November 24, 2014

"Anybody think this sort of shit would pass muster in a school system in which students and parents chose which schools to attend?"

"And while we're at it, anyone think we'd still be wasting as much time and  resources on phys ed if the education of children (rather than catering to the needs of existing teachers and other interests) was the primary goal of K-12 schooling?"

29 comments:

Rachel Rudensky said...

Here's the thing: I get that what the teacher did was over the top. But, frankly, I sort of get the frustration of the teacher -- the kid wasn't doing what she was supposed to be doing. I'm a mother... I get it.

Bob R said...

Gillespie may be correct about the death of phys ed in our current culture. But there is a long tradition of private education incorporating rigorous physical education. Remember the "playing fields of Eaton" quote.

With that said, what made that teacher think he would keep his job? Oh, yeah. His union.

Michael P said...

I agree with Gillespie's critique of how the public employer and union systems combine to make it frustratingly hard to stop that kind of behavior by teachers before it goes too far.

But to his other point, PE is important for kids -- it encourages regular exercise and age-appropriate motor skills, and allows kids to be more active in structured/facilitated ways rather than having to sit and focus all day in classrooms. ("Burning off" physical energy is particularly, but not exclusively, relevant for boys.) There is room to argue over exactly how much time is optimal, but one "period" a day does not seem excessive to me. For younger kids, that works out to maybe 45 minutes of outdoor time a day; for high school students, once they change clothes and maybe shower, more like 30 to 40 minutes.

Ann Althouse said...

I agree that kids should move around much more than school-as-prison permits them to do, but slotting in a PE class is an oppressive and ineffective fix.

There should be much more physical freedom. Kids should be playing... on their own motivation.

Strick said...

"There should be much more physical freedom. Kids should be playing... on their own motivation."

At 14? Hardly. By that age children are in the period where you have to force most of them to do things that are good for them. Exceptions abound, like the handful of students who love math, of course.

And didn't I read studies showing that most parents were concerned about the rapid decline of PE programs in schools? For that matter, don't most colleges still require some fitness courses in their core? I know Harvard does. It's hardly unreasonable.

Michael P sound pretty sensible on this.

Jon Burack said...

Just to brag a bit and maybe make a point here, I think. I am 72. I run three miles, every third or fourth day. I do it at the nearby high school outdoor track, which is open to the public. Occasionally, a gym class comes out while I am running. Often this means a group of fifteen or so teens sitting around as one at a time runs a hundred yards or so. Or all of them do one lap around the track and then sit and take turns at other things. Meanwhile, I keep going, usually still at it when they go back inside the school.

traditionalguy said...

The morality of shocked parents is beyond absurd here,

Teaching the young how to swim is of extreme importance to them. An irrational fear of drowning in water that was carefully instilled by their parents IS what will get them killed someday unless a brave swimming instructor will wrestle it out of them kicking and screaming before it is too late forever.

David said...

The faculty and administrators at schools like Edison are terrified of giving their students "much more physical freedom." They believe that if their students are "playing . . . on their own motivation" bad things will happen. Schools like Edison (nearly 30% at the poverty level) have to deal with a glut of social and attitudinal problems. They are very poorly equipped to do so, and many students fall way behind educationally as a result.

Edison is in many ways the norm not the exception in places like Stockton. How can school choice work when most of the choices are bad?

Anglelyne said...

As if being forced to participate in PE were anyway near the worst "sort of shit" that a kid is likely to encounter in public school.

Martha said...

My sons attended a private Episcopal day school with an indoor pool. Swim class was mandatory beginning in kindergarten. The swim coach was so frightening to the kids that many refused to go to school on swim days. He threw 5 year olds who did not know how to swim into the pool, held my asthmatic son's head underwater during an asthma attack to show him swimming was good for asthma etc. Several concerned mothers insisted on attending class to monitor the teacher. The swim teacher was coaching a high school student who was an Olympic contender when he was recruited to the Episcopal day school and he brought that student with him. He was a good Olympic level coach but a horrific swim teacher for 5 year olds.

Original Mike said...

The only reason I had to take my senior year of high school was because I needed the PE credit. I had fulfilled all the other requirements. That was stupid.

Ann Althouse said...

