How a Curriculum Improves

By Langton, Terence W. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, September 2004 | Go to article overview

How a Curriculum Improves


Langton, Terence W., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Congratulations to Professor Baumgarten for kicking the debate on appropriate physical education practices up a notch. We should continuously examine and question what we do for our students and for our society.

High-stakes testing is holding administrators accountable for improved "academic" performance. School budgets are microscopic and shrinking every day. Physical education programs are being cut, and they remain far outside of core subject areas and the "No Child Left Behind Elementary and Secondary Education Act." Sixty-four percent of Americans are either overweight or obese (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2003). Only 55.7 percent of American high school students attend physical education on one or more days a week (CDC, 2004). Is this the time to roll out the ball, take out our fiddle, and play a lively tune while Rome is burning?

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (2004) has given us national standards for K-12 physical education. These standards can help us develop, implement, and evaluate our physical education curricula. In view of these standards, do dodgeball and its variants, red rover, crows and cranes, Marco Polo, kick the can, messy back-yard, relay races, cups, rubber chickens, Simon says and musical chairs lead to physically educated people? Does playing a 12 on 12 game of kickball with one ball and plenty of waiting time increase skill, understanding, and personal and social responsibility?

The education scholar John Dewey said,

  Any experience is mis-educative that has the effect of arresting or
  distorting the growth of further experience. An experience may be such
  as to engender callousness; it may produce lack of sensitivity and of
  responsiveness. Then the possibilities of having richer experiences in
  the future are restricted.... Again, experiences may be so
  disconnected from one another that, while each is agreeable or even
  exciting in itself, they are not linked cumulatively to one
  another.... Everything depends on the quality of the experience which
  is had. The quality of any experience has two aspects. There is an
  immediate aspect of agreeableness or disagreeableness, and there is an
  influence upon later experiences.... Hence the central problem of an
  education based experience is to select the kind of present
  experiences that live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent
  experiences. (Dewey, 1938, p. 25-28)

Do the learning experiences that we offer our students live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent experiences? How will we know if they do? The media has provided us with some evidence.

With the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story currently in theaters and the television show Extreme Dodgeball now on GSN, the media has been reminding us of dodgeball's painful and embarrassing association with physical education. Here are some zingers from around the country.

From the Star-Telegram (Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas):

  Dodgeball doesn't cloak itself in subtlety and strategy. It's just
  about one thing: human targets. That's why some school districts have
  sent the game to the showers, to sit forlornly alongside other such
  forbidden practices as eye gouging and juggling with knives.
  (Darling, 2004)

From the Detroit Free Press:

  In schools where the gym teacher was also a sports coach or just
  didn't give a damn, dodge ball was a staple of physical education.
  Kids with more aggression than ability or brains could excel, the
  teacher could coast and wimps everywhere had yet another reason to vow
  later revenge against their cruel peers and the authority figures who
  encouraged them. (Lawson, 2004)

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

  Some generations had to live through the trauma of wars or recessions
  as children, forever shaping their character. My generation just had
  dodge ball. 

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