the elementary, middle, and high school levels. During the period from 2006 to 2012, the largest increase appeared at the elementary school level as 43 states currently require P.E. (up from 36 in 2006).
Proponents of “old school” P.E. may feel this new curriculum may reduce learning of important social skills such as teamwork and collective effort. Many social skills such as conflict resolution and independent organizational ability may stem from the cooperation found in successful team sport programs. Additionally, many P.E. instructors were brought up and trained using team sports as a model. A new curriculum may require new training as well as new thinking.
The changes appear to be brought about as many young people found themselves disaffected and not participating in the team sport paradigm. No participation means no benefits. The value of life long physical activities should be especially prized by those concerned with health problems associated with physical inactivity. Health benefits begun in school programs are thought to be advantageous to future society if carried forward throughout the lifetime of students.
Incorporating self-referenced activities leads to potentially intrinsically motivated skills. It’s easy for a child to see progress in weight/resistance training or aerobic activities such as walking or jogging for distance. Improvements can facilitate intrinsic motivation – a good indicator of persistence and participation over a lifetime. There are obstacles. New curriculums can require new training, new equipment, and acceptance from previous generations. However, an active lifestyle leads to fewer physical and psychological problems – a benefit to society at large.