Preventing Play Poses Peril to Pre-pubescents

Hello Friends,

What a nice alliteration, don’t you think? Too bad it conveys such an unfortunate message. I recently read an article in the Oregonian which disturbed me, and I wanted to take some time and give you my two cents on the subject, and hopefully start a conversation.

The Portland Public School system has actually suggested cutting Physical Education classes for a majority of Portland Public schools in the coming school year. Can you believe that? Apparently, there is something like $19 million dollars that will be cut from next years budget, and since many school have already removed their creative arts and music programs, PE classes are next on the docket. Why is it always about the money? Seriously, whose pockets are being filled at the expense of our kid’s education?

This budget cut could potentially eliminate as many as 65 teaching positions, adding to Oregon’s already high unemployment rate, as well as increase the workload for classroom teachers, who would be expected to “offer students the opportunity for movement and activity during the school day”. It can also be assumed that the number of fat kids in Portland would also jump dramatically, and no one really wants that, do they?

All joking aside, how can anyone think this is a good idea? I am not well-versed in Oregon’s tax system, or the trickiness of macroeconomics, but I think it should go without saying that actively preventing children from engaging in physical activity and play, for whatever reason,  is a bad idea.  Because this is an economic and political issue, it also makes me wonder about the effectiveness of a system that would consider taking such drastic negative measures against future generations. It makes me wonder about the intentions of people who were elected as political representatives, and who have power to make decisions in situations like this that can affect the lives of millions of people. It makes me wonder about the profiteers who will, no doubt, benefit monetarily from deals like this. It makes me wonder about our priorities as a community, and question whether we know what is good for us as a species. It makes me wonder, as an advocate for social justice, why it is always the poor schools who must give up their art programs, and their music programs, and their PE programs? It seems wrong on so many levels, doesn’t it?

My son in currently enrolled in his second year of public school. My daughter is attending kindergarten at a publicly funded school. Knowing that they may not be “allowed” any time to express themselves in a physical way worries me. They are both extremely active, and learn best when they can move around and interact with their environment. Physical play also helps balance their energy levels, so they can sit relatively still and pay attention when they need to. I don’t like the idea of my kids being cooped up all day in a classroom, and I don’t think they will enjoy it either.

So, what are some ways we can fix this? How can the people of Portland, on a community level, take direct action to prevent this from happening to our schools? How do we bypass the bureaucracy of city government and contribute to a positive solution that can serve the best interest of everyone involved? I have a few ideas, if you will please indulge me…

1. As parents, or rather, anyone who cares about the physical and mental well-being of a child, we should take some responsibility and make a concerted effort to play with out kids more. Spend time as a family, being active and engaging life on some physical level.

2.  Re-evaluate our methods of mass education and socialization, and see if there aren’t some changes we could make that might be more positive for children who  populate those systems. Perhaps we are not teaching our children in the most effective manner, and perhaps the content of what we are teaching them is not as interesting or intellectually stimulating as it could be. Perhaps, by conforming to some kind of standardization, we are killing their creative spirit, and showing them a skewed way of interacting with the world around them. We need to change all that right now.

3. Change the method of government and economics we practice in consumer capitalism. How is possible that our teachers are paid so little, given the significance of their job? How is it possible, that we cannot tax ourselves appropriately to ensure the community has access to such simple amenities as health care, decent education, and livable wages? How is it possible that the people elected to represent the rest of the community can offer legislature that would surely lead to negative, unpleasant effects for their constituents? We need to change all that right now.

What are your thoughts? Is this happening in other places as well? Do we see this as part of a growing trend of behavior? Are there simple solutions we are not implementing that could prevent scenarios like this? Drop a comment and let me know what you think. Until next time…


Here’s A Story You Should Definitely Read

Hello Friends,

I finally finished reading “Change Your Body, Change The World”, the new book from Frank Forencich of Exhuberant Animal. Just to get this out of the way, if you have any interest in making the world a better place to live, engaging in a positive way with the world around you, or simply stepping out of your day-to-day paradigm, you should read this book. You can buy the book here, and get involved in a powerful, effective movement.

In this post, I would like to address a few topics Frank covers in his book, and I want to ask some important questions that I hope you will consider seriously and answer honestly. But first, let’s start with a little bit of history…

When I first found the Exhuberant Animal website, I was intrigued by the idea of “play-based fitness”, and I was curious about the real-world applications of such an idea. I wondered if this idea was just some nifty marketing trick, put forth by an old hippie who was trying to make a quick buck by convincing us we all need to embrace our inner child. I wondered if there was any empirical evidence, or powerful testimony that could validate such an unorthodox idea. Then, I began reading more about the action and effort behind the philosophy. I watched a few videos on Youtube, and I listened to Frank speak a couple times, and I attended an Exhuberant Animal movement seminar. Then I was convinced. And now, I am going to try to convince you.

A vast majority of the problems and maladies effecting human beings the world over are caused by individual decisions and the negative consequences of those decisions. Granted, there are systemic and systematic factors that cause these problems to effect exponentially large populations, but the root of these problems are generated from an individual source. Obesity and hunger, poverty and super-wealth, relative sickness and health, and many other diametrically opposed problems all result, at some point, from individual action. Many of these problems are exacerbated by the fact that many people refuse to take responsibility for their decisions, and choose to remain ignorant to the far-reaching consequences of what might seem like a trivial situation. This process is not sustainable, and if we as a species continue to perpetuate this kind of behavior, we will not only destroy ourselves, but also effectively decimate the natural world as well. This situation is unacceptable, and it is time to take drastic measures.

And now is when you reach out and grab a copy of “Change Your Body, Change The World”, and you read through a couple chapters and you learn how to begin making a positive impression on the environment and people around you.

By covering a diverse array of topics, from anatomy to martial arts to the life of Huckleberry Finn, Frank Forencich delineates a simple, creative, effective solution to many of the problems we see around us. In essence, he suggests we remember what it feels like to inhabit our physical bodies, and he suggests we remember how to use our physical bodies in the most effective, efficient, effusive ways possible. To make this change even easier, he goes so far as to suggest a myriad of ways to start creating change in your life today. Here are a few to get you started…

Play more. That is, enjoying what you are doing, and do more of what you enjoy.

Watch less T.V. Actually, spend less time in front of any screen.

Use all of your senses, all of the time. More smelling, more tasting, more listening, more seeing, MORE TOUCH.

 Push boundaries, refuse simple definitions, exalt the complex, avoid the complicated, step outside the lines, refuse to specialize, avoid all the little boxes people create to make themselves feel safe.

With all that comes more communication, more physical labor, more effort and thicker skin. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea, and I think this is enough to convince you to find a copy of this book and read it, RIGHT NOW!

So here are the important questions. Are you happy with how your body feels right now? Are you happy with the world around you right now?  Are you happy with how you body and your environment interact? Are you happy, period? Consider the answers to these questions, then drop a comment and let me know what you came up with.

Until next time…