The problem with linking phys ed to academics
My guest is Sean Slade, director of Healthy School Communities, a program of the ASCD, an educational leadership organization.
By Sean Slade
Student + Health = Academic Improvement.
This equation is inherently correct. Though some educational columnists have downplayed or diminished the effect of physical, mental health and even social/emotional health on academic achievement, including an article by the Washington Post’s Jay Mathews, there is an abundance of evidence to show that students who are healthy will attend school more often, learn better and also do better on academic tests.
The above equation also makes common sense. It’s common sense to realize that students who are in pain, hungry, tired or fearful are more likely to be distracted in class and are subsequently less able to learn. Take it one step further and students who are absent from school - often from illness or fear – are even less likely to absorb what is being taught in a classroom where they are not even present.
Many organizations in fact cite this equation as the prime reason for increasing time and funding for health education, PE and access to health services in the school. Again this equation is fundamentally correct.
So what’s wrong with this equation?
It is the premise that the only reason we are improving students’ health and well being, the only reason we want them to feel safe and secure, and the only reason that we want them to get enough physical activity is so they can do better academically.
This is where the equation has a problem.
Student + Health = Academic Improvement ≠ Person ready for society
What we want students to learn and develop is not only what is taught and tested via standardized testing - it is not only academic. In fact ‘academics only’ is not even what businesses and colleges require from students. Recent studies both here and internationally have echoed the need for an expanded view of education, especially at the secondary or high school level.
What we want from schools is preparation of our youth for society, and in order for students to be ready for society we want them to be ‘well-rounded’. We want -- actually we need -- students who are developed not only cognitively, but socially, emotionally, mentally and physically.
Student + Health = A Healthy Student
So this is where we need to change the discussion. We need to transition away from an academic-centric rationale of schools to a whole child, whole person rationale for schools.
Schools should prepare youth for society so we should be discussing how we can best prepare our youth for life in that society, as full members who are healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.
A whole child education = a whole person
A conversation that only discusses the merits of the healthy student in terms of academic achievement narrows the debate overly. It allows the discussion of one narrow goal to drown out a fundamental purpose and goal of education, which can be summed up aptly by Neil Postman (The End of Education): “Public education does not serve a public. It creates a public.”
Follow Valerie's blog all day, every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!
| July 9, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: Guest Bloggers, Health | Tags: benefits of physical education, guest bloggers, health, pe and academics, physical education, physical education and academics, physical education and test scores, sean slade, teaching to the whole child, the whole child
Save & Share: Previous: Studies question Arizona’s policy on English learners
Next: College students hitting books less, study shows
Posted by: musiclady | July 9, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: sideswiththekids | July 9, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: celestun100 | July 9, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: celestun100 | July 9, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: celestun100 | July 9, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: raepica1 | July 10, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.