Jefferies, pelinks4u publisher
There's No Denying: Bad is Bad
If you've been following the national news recently, one story that probably caught your eye was the hauling before Congress of a young pharmaceutical CEO named Martin Shkreli. With a smirky smile, Shkreli wisely invoked his 5th Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination, by refusing to justify to legislators his plan to raise the cost of a drug AIDS victims depended upon from $13.50 to $750 a pill - a 5556% increase!
On June 29, 2009, a former chairman of the NASDAQ stock market was sentenced to 150 years in prison. Bernard "Bernie" Madoff, then a private financial investment advisor had pleaded guilty to operating a so-called "Ponzi" scheme amounting to one of the biggest financial frauds in history. Billions of dollars had been fraudulently siphoned off from clients who had entrusted Madoff with their financial futures and whose lives he'd ruined.
Despite the honest efforts that most people put into their work lives, we're all aware of people who choose to cheat, copy, lie, steal, and deceive. Their stories like those above sometimes make national news but often not. When we do things that are illegal we risk being punished. But if we don't break any laws there's a lot we can get away without reproach. That is unless someone calls us on it, holds us accountable and starts questioning the consequences of our actions. Not surprisingly, most people are reluctant to do this. Especially if it risks rocking the boat and making waves people around us find uncomfortable. And so it is with physical education.
Despite the valiant efforts of thousand of physical educators to do what's best for the kids they serve, few of us don't know or even work with teaching colleagues whose jobs are a fraud. They organize rather than teach, they aren't interested much in helping their students love being physically active and wanting to stay healthy, are not concerned about staying updated professionally, and are content to serve as a rich source of inspiration for the never-ending-stream of gym-teacher jokes. They, like Shkreli and Madoff are quite simply bad at what they do. It may not be illegal. But without doubt it is a fraud.
Of course, although I don't know them personally I'm guessing that Shkreli, Madoff, and most of our non-performing colleagues are in many ways nice people: The kind you could enjoying chatting with about family, food, sports and such. But in their work, what they do and far too frequently have done for too many years is undeniably bad. And while it may be too uncomfortable for us to confront these bad performers directly, there's something all of us can and should do. Bad is bad and we need to quit defending it.
When people complain publicly about their physical education experiences, about the endless boring running, the humbling games-playing experiences, the locker room dressing down humiliations, the yelling, the put-downs, the pain, the total absence of joy in moving, we must stop defending it. Just as in any walk of life, any job, there are those who are just plain bad at what they do. Painters, plumbers, electricians, lawyers, hairdressers, salespeople, builders, truck drivers, it doesn't matter. Everywhere there are people who are simply bad at what they do and embarrass their colleagues. So too are there bad physical education teachers. Let's confess to it.
Let's point out bad is all around us, not just in our school gyms. None of us are immune. Yes, it's true there are bad physical educators. Much better to be upfront and tell others we don't like it any more than those who've suffered at their hands. We are just as appalled, in fact even more so because they give our profession a bad name. But let's also be ready to point out the good. Where things are working well. Where teachers are not only dedicated to improving the lives of their students but where there's clear evidence of their impact.
The way to change how others see physical education is not to deny what is undeniably bad, but rather to show that we - like their workmates - aren't all the same. Most of us are committed to doing good. We're doing our best to making children's physical education experiences joyful and motivating. If others can see us in this way, instead of making fun of an entire profession they may start calling out those who truly deserve criticism. That's not only the way it should be, but also the way physical education will improve.
Steve Jefferies, pelinks4u publisher
SHAPE America President
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