I was watching HBO's Real Sports last night and I came across a follow-up on a story run seven years ago on the battle over dodge ball at elementary schools. Can't find the video, but the segment included such activities as tag where no child is ever "it", no-touching policies (no hugs, high fives, pats), jump roping without a rope (so that you don't ever get your feet tangled and experience failure), and all games with even a hint of competition are scrubbed from the curricula like an OCD's hands in a Calcutta restroom.
I laughed at the initial premise but as the story unfolded I began to think about the bigger questions it raised and my laughter was choked off by a feeling of...well....is rage too strong?
Then I started reading about this movement.
I give youThe New Physical Education.
It's part and parcel of a continued societal effort to turn our kids into wilting petunias while deluding them that they're towering oaks - preparing future generations to go forth into the world and be routed by any number of other reality-adherent nations and cultures in business, sports, science, artistic achievement, and war.
Let's dip our toes in, shall we?
It isn't all bad news when it comes to physical education in schools.
Wrong. It's all bad news.
According to a recent article in USA Today, physical education departments across the country are embracing a more liberal approach to getting kids active.
They're making them wear Eracism t-shirts and taxing the shit out of them!?
Eschewing traditional measures of physical achievement, such as speed and endurance, many teachers and coaches are offering their students the opportunity to learn new skills not typically seen in phys ed classes of old.
What sort of monster would want speed or endurance associated with physical education?
These include rock-climbing, swing dancing, self-defense and inline skating.
Rock-climbing is great, but you know that its wussified version will consist of a puffy kid sheepishly trudging up a set of stairs while wearing a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and a support harness. So introduce some reality: put them on El Capitan as high school seniors and see what they've learned.
You can do it with proper self-imaging
Swing dancing? How 1997. Are we going to make them wear chain watches too? They made me square dance in elementary school and I was traumatized by that shit. Compromise: teach them Jamaican Dance Hall daggering. Life skills.
Inline skating? Oh. We're preparing our little boys to be teenage handjob-hustlers on Venice Beach. Do they have to bring cut-off shorts from home or will they be provided?
Like rock-climbing, self-defense sounds promising, but I can assure you that it's a conflict resolution seminar taught by a dude with a ponytail that looks like Tim Robbins in High Fidelity.
Let's talk through this while you assault me
Back to the article...
A junior high school in Petaluma, California, even features a class to teach circus skills, such as juggling, plate-spinning and stilt-walking.
Outstanding. Carny school. Excellent life preparation for living in a gypsy caravan, swindling the elderly, and being blinded with a hot poker by the head of the Beggar's Guild.
These changes reflect a new emphasis on participation over competition.
Mom, I participated! I participated! I put on my uniform! And I showed up at the event!
Except that these kids will call their moms by heir first names and there won't be any exclamation points because the genuine exclamation points in life happen when! you! push! your! limits!
While sports will continue to be a mainstay of phys ed programs, it has been suggested that only about 10 percent of kids are natural athletes who thrive on competition.
I love when journalists do that. Suggested by whom? Talmudic scholars? Aromatherapists? DMV workers? Your chiropractor?
Good to know that 90% of us aren't wired for competition. I'll be sure to pass this on to India and China via Charles Darwin.
We're to believe that the natural athlete Illuminati - 10% of our population - has created an entire physical culture centered on themselves? OK. As they represent a tiny minority, one should have no problem allowing the remaining 90% to compete against each other.
Still not acceptable?
Because their problem is with competition itself. Sports are just one arena for that opposition. This is about some bullshit post-modern notion that standards - and the competition that tests and defines them - are bad, repressive, arbitrary. That iron doesn't sharpen iron in all human endeavor. None of us should have an edge at all, in fact. It's ceding to the lowest common denominator, embracing calculated self-delusion, avoiding anything that could result in failure and bruise our precious self-image.
Why learn to experience failure and success when you can manufacture an illusion of achievement a whole lifetime? No highs, no lows, no humanity. Welcome to the Brave New World. Take your soma and adhere to the no-touching policy.
We've seen the Internet Bubble, the Housing Bubble - child's play. They'll pale next to the Participation Trophy Bubble and its effects.
The new physical education guidelines introduced in California emphasize developing movement skills, social interaction and self-image over how fast or how skilled a student might be at a particular sport.
It would be monstrous to allow skill to determine one's perception of value at a particular task. Better to leave self-image totally untested and unchecked by reality. That should create a charming human being in very short order when reality eventually punches them in the throat.
Movement skills? Ah, yes. Indeed. We must liberate our children from the conformist straightjacket of simple running, jumping, skipping, and hopping. We must teach them MOVEMENT SKILLS!
Move across the space, Timothy! Liberate yourself. Work yourself across the space - let your body merge with the infinite. Roll randomly while flailing your arms about. That's it! OK, don't move anymore. Now envision a self-image of yourself moving. You are baboon-energy, Timothy. Now a moth, a titwarbler, a paramecium. Simply be.
Next, social interaction. Chatting is the New PE. Let's teach social interaction skills that they'll use for a lifetime - like talking a girl into bed, encouraging a work colleague to voice his bad idea out loud so that you can win the promotion, or how to get your friend with the truck to help you move.
In these new classes, the goal is to get young people to enjoy being active and to help them develop good exercise habits that will last a lifetime.
Yes, stilt-walking is a past-time one can master and enjoy for a whole lifetime. Stilt-walking in your neighborhood in your 40s also guarantees that you'll be treated like Jackie Earl Haley in Little Children.
When China takes us over via strongly worded letter in 2039 and you hear tale of a crazy old man living up in the woods of Alaska - one of the last holdouts - taking potshots at Chinese soldiers with a homemade slingshot made of marmot gut, please find it in your hearts to forgive me for competing.
Even if I'm not a natural athlete.
IMAGINARY JUMP ROPE!
Be sure to read Part II.