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"In other words, I suspect that since PE was difficult for people who weren't talented athletically, it was curtailed and then turned into an utterly useless program"

Very unlikely. The primary drivers of PE and the Arts in terms of curricular sequence are state mandates and local budgets. You're in California, I believe and your district is probably operating at the state required mandatory minimum for H.S. graduation requirements.

In terms of content of PE, the blame is squarely on the teachers themselves, most of whom teach only as a route to doing what they really love, which is coaching. The best that can be said of PE instructors intellectually, as a mean aggregate, is that at least they are in the gym and not wrecking a history class somewhere.

One brief word in their defense, out of fairness: there are some PE instructors, mostly younger, who are well educated in fitness and committed to improving their students health and skills. These well intentioned folk often run up against the old guard in their department and the AD and they have no leverage over students either, if the HS guidance office refuses to factor PE grades into the GPA. Failing gym becomes meaningless

Jessica Margolin

Yes, but who is doing the mandating? People who would've dropped out of school had it not been for their excellence in sports? People for whom art was the only way education felt relevant?

No, the people who determine priorities are almost exclusively those people who did relatively well in academic disciplines. They may have enjoyed sports or arts also, but they were also, at minimum, academically competent.


"They may have enjoyed sports or arts also, but they were also, at minimum, academically competent"

I can't speak to California but you onbiously have never seen the Illinois General Assembly. :)

Dean Landsman

Excellent post. I clipped it to my feed at Social|Median, adding the following:

Jessica Margolin writes a thought-provoking blogpost, worthy of consideration for those in education. Sensitive and wide-ranging.

Jessica Margolin

Thanks, Dean!

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