You ask who is Charlie Mattison? Charlie is a friend of Steve Myrland in Madison, Wisconsin. Charlie is a veteran PE teacher who is very passionate about what he does. At present Charlie is in Bagdad serving with the Wisconsin National Guard. Here are a few thoughts from a letter he wrote in response to Steve sharing with him some ridiculous mindless stuff presented at the Wisconsin State PE conference. This is not the whole letter jut a few selected thoughts. Thanks Charlie for sharing your thoughts with us. Our thoughts and prayers are with you for you and your colleague’s safety.
We have become so child centered that in fact we have forgotten to be adults. We strive so much to ensure everything is provided and that no hardship will come to them that they are now incapable of self motivation. Kids now expect parents to be the dog and pony show, the entertainment factory, the source of money and rides, the ally when confronted etc. This is now to the point that not only self motivation but any sort of self sufficiency is out the window. Now we have to beg and persuade kids to learn and succeed. It is a push rather than a pull.
We have come to confuse the concept of rights and privileges. We as Americans have come to believe in our Wall Mart world that everything is supposed to be a bargain. That it should be painless to procure, and available to everyone at little or no cost. This applies to everything from education to security to food to medicine and ultimately health and well being. We now believe that these things have to be given to us and there have in fact been several attempts to require that the government provide cable and internet to all because it is a necessity for modern life. The really funny part about that is the cable bill was ultimately more successful than any of the attempts at universal health care.
What does this have to do with PE.
Real exercise is difficult. It involves running, jumping, leaping, balancing, sweating and discomfort. It leaves a smile on your face when it is done, not usually when it is happening. Those’s a hard sell when mom and dad know you are fat but will not get rid of the TV and the chips and soda and kick you out into the back yard or ball diamond until dinner is ready. Speaking of motivation; it was worth something to be the fastest in the neighborhood. If you were the home run hitter or the skater that could clean house people knew your name and asked you to be on the team…the motivation was to be that guy. Kids have learned that it is easier to roll over and quit when beaten than it is to work harder and catch up.
Quite often it is the “professionals” that perpetuate the problem. PE experts tell us that a room full of treadmills will solve our problem. Psychologists tell us that children will be somehow damaged if they lose, and that we are “all winners” There should be no competition. Elementary schools around the country are banning games of tag or touch football because somebody could get hurt. I even saw a public service note the other day that said never bend or twist while lifting…what are we forklifts?
We are fat and out of shape because we can’t push ourselves away from the endless table. It is beyond our comprehension that we might not be able to eat because the grocer was murdered because he was Shi’a instead of Sunni or that in order to get food you would have to dodge gunfire from three separate armed groups patrolling your neighborhood. Working a hard physical day of labor is now left to the migrant workers that in most areas are the only ones that will break a sweat to work in a farm field. The farms in the community that I grew up in were once the summer jobs for most of the high school. Now the kids won’t do the work…too hard.
Finally, we want to push a button or take a pill to be fit because it is our right to be fit. It should be automatic. PE class has become what I see even here in the military. Get on the treadmill and watch TV while you get your passive exercise. We shouldn’t have to listen to the health teacher that told us that smoking will cause a host of health problems, or the PE teacher that told us that we needed to run or play hard to get in shape. There is no mindfulness in what we do.
Sorry for the soap box. I know that I am preaching to the choir. I just see the clear parallel between what is happening in my professional PE community and the culture that we live in. Unfortunately I don’t know how to effect a change. That brings me back to a question that we talked about a while ago. What is it that makes some people seek challenge; endure discomfort knowing the result will be positive? What makes some people attracted to hard work and why are they so few and far between? If we could find that out, maybe we could teach it and then things could change.