Healthy People 2020
According to data available today, people are primarily stagnant. If there is a shortcut available, people take it. The shortcut, in this sense, does not refer to cutting across a field to get home. Instead, it means if we can take our car a few blocks to a friend’s home, we do that. In some case, it appears shortcuts such as these are necessities for safety; we no longer live in a world that is safe, where we can walk from house to house unharmed. However, we do not have to live in fear all of the time, or always take a shortcut. Walking to a friend’s home when it is only a few blocks away, then, would be a real change to affect physical activity in our communities. Schools have reportedly begun making physical education class optional, or removing it from the curriculum completely. While elective sports should remain optional, another way to exact permanent change would be to make this class mandatory and relatively physical. Keeping children moving and engaged during recess is another way to ensure this.
Coordinating the effort to inject physical activity between school and home would be more difficult, but it is possible. Much like when a child is sent home with a reading assignment, they could be sent home with a task that demanded physical activity. Rather than demanding they be observed doing push-ups, sit-ups, or other strenuous activity, for children it would be beneficial if the activities were fun and engaging. For instance, the assignment could demand the child go birdwatching, giving detailed field notes of what they see or do not see. The assignment would require the child to get exercise, even if it is in the form of simply walking around their home. Moreover, it would incorporate other skills needed in school, while fostering a love of the outdoors. Another example could be to get parents more involved in the physical activities held at school. Annual Field Days, typically held at the end of many academic school years, invite parents to watch their children compete in different activities. The activities range from running the mile to competing in the egg toss. If the parents were invited to compete with the children, however, perhaps the child’s home life would include family training or exercises to bond and prepare for the day.
While fitness tests are a good way for many to understand if they are making progress or not, it remains to be seen whether they are a blessing or a burden in an academic setting. Personally, I do not think students should be assessed based on physical activity standards for a variety of reasons. Regardless of how long a child practices or works at one task, they may never perform to the level of another child. Some things come naturally to one person, while another may struggle for a lifetime. These are personal stories, but an assessment will only state one student has made progress or is getting an A, while the other has made no progress, or is going to fail the class. It is unfair to those who work hard, but are not naturally athletic. Instead, I think students should be graded and assessed based on how hard they are trying. Physical assessment standards are important, and they should be something students strive toward, but they should not be something that makes the child feel unworthy. These feelings can lead to self-loathing or the child’s unwillingness to attempt physical activity at all.
Koh, H. K., Blakes, C. R., & Roper, A. Y. (2014). Healthy People 2020: A Report Card on the Health of the Nation. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2475-2476.