The New PE - A Mandate for the Future
The realization that our present generation is the first ever to have a lower life expectancy than all previous is a statistic that’s right in your face. It comes at a time of world crisis when rather than be vulnerable, American citizens must be prepared for any and all occurrences. The worldwide challenges make one reflective of the future. What can we do to help the current generation be more prepared of body, mind and spirit? A new generation of health and fitness teachers understands the problem and are organizing for change.
Naming themselves the NEW PE, courageous teachers who see their role as more than finding elite athletes in their gym classes are taking the challenge of making fitness activities more relevant for all students. The United States Sports Academy heralds these developments, and intends to support them with our upcoming programs and curriculums. It will be helpful for all sport and fitness minded individuals and organizations to understand the nature of the NEW PE and commit ourselves to its agendas-Our motto must be fitness and health for everyone.
Since the 1950’s when President Eisenhower recognized that our youth were in terrible physical shape the government, through the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, has tried to institute school fitness tests under a presidential mandate. For decades the initiative seemed to fail and national health indices stagnated at low levels. However, the 2,000’s have witnessed a revival of sorts. Whether the momentum has finally caught on is uncertain but there seems to be a new vitality for teaching fitness in schools and recreation centers throughout the country and the emphasis is beginning to make a difference. The NEW PE is in line with many current educational teaching models that are emphasizing cooperative curriculum assignments. English teachers, for instance, are rewarding students for their joint efforts and physical education teachers are making their classes less competitive sport directed.
The National Association for Sports and Physical Education (NASPE) headed by Judith C. Young is pushing for physical education teachers to realize their true mission. Executive Director Young points out that sport education is a “valuable part of a child’s development.” She calls the old view of sport education “ a Darwinian view of gym class.” A recent article in Newsweek applauds the new trends. The magazine writes that “physical education classes had been showcases for budding athletes, a yawn for the able bodied and a hardship to be endured by the rest.” Ms. Young councils that fuller fitness education of our youth is a major requirement as “growing statistics showing people in there 20’s and 30’s coming up with diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes that usually appear in middle age are alarming.”
This new breed of progressive physical education instructors sees themselves as teachers as well as coaches. The NEW PE teachers are realizing it takes more than a fitness test and commemorative badges to motivate students. These modern teachers know it is in preparing for the evaluations that they can make sport and play a lifetime activity. One physical education teacher who has been identified as a leader of the NEW PE is Phil Lawler, who teaches at a junior high school in the Chicago area. Checking the heart rate monitors of his less fit students during a standardized test he realized that they were physiologically giving it their best even when scoring poorly. It wasn’t that they were dogging it; they just had a very low fitness level. His remedy was to teach his middle of the road students to “stay in the fitness zone” and train to achieve higher scores. This decisive change in orientation is representative of the mindset also the administrators at the core of the NEW PE movement. As an example of this national trend, the State of Texas has recently allocated $50 million in grant money for PE teachers to refocus their curriculums on fitness.
For it’s part, the United States Sports Academy is taking a leadership role in sport certification programs that can help the millions of young people involved in youth sports. For instance, Dr. Rosandich has developed a cooperative agreement with the NFL Coaches Association (see the Academy (Spring Issue) President’s Column on our Home Page) and is working on various youth sport related programs to help stimulate knowledgeable interest by recreational sport teachers in local communities across the country. National associations such as NASPE (National Association for Sport and Physical Education) provide guidelines for these programs as well as assist in defining effective sport education curriculums. For the first time in many decades there seems to be a momentum towards a significant improvement in youth fitness.
Of course, health is not possible without attention to diet. The traditional concept of the Pyramid of foods just as the scholastic overemphasis on competitive sport is being challenged as “fundamentally flawed”. The Harvard Medical School reports, “the food pyramid even increases the risk of death and disease.” The struggle to match a sensible fitness plan with nutritional guidelines that are not too exclusionary is difficult. Attaining a balanced menu while navigating the fast food highway, while Madison Avenue tries to find ways (super sizing) to make us consume more takes understanding and willpower. Learning more about food sources is the best defense against overly commercial interests. A new nutrition design is recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which is supported and sponsored by major government bodies. The IOM report states that in general individuals should aim at a diet that gives them “45 percent to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent from good fats, and 10 percent to 35 percent from protein.” This is a change from the diet that occurs without thought if we hit the fast food places and nibble at home without awareness.
These new democratic trends of fitness for all are heartening and represent principles the United States Sports Academy has recommended throughout its history. Our creation of a Health and Fitness program that is both academic and general is one indication of our determined leadership. (See Spring Academy’s story on our Health and Fitness Program). Changing the national statistics on health and fitness will take time, but now it seems the blueprint for its achievement is upon the drawing board.