"At 14? Hardly. By that age children are in the period where you have to force most of them to do things that are good for them. ..."

You're talking about 14 year olds who've gone through the incarceration and immobilization and possible medication of modern American schooling. They're distorted. What would they be if they had known freedom?

Eleanor said...

Phys Ed class provides the opportunity for the jocks to bully the nerds with impunity and the full support of the staff. There's no way it's going away. When the science teacher lets the kids "choose up sides" for a lab project, he gets accused of being a racist who's trying to keep the slower students down. Imagine a school system where you pick two kids and let them decide who else gets to take AP History. The cultural divide between the academic and athletic departments in the average high school is wider than the Grand Canyon.

MadisonMan said...

What Rachel said.

Swimming is a life skill. If it was me as the teacher, I'd just flunk the girl and have her go sit in the Principal's office, waiting for her parents to pick up their special snowflake. But I can't know what kind of stank attitude she's been pulling on the teacher for God knows how long.

I'd also have a rule: If I see a phone in this class, it goes in the Pool. No exceptions.

Big Mike said...

@Rachel, some people are genuinely afraid of the water, at the irrational phobia level. As a summer life guard and part time swim teacher during my high school years I learned to recognize the signs (often you could quite literally smell their fear). I don't know whether this girl was phobic or not, but I'm going with phobic unless someone can prove otherwise to my satisfaction.

So to me the teacher's actions are no different from making a child afraid of heights climb a tall ladder and walk a narrow beam 20 feet in the air. His actions are no different from a biology teacher trying to force a child with arachnophobia to pet a live spider. What he did was beyond cruel.

Alan said...

The girl wasn't afraid of the water and didn't need to learn that particular "life skill". She'd gotten her hair done that morning before school for an event later that evening and she didn't want her hairstyle to get ruined:

Stockton teacher charged, put on leave after struggle with student

The PE Teacher should have given her a zero for the activity and sent her to the office. That was the particular "life lesson" the girl needed to learn--the choice between her grade and her hair.

Regardless, he was way over the top, and he never should have put hands on the girl. I agree with Nick G. that it is ridiculous that he's getting paid (for not teaching) while this is adjudicated.

carrie said...

There is a long tradition of private education incorporating phy ed because you learn a lot of important life skills in phy ed. But today the philosophy is that kids should only do what they want to do, and that is not good. I agree that the teacher handled this situation wrong, but that doesn't mean that the class itself was wrong. The schools can't win. If they don't teach swimming, then they get sued when a kid drowns because he never learned how to swim. Whey they do teach swimming, they get sued because swimming classes messes up a student's hair. I hope the girl still gets disciplined too for not doing what she was supposed to do.

Krumhorn said...

I'm missing the part where a male teacher should ever be permitted to paw a 14 yr old girl unless he's dragging her from a burning building. I was sincerely hoping that one of her kicks would have landed squarely in the center mass of his bits and pieces.

That isn't to say that she shouldn't face her own discipline if there was some sort of back story to this scene. But even assuming that she's a standard issue little teen shit, it's hands off, big boy.

- Krumhorn

Henry said...

To answer Gillespie's question, in two parts. First, the shit didn't pass muster. Second, yes, this sort of shit has and does happen in private schools.

If you're going to troll the world for abuse, you'll find it.

Come up with a better critique next time, Mr. Reason.

President-Mom-Jeans said...

Water is racist, as even a cursory glance at drowning statistics will tell you.

Or ask any lifeguard who spent time around a diverse pool.

EMD said...

To answer Gillespie's question, in two parts. First, the shit didn't pass muster. Second, yes, this sort of shit has and does happen in private schools.

Private schools, however, offer a better avenue of recourse for dissatisfaction than permanently-ensconced union rackets known as public schools.

Henry said...

EMD wrote: Private schools, however, offer a better avenue of recourse for dissatisfaction than permanently-ensconced union rackets known as public schools.

I would bet that's true; but this kind of cherry picking -- something bad happened somewhere involving something I don't like therefore I will leap to my foregone conclusion -- is bogus.

Individual teachers and schools should be held accountable on an incident by incident basis.

