Why is physical education so important?

‘Physical Education’ or ‘P.E.’ was the title of a class I had to attend in school up until age 16.
It always felt like an extra form of recess to me. Really, we just played games. Formally, we were taught next to nothing. It was play time during school time, we were allowed to let off a litte extra steam. That was it.

That might sound like a positive experience but really, in hindsight, it was a waste. There lay a weekly, forty-minute opportunity for teachers to educate children about how to use their bodies, how to find self-love via their bodies, where their bodies’ limitations lay, even if the medium used to share this knowledge was play.

As far as we know, for the duration a human is alive on this planet, they are a physical being with a real body. This body consitutes various limbs, a torso and a head with a brain inside it.
If you were to sit me inside a car, anywhere from 35-80 years, I would eventually like to know how the engine worked, how to get the most out of its performance, how to handle it round corners, how to repair it when something malfunctioned, etc.

Most schools have provided a disservice because they didnt teach us about our cars. Instead, they just let us take them round the track once a week for an hour or so. Once we left school, things broke, or we crashed and yet we were none the wiser on how to solve these problems.
Fortunately, literally speaking, with vehicles, you can outsource your issues to a professional.

With your body you can employ professionals to take a look, too but it doesn’t remove you from your own corporal responsibility. You’re still in it, whether you have a clue about your body or not. MoveMind argues that it’s your responibility whilst on earth to learn about your body and mind, to understand them both, to love them, and to put them to good use to benefit the rest of humanity, as best you can.

Turns out that my experience during school was not unique. Western educational faculties have gradually shifted their physical education curriculums towards that of sports and games over the last 90+ years. Newell reports on the state of the physical curriculum decline in the United States;


During its formative years, the physical education curriculum in the United States often included pedagogical, medical, and military content. By the 1930s, the focus had shifted primarily to the pedagogical with an emphasis on sports and games. It became fully clear by the 1960s that sports and games alone were failing to promote and sustain a rational physical culture, and many departments of physical education in American institutions of higher learning responded by adopting an academic discipline model that currently dominates the curriculum. This shift toward an emphasis on academic theory has left the physical education profession in chaos while societal interest in physical activity is at an all-time high.

Newell, 1990


A real physical education has so many benefits to the individual and society at large, it’s hard to ignore. Koehler (1919) believed that mechanical proficiency through physical training is essential for self reliance, courage, and personal discipline. He further argued that the discipline of the individual determines the discipline of the mass.

That’s a powerful set of skills that can be taught via physical education. What regular member of society would not value from being self-reliant, courageous and disciplined?

He defined discipline as:

The voluntary, intelligent, coordinated and cheerful subordination of every individual in an equal degree with every other individual of the mass to which he belongs, and of which he is an interdependent and not an independent unit, through which the object of the mass can be attained. (p.5)

Koehler, 1919


With that definition, can you see the vital role discipline has to play in creating a positive social adhesive amongst all members of society? Just focusing on letting children play sport and games during their P.E. classes, unfortunately, does nothing towards preparing them for being productive members of the world they live in. Yes, it will contribute to their in-the-moment levels of happiness, but it will do nothing for towards their long term levels of satisfaction.

The trouble with purely focusing on sport and games with children is that you create an environment where the naturally more athletic and competitive ones will prevail. The others will inevitably develop insecurities and levels of embarassment as a result of being compared to the naturally talented ones. The answer then is to create an environment that teaches children about their bodies and minds in a way that does not breed competition or comparison whilst they learn. Games and sport should be a seperate choice for children where those who want to, can explore the realms of competition and physical expression under pressure.
A decent model that educates them about their minds and bodies in a way that they enjoy and feel uniquely equal should be the compulsory norm on their schooling curriculum.
This way, you would avoid children leaving school with varying levels of dislike towards their bodies just because they were always picked last in P.E. class games.

A sound physical education also creates a level of personal understanding which should enhance one’s self-esteem, an element of living that martial arts, movie and philosophical legend Bruce Lee considers to be of paramount importance;

Pride is a sense of worth derived from something that is not part of us, while self-esteem derives from the potentialities and achievements of self. We are proud when we identify ourselves with an imaginary self, a leader, a holy cause, a collective body of possessions. There is fear and intolerance in pride; it is insensitive and uncompromising. The less promise and potency in the self, the more imperative is the need for pride. The core of pride is self-rejection.

Action is a high road to self-confidence and [self-]esteem. Where it is open, all energies flow toward it. It comes readily to most people and its rewards are tangible.

The maintenance of self-esteem is a continuous task that taxes all of the individual’s power and inner resources. We have to prove our worth and justify our existence anew each day.

Bruce Lee

If action is the high road to self-confidence and self-esteem, what better way to understand it than by learning physically how to take action? Physical education is just that; learning, achieved by doing.

Physical education is also one of the ways one learns to actualise oneself, unlocking the truest and deepest latent potential of an individual. This is an article in and of itself.
Click here to read more about self-actualisation and how vital it is for getting the most out of life.

Ultimately, a sound physical education has the potential to transform someone’s life on earth, into becoming the richest, most positive experience possible.
MoveMind is here to assist you with yours.

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