Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chicago Extends School Day -- For Useless Gym Class

Recently in Chicago there has been a lot of hoopla over extending the length of the school day. Someone took a look around and realized that the Chicago Public Schools have the shortest school day of any other urban school district in the country. Bad news. So, there has been a lot of bickering back and forth, and it appears that for the most part the longer school day is going to happen. This is what they said:
A longer school day is a richer school day … one that provides for 90 additional minutes of instruction. That means more time for reading, math and science -- and also for enrichment programs like art, music and physical education, which are proven to boost student achievement. And it provides time for a longer lunch and a real recess.
So what are they doing in the high schools with all this extra time?

Daily physical education.

I read a lot of absurd things on the Internet, but this has to be a topper. I would have been furious as a junior or senior if my school day got extended and then I was forced to take physical education in addition to the sports practices I was regularly going to before and after school. I was the kind of kid who would’ve rather had an extra science, computer, or English class where I might actually learn something useful.

Physical education – or gym, as we called it – was a total joke when I was in high school. We had to take one year of it, during freshman year. After that it was optional, and I never took it again. All we did was play dodgeball, kickball, softball, basketball, speedwalk, and swim. (The swimming part was really awesome considering I had gym first hour and the gym teacher forced us all to go underwater and get our hair wet.) I hated gym with every fiber of my being. To be fair, I hated it because I’m not very good at sports and I don’t enjoy most sports. I was good at rowing and tennis, so I played on the school team for those in the spring and fall, respectively, but that was by far enough “sport” for me. Forget anything like basketball or softball or running. I hate running and I hate throwing a ball around and I hate swimming because I hate being wet unless it’s 100 degrees out. And what is more embarrassing than getting picked last for the dodgeball team or having to run around like an idiot in front of everyone else when you have no idea what is going on or who you are supposed to throw the ball to? It was always prime time for bullying, if I recall correctly.

We were also forced to take showers. The gym teacher would stand near the entrance of the showers and watch and make sure we all got wet. We had to show her our leg or some body part, to prove to her that it had water on it. It was part of our grade, showering after gym. Can you imagine anything more ridiculous than that? Forcing a kid to take a shower in front of everyone else? (Oh yes, the showers were just a bunch of spigots in a big room – no privacy at all.) The same was true of gym in junior high. I’m not sure if a gym teacher could get away with that nowadays.

Anyway, gym was truly the most useless class I have ever taken in my entire life. I can’t believe after all the uproar about the longer school day they are wasting it on a class like that, and wanting to raise my property taxes to do so.

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