Thursday, October 20, 2011

Responding to the NY Times

The NY Times ran a story that examined how NYC schools have stripped away physical education programs to near nothing. The article asserts that the combination of dwindling budgets combined with the intense pressure to raise academic achievement has resulted in reductions of all subjects and disciplines that are conventionally viewed as ornamental or extra: art, music, and physical education.

The focus of the article is on how some schools have tried to preserve a semblance of phys ed by devising entrepreneurial and creative programs that function outside the typical flow of the school day and budget: 
But some teachers and principals have gotten creative to prioritize movement during the school day, stretching money, space and time to fit in exercise wherever they can.
After reading the article, Sam Intrator and Don Siegel were inspired to write a letter to the editor of the NY Times. We don't know whether it will be published, but we share it below (letters are limited to 150 words, so there is clearly more to say).
Dear Editor:

Kids need to move. It’s good for their brains, their bodies, and their spirit. At a time when school physical education programs are being cut because of tight budgets and the pressure to prioritize academics, we need entrepreneurial approaches that keep children running and playing. In Springfield, MA, where many children get only 40 minutes of physical education per week, we run an after school program called Project Coach.

Our idea is simple: high school students can be wonderful sport coaches if they are prepared and supervised. Our teenage coaches run after school sport leagues for elementary-aged children. Teenagers need work that is meaningful. They also need jobs (we pay our coaches). They also bring a special charisma and energy to sports that the elementary students adore. Our teenagers learn to lead because coaching is about inspiring, solving problems, planning, improvising and more. The children move, play, and learn.

Sam Intrator and Don Siegel
Co-Directors of Project Coach and Professors at Smith College

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