Does Coeducational Physical Education Help High School Students Reach Their Full Potential?

Article excerpt

If maximum skill development is your idea of full potential, no, coeducational physical education probably does not meet this goal. Full potential encompasses more than skill development. Social development is also a component.

Coeducational physical education provides the social context adolescents desire for leisure time activity. The students I work with generally enjoy the social contact of coeducational activities. I observe the smiles on many faces as students communicate with one another in these settings. Students who experience success and fun are more apt to remain physically active. Sometimes opportunities for learning to get along with someone who is difficult present themselves, too.

Men and women are working together more and more in the business world. Learning to get along with and to value and respect the opposite sex is a skill needed for our future employees.

There are also times when activities are best separated by sex - for instance, some gymnastics events and some aspects of contact sports.

If maximum skill development is your idea of full potential, join inter-scholastic sports or take private lessons. Coeducational physical education will help develop a more well-rounded individual.

- Su McCarthy, West Geauga High School, Chesterland, OH 44026

In the first two years of my career I taught physical education at a private Outward Bound school for boys - boys only! - in a remote region of the Scottish Highlands. The school prided itself on a spartan regime and its masculine homogeneity. While the credo of the school was all about building "good character," the recollection I have is of 200 boys and young men who were deprived of female presence and contact, and who displayed a disturbing inability to relate to the real world. Many years later two of these students, now adults, wrote to me and said the high point of that period was a rugby trip I organized. We visited a Scottish coeducational school, played rugby, and attended a dance. These athletes laughed, chatted, had fun, and busily worked at learning one of life's most critical skills - socializing with member of the opposite sex.

Coeducation is central to healthy living and may be the single most important psychosocial aspect of contemporary physical education. George Plimpton, ever the able raconteur, tells of a conversation with former President George Bush in The X Factor. Bush, in describing various of his sporting scars, pointed to a bump on a shoulder blade: "Got that one playing mixed doubles with Barbara at Kennebunkport. Ran into the porch." Coeducation is all about good humor, human-ness, civilization, decency, and self-actualization.

- Scott A. G. M. Crawford, professor, College of Education and Professional Studies, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL 61920

One of the unique elements of physical education is that it has an impact on the "whole" student. If we are concerned about the full potential of students, this should include the social development as well as the other areas of growth (physical, intellectual, and emotional). It seems to me that a coeducational environment is best suited for full development.

However, coeducational physical education should not even be an issue. Physical education classes should be made available to all students. Students need to see other students set, work towards, and attain goals in physical education and fitness. It is important for students to be able to learn from one another - to help others who may have lower ability levels and to learn from those who are more able. It is important for students to interact together.

To ensure that high school students have the opportunity to reach their full potential, more pressing issues are: (1)the teaching effectiveness occurring in the class, (2) whether adequate motivational techniques are being utilized, and (3) whether the equipment and environment are safe and well-maintained - in short, whether students are getting the most of their learning experience. …