The school principal is in a unique and strategic position in the field of education. Education “busses” all around him. He sees and feels the rapid pulse-beat of modern education from practically every angle. Students, teachers, parents all confront him with the day-by-day, actual problems of school life. Board, faculty, promotional organizations press upon him the responsibilities of administration. Everyone looks to the principal to interpret the school in all of the many phases of its program. He must justify to the public, the school board and the faculty every school activity.
From such a vantage point the articles in this department will be written. Please note that this vantage point is not the claim of superior scholarship. School administrators can seldom spare the time or energy necessary to scholarly pursuits. Fragmentation is an occupational disease frequent among administrators. The point of view we assume is rather that of daily contact with the malty practical phases of the educational process and its problems.
Obviously a great variety of topics might be discussed in this connection. And differences of opinion are bound to arise, both because of the limitations of the writer and the diverse points of view held by the readers of this journal. However, a clearer understanding can be promoted through interaction of ideas between writer and reader, we trust. Your comments and questions are solicited, therefore. Please address them to the author of this column in care of Torch and Trumpet publishers:
Reformed Fellowship. Inc.,
63 Jefferson Ave., S. E.
Grand Rapids 2, Michigan
Why Physical Education? As our Christian schools grow there is an increasing emphasis on physical education. Our high schools are building gymnasiums and junior high schools and grade schools are building “multi-purpose rooms.” The question has been raised whether the added burden to build and maintain these gymnasiums and multi-purpose rooms is justified. Some people categorically condemn physical education as a borrowed luxury from tax-supported public schools. Such people see no real educational justification for it. At best it may be a necessary evil to meet accreditation needs at a secondary level. On the other hand, sport enthusiasts advocate bigger and better gymnasiums to accommodate larger crowds of spectators.
Both of these extreme views involve misconceptions of what physical education really is. That misconceptions are prevalent need surprise no one. The newspapers report inter·scholastic sports in such a way that the public often identifies this interscholastic competition with the school’s physical education programs. A coach’s winning team brings much publicity, while his more important contribution to education by means of a physical education program for all students passes by unnoticed. A second reason for a misunderstanding is that Christian schools frequently have very little more than interscholastic competition as their physical education program. This is often due to the limited facilities we possess and the lack of trained teachers for this work. It is still easier to justify a Latin teacher for a small percentage of students than a physical education teacher for the whole student body.
Physical education is much more than “blowing off steam,” or body building exercise, or the development of physical skills, or the playing of games for recreation. Physical education is a method of education, it is a way of teaching children and youth through experiences gained by participation in motor activities. Its program begins in the kindergarten and continues through high school. For those who go to college it continues there much like other school subjects. Generally speaking, the younger the child the more physical education is necessary.
The objectives of physical education are identical with those of general education. It aims to provide experiences through which the students learn to live rightly and well as citizens of the state and of the kingdom of God. It seeks to enrich the lives of students by helping them to achieve the maximum development of their total personalities and improve their ability to live harmoniously and co-operatively with other people. It contributes to the attainment of economic efficiency and independence. It helps the student to enjoy and discharge the rights and obligations of democratic citizenship. My college teacher of psychology used to tell us that there was a positive relationship between baseball as our national game and democracy. Baseball is a game that teaches cooperation, often more readily than the written word. People who have learned to play well in their youth are generally people who work well in the home, at their vocations, and in their church and community.
Just letting students run around the block is not physical education. Neither is “recess” physical education. Unsupervised play during recess often contributes to the development of school “bullies” and scares the timid and the physically inept into unwholesome submissiveness and inferiority. The sand lot games are for the daring, and the so-called “tough guys” are the heroes. To identify these activities with physical education as it should be when properly organized in the curriculum of a school is comparable to identifying scribbling with art.
Including physical education in the school curriculum is not of recent origin. European schools have included much more of this than our American schools did traditionally. We do have today a broader emphasis. We do not look upon it as mere calesthenics, that is, the science or art of bodily exercise to promote bodily strength or grace. Today we see that it helps meet the biological, physical, social, and religious needs of children and youth. To do this effectively the program must include individual, dual, and team activities; games that develop rhythm and gracefulness; and a variety of individual, dual, and team competitive games and sports.
If a school is going to carry on some such program as suggested above, not for a few students, but for all students from the kindergarten through high school, then facilities must be provided. Multi-purpose rooms in our elementary and junior high schools are an economical beginning in thai direction. A multi-purpose room is really an out-sized classroom used for many other purposes besides physical education. Our senior high schools often try to effect an economy by combining a gymnasium with an auditorium. This often proves very inadequate and inconvenient, but some high schools must make it do. To effect a further economy, this auditorium-gymnasium is sometimes used as a community center.
There are many aspects of education connected with the multi-purpose room and the auditorium-gymnasium that this article does not touch. Neither have we exhausted the topic of physical education. We have merely tried to say that our Christian schools need these rooms if we are to meet the needs of our boys and girls in today’s world. Probably on some other occasion we can discuss the dangers of inter-scholastic sports, state tournaments, etc.