But public schooling, in total, is a huge institution. Given human nature, it would be impossible to not find stories of abuse, corruption, and criminality amongst its administrators, teachers, and students. Any substantive critique of the institution -- as opposed to the individual teacher, school, or district -- means finding deviancy or failure that is statistically significant (and there is plenty of that on the academic outcome front).

Remember "going postal"? A small number of shooting incidents among postal employees creating this fevered commentary about problems in the postal service. Maybe the jobs were dehumanizing. Maybe they hired too many veterans. Or maybe the postal service was a huge employer across the entire country and sometimes bad things cluster. Statistically.

Bruce Hayden said...

Private schools, however, offer a better avenue of recourse for dissatisfaction than permanently-ensconced union rackets known as public schools.

We had one kid. Spent an awful lot on private school K-16, and don't regret a penny of it. My kid and their two best friends are all in doctorate programs, as well as a number of their classmates.

Mandatory PE for K-5 or 6, then mandatory sports until HS graduation (though they could take conditioning instead). They did have some weird ones though (climbing, mtn biking, golf, etc) point was that they picked their sports, and were active in it daily.

The thing though is that you know what you are getting into when you sign your kids up. Other private schools don't require the MS and HS athletics. We saw the high schoolers after school, hanging out after sports, and it was such a different vibe from public schools. The kids were fit, energetic, and decently clean cut. Later, discovered that they mostly didn't have time to get into trouble, with sorts till dinner, and homework till bed time.

Mary Beth said...

Do you get an excused absence from school for getting your hair done? If an event is important enough to miss part of school for a hair appointment, isn't it important enough to just skip the rest so you don't mess up your hair?

Brian said...

I read Alan's link. The attempt by the family's lawyer to cast this incident in the language of rape is disgusting. Should he have tried to throw her in the pool? No. Should he be fired? Yes. But this "no means no and stop means stop" and "her top was falling down" business from the family lawyer is risible.

Jupiter said...

Althouse said ....

"You're talking about 14 year olds who've gone through the incarceration and immobilization and possible medication of modern American schooling. They're distorted. What would they be if they had known freedom?"

While I agree with your critique, I think there is a far more important problem with the modern American school system. The natural, time-honored way for children to learn how to be adults is to watch adults. Sequestering large numbers of children away from the larger society sets up a situation in which children learn from each other. What they learn is not how to be adults.

In the past, the level of discipline in schools was such, that the minority of adults were nonetheless the most active members of the community, and students interacted more with the adults than with each other. Also, teaching was one of the few jobs open to women, and many teachers were intelligent and well-educated.

That has all changed, and the schools are now toxic behavioral sumps where adolescents sell each other drugs and recruit for gangs while "adults" who can barely read demonstrate how to put a condom on a banana so you can have "safe anal sex".

If your kids aren't criminals, don't send them to prison.

richardsson said...

I remember I had a P.E. Teacher like that jerk. I had a note from the doctor to skip P.E. for a week and the jerk gave me an F in the class for the semester, which meant I would have to take TWO PE classes my senior year. I was 16 years old by then, at which age the truancy laws no longer apply. I went in to the office and told them if I wasn't reassigned to another teacher and the F wasn't reversed, I would walk out of school and not come back. Since they hate to lose ADA money (Average Daily Attendance) and since I had never caused any problems before, they did what I asked. I am a physically fit 66 year old man and it has absolutely nothing to do with the joke known as high school P.E.

CatherineM said...

I got out of swim in 11th grade when I got there late and the suit and towel attendants (we had to wear school issued suits), 3 women, told me the rules was that I had to take my clothes off at my locker and walk back to them naked to get the suit. I said no and called my mother. I will never forget one of them looked like Shelley Long and was slack jawed and mouth breathing. Don't know what happened to them, but I got to switch to another activity.

After Freshman year (9th) you got to choose. I always took some kind of aerobics/dance. That was fun as was badminton, tennis,volleyball....

Brent said...

I know I am late to the party with this comment, but I feel compelled to vent.

I'm not a violent man, but it would take great restraint not to lay my hands on that teacher if I saw him do that to my 14 year old girl. I have no respect for anyone defending him. It is called assault, and there is never justification for it.

As long as we are counting, I run 4 miles on weekdays and longer on Saturdays. I didn't learn anything of value in P.E, except how to fight back against the bullies I now see working at Staples (true story).