(Publisher’s Note: In the following essay, Dr. Earle Zeigler shares with PHE America readers his thoughts on the status of physical education today and what he thinks the profession should do to advance. Now aged 98, Dr. Zeigler has for many years been one of the profession’s most prolific, respected, and influential scholars (check out his Biography here). Earle tells me this will likely be one of his final professional contributions. Enjoy, reflect on Earle’s ideas, and please share with colleagues. I know that Earle would enjoy reading your own thoughts if you post them in the comments section below the essay~Steve)
What should the field of physical (activity) education promote in the 21st Century? Knowing that unpredictable social forces will bring unanticipated change, what can we as professionals do in the years immediately ahead to ensure that our field along with educational sport is fully recognized in educational circles throughout the world? I believe that the positive steps we choose should consist of actions that will result in purposeful accomplishments by the men and women who are concerned about the future of developmental physical activity as a valuable component of human life from “womb to tomb.”
The following recommended actions are based on where I believe the profession is today and what needs to be done. We should seek worldwide consensus on these recommendations and agreement on what it’s going to take to achieve them. Then, as dedicated professional educators at all levels, we should take as rapid and strong action as we can muster working closely with our professional associations.
This multiple award-winning documentary shows the irreplaceable role classical Physical Education plays to develop smart, productive & mentally stable citizens, and the out-of-control consequences we face today with its absence in our society.
The United States made the decision to stop teaching real physical education 100 years ago. JFK tried to bring it back, but the effort ended with his shortened Presidency.
This documentary links the largest problems facing the US today to its current state of physical illiteracy, which comes as a consequence of no longer having educators, business leaders, or citizens understand how exercise (and particularly group exercise) can be used to solve our most pressing issues including how the US spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world, has the highest incidents of mental instability, the highest national debt, incarcerates 25% of the world’s prisoners with only 4% of the population, has the worst productivity since the 1970’s, the worst education rank since the 1970’s and amongst the worst life expectancy of the OECD countries.
A moonshot, in a technology context, is an ambitious, exploratory and ground-breaking project undertaken without any expectation of near-term profitability or benefit and also, perhaps, without a full investigation of potential risks and benefits.
When I think of moonshot thinking, one name always comes to my mind, Elon Musk. He is a billionaire that continues to invest in companies that are impacting change in the world. He is the founder of Spacex, Tesla Motors, and co-founder of Solar City. He is working on developing reusable rockets for space missions, cars that don’t run on combustible fuels and working on lessening our dependence on fossil fuels. He is always exploring groundbreaking concepts and is working to stop the development of artificial intelligence. Musk has even questioned if we are already living in a computer-generated world created by machines. His ambition keeps pushing science and technology past the current standard set by humanity.
If SHAPE America’s 50 Million Strong commitment is a moonshot idea for health and physical educators, then how will we achieve this moonshot goal? According to SHAPE America “Approximately 50 million students are currently enrolled in America’s elementary and secondary schools. SHAPE America wants to ensure that by the time today’s youngest students graduate from high school in 2029, all of America’s children are empowered to lead healthy and active lives through effective health and physical education programs.” But what is our functional tool that will measure growth? What instrument are we going to use to gather data? Is SHAPE America going to create developmental milestones for this campaign? And what happens if we don’t have success by 2029?
50 Million Strong by 2029 is SHAPE America’s commitment to empower all children to lead healthy and active lives through effective health and physical education programs (SHAPE America).
SHAPE America has a bold goal. But it’s one that all of us who teach physical education should be striving to achieve. If 50 million sounds like a huge number, it is! And it’s easy to suggest it’s an unrealistic goal. But in honesty, it’s not so impossible to imagine success if we think about this goal one student at a time.
As the school year winds down and we break for summer, it’s a good time to think about our programs and how we can improve. Where can we add things that give our kids the best chance to be a part of 50 Million Strong? All of us who teach physical education do our best to instill in our students the idea that physical activity is good for them and that they can have fun at the same time. So now, we need to ask ourselves “How can we make our programs even more effective?” The film I’ve shared below shows some of the things we are doing at Mott Road Elementary to help our kids join the “50 Million Strong” club.
Like many of you, we have students who get dropped off early before school begins. A few years ago, we had the idea of opening the gym for an activity we called “Exercise for Excellence.” We wanted the kids to see that this wasn’t just free time in the gym. Instead, we wanted students to make the connection between exercise and their brains and help them realize that having fun moving each day can help them learn better.
Currently, approximately 50 million students are enrolled in America’s elementary and secondary schools. SHAPE America is leading the effort to ensure that by the time today’s youngest students graduate from high school in 2029, all of America’s young people will be “empowered to lead healthy and active lives through effective health and physical education programs.” SHAPE America proposes doing this through its “50 Million Strong by 2029” commitment.
I am a pragmatic person working in the field of education. I grew up with both of my parents working in public education and I followed in their footsteps hoping to make an impact in the classroom. I have both blue collar and white collar friends from my childhood. For most of my adult life, while I’ve been teaching I’ve also worked in the outdoor industry. I’m knowledgeable about bikes, boards, and hiking gear and I love being outside especially on the water. I also have two children who will be in school through 2029 and unfortunately, I don’t believe that on its current course 50 Million Strong will succeed.
Over the past two months I have watched two outdoor industry businesses close their doors due lack of sales and poor profits. The first business to close was the bike shop that I worked at in a small town. They had a great business model and great brands that supported the shop through the good years but as e-commerce grew they couldn’t compete with cheaper prices on the internet and now the lack of people’s interest in bicycling.