Unhealthy Proposal Would Make For Unhealthy Kids


Board Of Ed Seeks To De-emphasize Phys. Ed.

October 06, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

Seems the state Board of Education has this idea to increase the intellects of our students at the expense of their health.

Simply put, there are proposals on the table to turn out academically brighter kids, but they might die younger.

Now maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but listen up parents and student athletes because the physical education lifestyle we enjoy here in Anne Arundel County is being threatened. So are jobs.

"If the state passes that proposal, it will kill us," said Meade's veteran basketball coach and physical education teacher, Butch Young, referring to a state proposal to allow high school students to meet their physical education requirements through teams and outside activities.

In effect, it could severely decrease the number of physical education teachers in our high schools, which would virtually eliminatein-house coaches.

This proposal is being discussed all over the state. On Thursday, a briefing took place to discuss it with the various sub-divisions. The state board welcomes letters from parents on this matter and a very important public hearing will take place Tuesday, Oct. 29.

The state board is expected to rule on it this year after the public hearing and after receiving input from parents and personnel around the state. If it flies, it would become law with the freshman class of 1993.

The physical education department as we know it, and we know it as a darned good one, would be dropped to its knees. And coaching at the high-school level could be reduced to a recreation program.

This brainstorm has been prompted by the state's emphasis on the intellect, which would add more academic requirements inareas such as science, math, social studies, foreign languages and, a new one, technology.

The additional academic requirements would,of course, leave considerably less time for students to choose electives like the all-important physical education courses.

Please, don't get me wrong because if you know me at all, you know I'm all for high academic standards and have always supported the 2.0 grade-point-average requirement for high school sports over the 1.67 GPA now in effect.

But at the same time, I understand the need for proper physical education instruction in relation to the health and well-being of young people.

As Arundel High athletic director and chairman ofphysical education Bernie Walter says, "What good is it to be well-read if you are dead? I don't understand why we think health is important when you are dying, but we don't see the need to prepare our young people to be healthy," he said.

Currently, Maryland high school students are required to take only one credit of physical education to graduate. Under this new proposal, it would remain one credit -- only a student could earn it in a different way.

"Students could earn a half-credit at a time participating in a team activity such as football or basketball," said Dr. Betty Reid of the state Board of Education.

Outgoing Anne Arundel County coordinator of physical education Paul Rusko, who is, and should be, very proud of the county's physical education department, is vehemently opposed to the new proposaland sees it as "devastating" to the overall program.

"I find it rather mind-boggling that someone gets the notion somewhere that they can substitute the athletic experience for the physical education experience," said Rusko, who retired at the end of last year after 30 years in the county system, only to return on a personal contract whilethe county seeks to find a replacement.

"The objectives are quitedifferent in both areas. There is no guarantee that a kid is going to make a team. They may not make it because there are sports where kids are cut," Rusko said.

Rusko also pointed to other pertinent administrative factors that could prevent a student from fulfilling his phys. ed. requirement through outside-the-classroom activities.

"Students could lose their eligibility for academic reasons, disciplinary reasons, etc. There are a lot of reasons why kids could be droppedfrom a squad," he said. "Consider injuries that could occur at any time.

"We have three athletic seasons that don't necessarily match up with our course selection framework. Therefore, how can you intelligently plan how you are going to establish earning your credits for graduation?"

As for the message any such recommendation sends to our physical education faculty members, Rusko says, "It is devastating."

"I think, in time, it would reduce the number of physical education teachers at the high school level everywhere," he said. "You would have fewer kids in physical education classes, so therefore, you would have fewer teachers and, indirectly, you would be reducing the number of coaches within the schools."

Most of the county's physical education teachers also coach, so it stands to reason that if you reduce the number of instructors, you would have less available teachers in a particular school to coach.

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