Monday, October 22

Student Thought: More PE is not the answer

Last week New York City Comptroller William Thompson came out in strong support of added physical education programs in New York City schools. According to a press release that his office issued, he has called for more PE because of the mass health problems of New York City students, especially those from low-income neighborhoods.

This is an important issue and a serious problem, but more physical education is not the way to approach it. This is in no way an attack on Comptroller Thompson, but on the more general and widespread notion that phys ed classes could possibly give students the amount of exercise they need and that more of it will help reduce youth health issues like obesity.

The important function of physical education is to educate students on how to get healthy and take care of their bodies. Students do not need this class five days a week. In many situations, my school included, added phys ed classes have cluttered up schedules so badly that the school had to extend the regular day to 4:10 p.m. Healthier students won't come from more phys ed classes, but from creating a culture of exercise in the younger grades and changing government policies that propagate the unhealthy lifestyles of many students.

Recess, for one, is a great way to create a culture of exercise. As Jonathan Kozol points out in his latest book, Letters to a Young Teacher, playgrounds and recess are disappearing from low-income schools because the No Child Left Behind Act has increased the need for test preparation. (Linda Perlstein makes the same point in her new book, Tested.) Under this system of high-stakes testing as a gauge of educational "results," recess is deemed unnecessary. In the low-income neighborhoods of New York City and the rest of the country, however, recess is vital in improving student health. It gives students the chance to use their bodies and also gives them time to develop their imaginations (thus leading to better health, mentally and physically, for all).

Other important factors in youth health are the environment and nutrition. As one of my fellow NYCSUers pointed out at Monday's meeting: "My school did have a playground, but it was right next to a highway." Pollution is a real contributing factor to poor health among low-income students and must be dealt with. Right now, asthma rates among Harlem youth are at crisis levels.

And our nutrition can be improved by changing the Congressional Farm Bill that determines what food producers get federal subsidies. This week the Senate is taking a look at the bill, which has been criticized by organizations like Eating Liberally for subsidizing producers of unhealthy foods (Twinkies and fast food come to mind) over those who produce more healthy and nutritious comestibles.

And if legislators care about kids' health, it also might be a good idea for them to renew SCHIP. Just a thought.


Philissa said...

Interesting piece, Seth. PE isn't an issue I think that much about unless I visit a school where kids aren't getting much or much of any quality at all.

But don't you think if the comptroller had any control over the farm bill, SCHIP, or pollution, he would make decisions that were good for kids? Maybe he thinks he should push for more PE because that's all he can do in his position as comptroller. It would be awesome if his statement made explicit some of the issues you wrote about, but I guess he can't really do that.

health watch center said...

Insightful post Seth

There are various medical treatments for curing asthma.

But, recently it has found that some complimentary and alternative approaches will also help in treating asthma.

The gentle exercises which will be done in yoga can help to reduce asthma. These exercises have been practiced for several thousand of years. There are various types of exercises present in yoga, out of all the breathing techniques, pranayama is the best asthma treatment and it will certainly help to reduce the symptoms of asthma.

Further studies are needed to find out how yoga is helpful for treating asthma. Performing yoga on regular basis will help to relieve stress and improve overall fitness.