The Decline of Physical Education in Today’s Schools: A Call for Change with a Glimpse into the La Sierra Fitness Program
Physical education, once a cornerstone of the American educational system, has witnessed a significant decline in quality and focus in today’s schools. While physical education in the 1950s emphasized proper development and overcoming physical limitations, today’s PE classes often fall short in these critical aspects. This article delves into the disparities between the past and present, highlighting the consequences of inadequate physical education and its contribution to the growing issues of obesity and diabetes among youth. Additionally, we will explore the mental benefits of a more comprehensive approach to physical education, drawing inspiration from the La Sierra Fitness Program of the 1950s and 60s. As President John F. Kennedy once aptly wrote in “The Soft American”:
“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. . . . [We] know what the Greeks knew: that intelligence and skill can only function at the peak of their capacity when the body is healthy and strong; that hardy spirits and tough minds usually inhabit sound bodies.”
The Golden Days of Physical Education
In the 1950s and 60s, physical education was a holistic endeavor that considered both physical and mental well-being. The La Sierra Fitness Program, developed during this era, emphasized not only physical fitness but also mental resilience and well-being. Students were taught not only how to perform exercises correctly but also how to nurture a positive mindset.
Learning Proper Techniques: The Push-Up Example
In contrast to today’s lackluster approach, physical education in the past was meticulous about teaching students the correct techniques for exercises like push-ups. Students were guided through the process, with an emphasis on proper form and execution. If a student struggled with push-ups, alternatives like planks or knee push-ups were introduced to help them develop the necessary strength progressively. This holistic approach ensured that students not only learned the exercise but also understood how to adapt it to their individual abilities and needs, fostering physical and mental resilience.
The Current State of Physical Education
Today, physical education programs often fall short of the mark. Many PE teachers lack the requisite training or are not in optimal physical condition themselves. Schools, in some cases, may not prioritize physical education, leading to inadequate facilities, equipment, and curriculum. Consequently, students are often left without the guidance they need to build a strong foundation for physical and mental health.
Consequences of Neglecting Physical and Mental Education
The consequences of this decline in physical and mental education are profound. As childhood obesity and diabetes rates soar, it is crucial to recognize the role that inadequate physical education plays in these alarming trends. Additionally, the prevalence of depression and mental weakness in today’s youth is a pressing issue that needs attention. The La Sierra Fitness Program of the past serves as a reminder that physical education is not only about physical health but also about mental resilience and well-being.
Setting the Standard for Physical and Mental Well-being
Physical education, inspired by programs like La Sierra, can serve as a blueprint for a child’s attitude toward holistic health and wellness. When students are taught not only how to improve their physical capabilities but also how to nurture a positive mindset, they are better equipped to face the challenges of life, including mental health issues. A comprehensive physical and mental education can contribute to a more resilient and mentally strong youth.
A Call for Change
It is imperative that we address the poor quality and lack of focus on physical and mental education in today’s schools. To reverse the tide of childhood obesity, diabetes, and the mental health crisis, we must invest in robust physical and mental education programs. Schools should prioritize the hiring of qualified PE teachers, ensure access to proper facilities and equipment, and design curricula that emphasize physical and mental resilience. By doing so, we can empower our youth to lead healthier and mentally stronger lives.
The decline of physical and mental education in today’s schools is a pressing issue with far-reaching consequences for both physical and mental health. Drawing inspiration from programs like the La Sierra Fitness Program of the past and heeding the words of President Kennedy, we can restore a holistic approach to education that considers the well-being of the whole child. By investing in quality physical and mental education, we can empower our youth to lead healthier and mentally stronger lives, reduce the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and depression, and foster a lifelong commitment to holistic well-being. It’s time to prioritize the health and resilience of our future generations.
- Kennedy, John F. “The Soft American.” Sports Illustrated, December 26, 1960.
- Brookes, Timothy. “The History of Physical Fitness and its Importance.” Skyterra Wellness, 2021, https://skyterrawellness.com/blog/the-history-of-physical-fitness-and-its-importance/.
- “Physical Activity and Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm.
- “Physical Education’s Role in Public Health.” Active Living Research, 2017, https://www.activelivingresearch.org/physical-educations-role-public-health.