Letters to the Editor

Physical education op-ed strikes a chord

Kindergarteners at Thales Academy in Apex prepare to play ball in their physical education class on Monday, Nov. 30, 2009.
Kindergarteners at Thales Academy in Apex prepare to play ball in their physical education class on Monday, Nov. 30, 2009. TED RICHARDSON

This Sunday forum is in response to “PE in schools is critical for national security” (Oct. 5).

Kids ‘deserve’ PE

As retired Brigadier General Blake Williams’s op-ed stated, childhood obesity is a national security issue. But it is also a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which are still among the top five causes of death in the United States. North Carolina students deserve to learn skills to be healthy for their entire lives – and physical education, or PE, is critical to building those skills and being physically active.

PE is also good for their mental and emotional health, proven to help decrease chronic absenteeism and improve behavior in the classroom. North Carolina students deserve to have quality PE throughout the week, but in most districts, parents don’t even know how much PE their children receive. It’s time to make PE a priority in all our schools – our kids deserve it.

Larry Calhoun

Raleigh

‘Mandate’ PE

Retired Brigadier General Blake E. Williams wrote an extremely impressive op-ed on physical education. This finely researched and well-written message, presumably from one not trained professionally in the field of health and physical fitness, is extraordinary.

Advocating daily physical education to fight childhood obesity has been the mantra of professionals in the field forever. The sobering fact that childhood obesity is adversely impacting the readiness of our armed forces just may have a more powerful motivating influence for change in our culture than the parochial influence that trained professionals in the field have been advocating for years. Because this country rightfully so loves its military, I would champion their influence to change the culture in our school systems to mandate this requirement.

I can attest to his premise, because for over 25 years I assisted municipal and state law enforcement agencies as well as the FBI in developing physical fitness programs to prepare these first responders to meet the physical demands of their jobs. Pre-screening “washed out” many because of their poor fitness status, the principal reason-overweight and obesity.

However I would be remiss if I did not address the comment “that childhood obesity is not just a public health problem.” This is absolutely on the mark. The overwhelming research on the objective relationship between physical activity and health is enormous. The literature is replete with the advantageous relationship between physical activity and heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, pregnancy and of course obesity. We spend millions on interscholastic sports that reach a small percentage of children in our public and private schools, but very little on daily physical education – can’t do that, it would cost too much. I guess saving lives is just too expensive. Sound familiar?

David N. Camaione

Raleigh

PE ‘maximizes’ life

In response to “PE is Schools is Critical for National Security,” I would like to add that not only is physical education a key building block for a child’s academic and emotional growth (if taught correctly and positively), but it also contributes to one’s ability to reach the ultimate goal of a healthy life – “to be an active participant in society” for as long as one is able to do so.

In other words, to maximize an individual’s ability to live life to the fullest. One of the many sad byproducts of our General Assembly’s decision to cut art, music and physical education teacher positions in elementary schools is that children will have fewer opportunities to really see and experience the many long-term benefits from these so-called “non-academic” subject areas. These are areas that speak to the soul, provide amazement in our lives and bring a deep joy to the children and youth we care so deeply about.

Artie Kamiya

Durham

PE ‘vital’

Retired Brigadier General Blake Williams shared his thoughts on childhood obesity, Mission: Readiness, and physical education. As President of the North Carolina Parent Teacher Association, we would like to lend our voice in favor of physical education in North Carolina on behalf of every child.

NCPTA is the state’s oldest and largest volunteer organization advocating for the education, health, safety and success of all children and youth while building strong families and communities. PTAs across North Carolina impact more than 685,000 children and their families through more than 960 PTA units in schools across the state. While we agree that physical education plays a vital role in military readiness, it also plays a role in every child reaching his or her full potential. A CDC analysis showed a strong link between increased physical fitness levels and academic performance. In short, PE drives improvements in cognitive skills, behaviors and test scores. Studies of the benefits of physical education in school include strong associations with not just reduced rates of obesity, but also with increased attention, reduced disciplinary referrals and reduced absenteeism. Chronic absenteeism in particular is associated with many of the battles our education system is currently fighting, from reading at grade level in third grade to graduating from high school on time.

In spite of the evidence supporting a minimum of 150 minutes of PE per week in elementary school and 225 minutes of PE per week in middle school, North Carolina schools do not require a minimum number of minutes of PE per day or week at all. Individual schools and districts can determine their own PE standards, resulting in inequities in PE minutes and quality from school to school and district to district across our state. As parents and teachers, we believe that consistent minimum standards are vital to ensuring that every child reaps the full benefits of PE in their schools. One place to start is by including PE on the NC School Report Card. With that one simple action, we can help make sure parents know how much PE their students receive at school and begin the process of strengthening physical education for every child. The benefits to schools, children and our state would be endless.

Virginia Jicha

President, North Carolina PTA

Marianne Hedrick Weant, MSPH, MA, CHES

Director of Health Programs, North Carolina PTA

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