Re: Gym in High School

by on May.04, 2009, under Uncategorized

Due to a comment I recieved on my “Gym in High School” post, my reply, and some events of today, I feel that this subject needs revisiting.

It isn’t about whether you should or shouldn’t excersise. It’s about how excersise is used as a punishment throughout middle school and high school. Today, my class went out to play tennis. As a warmup, we had to run down to the end of the tennis court and back twice (I use run lightly here, we could have jogged and been fine). Eager to play tennis, I was the first jogging, and quickly got the two rounds complete. A friend of mine, and another kid in my gym class were on pace with me, and we all three were done.

However, some of the other kids in my class are lazy. I see this all the time: they either just walk, turn around half way, or find another way to pretend that they ran what was required. As I was coming back the second time, I heard my gym teacher yelling something to the effect that they weren’t running, so had to redo the run. Fine, whatever. I had done what was required, so I shouldn’t have to worry.

Here’s where the problem comes in. As I get back to my teacher, she tells me (and the other two kids running with me) that we’ll have to do one more time there and back. I ask her why, noting that we had already ran there and back twice, and she tells me something along the lines of this:

Yeah, I know, but some of your classmates feel they didn’t need to do the whole thing, so now everyone has to run more.

And, here’s where I find the problem. I ran what was required of me. I know this, I’m sure the class knows this, and the teacher knows this. Yet, because one or two people in my class are lazy (the teacher even named who the person was), I have to run more. So, I propose a hypothesis to everyone reading this: group punishment does not work.

Teachers seem to love it. Why single out kids, and deal with them individually when you can just make everyone do more work? On top of that, peer pressure should cause the others to do what’s required of them in the future, right?

Wrong. I have zero influence on the kids in my class who are lazy. This is due to multiple factors: they are in a different social group than I am, I try to avoid associating myself with them, and (not trying to sound conceited here… you have to trust me that this is true) they are on a lower intellectual level than me.

In most classes, I don’t have this problem. I take honors or AP classes, so I generally am in a class of smart people who are willing to do work required so they don’t have to face the punishment. However, I have two classes that go outside this norm: gym physical education (my commentary on this correction is saved for another post), and my lit class (again, my commentary on this will be saved for another post). Somehow, it seems that, when scheduling classes, they ignored intellectual level, and just stuck whoever in whatever gym class.

However, here’s where it stops making sense to me: there is another gym class the same hour that I have my gym class which has at least three people that are on the same intellectual level as me. In my gym class, I can think of one person, maybe two people, that fit this description. It seems that they took this group of people who they knew would goof off, and stuck me in with them.

So, while group punishment hinges on the assumption that peer pressure is the greatest form of influence, this is not always true. So, how can punishment be implemented to be successful? Single the person out. My school does this often for postive accomplishments, why not do it for negative influences? Make the person do thirty pushups while everyone else just watches. This will cause embarassment, distress, etc., hopefully fixing the behavior.

Of course, this keeps the idea of using excersise as a punishment. But, perhaps that’s OK for people who are going to goof off anyway. We can let them think of excersise as a punishment, and let them grow fat and stupid as the rest of us thrive. As my Physics teacher so often says:

We call that natural selection.

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