How Joel Klein insulted physical education teachers
Physical education teachers across the country are not taking kindly to New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's televised comment that they shouldn’t earn as much as math and science teachers.
Klein appeared on the “The View” this week to discuss New York City’s public schools. When the conversation turned to the issue of merit pay for teachers, he said, “Math and science teachers receive the same pay as physical educators,” a statement that, in context, suggested that math and science teachers should earn more than PE teachers.
That, naturally, sparked a backlash from physical education teachers who rightly see their field as important as academics, and believe that Klein betrayed an ignorance of the importance of regular physical activity and its positive effect on student achievement.
They would be right. One of the unfortunate consequences of No Child Left Behind’s focus on standardized tests was a reduction of physical education in many school districts. At a time when the country is dealing with a juvenile obesity epidemic, smart physical education should be in every school.
Paul Roetert, chief executive of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, issued a statement Wednesday that said in part:
“We were disappointed to hear you tell the nation on yesterday’s The View that math and science teachers should earn more than physical education teachers. We believe, and scientific research supports, that educating the “whole child” is vital to a child’s overall academic success. Studies have shown that regular physical activity improves academic performance. The solution to improving our nation’s public education system is not to pit one teacher against another by claiming that one is more important than the other, and should thus earn more. The solution is creating an environment that motivates all teachers to be the best they can be, that honors and rewards our outstanding teachers, that improves the status of the teaching profession, and that acknowledges that academic success is built from achievement in all subjects, including physical education.”
Teachers sent letters to Klein, including this one:
By way of introduction, my name is Joe Herzog and I (and my wife as well) was a physical education teacher in the Fresno, California, Unified School District, 1965-2001. Much of my thirty-six years teaching and coaching was spent in southeast Fresno, noted as one of the primary pockets of poverty in the United States. My wife and I have been recognized over the years for our ability to develop unique, 21st century standards based curriculum.
We were watching “The View” the other morning when you made your comment regarding merit pay and math/science and physical education teachers. I suspect that you know, by now that many of my colleagues across the nation, and my wife and I were profoundly disappointed with that statement, to the point of anger.
The blatant inference that science and math teachers were somehow more financially worthwhile than physical educators was dismissive of the role that we play in education as well as demeaning to the entirety of our discipline.
Little if any of the research that I have read justifies the implementation of “merit pay.” The fundamental reason for that is that the vast majority of all teachers, Physical Educators included, already work about as diligently as is possible. My workday usually began at 6:30 a.m. (At school) and ended about 5:30 p.m., and I was almost never the last to leave campus. Then of course, you can tack on a couple of hours work at home, which every teacher does. The current media frenzy that education is full of bad teachers is simply another demonstration of ultra-conservative histrionics and hyperbole. The profession is however replete with teachers who are frustrated, angry, discouraged and burned out. You can chalk that up to NCLB/RTT and high stakes testing, in large measure.
More to the point, there now exists a veritable tidal wave or research that delineates the fundamental role and value of exercise/physical activity/physical education, not just in the process of developing physical health, but also as the foundation of learning, itself.
Has no one in education taken the time to read the works of Harvard's Dr. John Ratey; the Univ. of Hawaii retired neuro-physiologist, Dr. Carla Hannaford; Seattle Pacific Developmental Molecular Biologist, Dr. John Medina; University of California at San Francisco’s, Dr. Michael Merzanich; or Eric Jensen of the Jensen Learning Center in San Diego County, just to name a few?
Those who have now understand that ALL learning is movement based. Physical exercise is principally responsible for the growth, expansion and overall health of nerve cells, without which no information can be processed and no considerable amount of learning can take place.
The mea culpa is, of course, to admit that there are physical educators out there who are not up to the demands of the profession. Of course we know that. The same thing can be said about math or science or language arts of foreign language or music teachers, or teachers of any other discipline. The same charge might even be leveled at certain school administrators. I have worked for both the very good and the very bad.
My perspective, from my time in the profession is that most of the “bad” teachers could have been dealt with early on if site administrators took the time to do their job in a thorough, professional manner. My experience is that this does not always happen, and in the instance of physical educators, that lax practices were frequently permitted to go unchallenged to serve the master of inter-scholastic athletics. An overt case of the tail wagging the dog, it seems.
I must tell you sir, that your statement, on “The View” was intemperate. As a physical educator who has the responsibility for the social, emotional, physical, and yes, the academic growth of all of my students, my value is no less than that of any other educator. I believe that with the modernization of physical education philosophy and practice over the course of the past thirty years, that properly applied and wholly integrated, physical education is the most valuable of all disciplines.
I encourage you to investigate the physical program at any number of schools. First and foremost is that program at Naperville Central HS, in Naperville, Illinois. But there are many others whose excellence and value are on a virtual par with that of Naperville. Sierra Vista Middle School, Canyon Country, Calif., the entire program in Delano, Calif., a desperately poor, but wholly vibrant school district, or the program in Titusville, Penn.
Quality physical education programs abound and they are served by the finest of educators that this country can produce. I am proud to call myself a “Physical Educator.” I am dismayed that you see us in any lesser light. You have done so in error.
Joseph Herzog, Chair, Region 28, Cal. Assoc. Health, Phys. Educ., Recreation & Dance
Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program
California Project Lean
Building Healthy Neighborhoods Task Force
Consultant, Fresno Unified School District
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| September 30, 2010; 11:16 AM ET
Categories: Health, Teachers | Tags: joel klein, klein teachers, physical education, physical education teachers, the view
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