Education Letter to the Editor

‘New Physical Education’ Is Really Not That New

March 11, 2008 1 min read

To the Editor:

I read with great interest your article “Exercise Seen as Priming Pump for Students’ Academic Strides” (Feb. 13, 2008). Much of it describes studies and conclusions that are supported by research and facts.

Near the end, however, it reads, “It’s also not likely, Dr. [John J.] Ratey said, that just any physical education curriculum will produce the kinds of benefits that Naperville [Central High School, in Naperville, Ill.] saw with its ‘learning readiness’ classes.” This statement sticks out as unexplained and unsupported, and, as such, it seems unnecessary to include it.

There are many, many high-quality physical education programs in practice presently, most of which deliberately incorporate academic content and skills to maximize those cognitive benefits of physically active learning that the rest of the article describes. They are not just any PE classes, but are purposefully designed with academic success, along with many more physical, emotional, social, and intellectual outcomes, in mind.

The “new PE” that physical educator Phil Lawler mentions in your article has been a fact in evidence for at least 25 years, and its philosophy is spreading over more of the country every year. Gone are the old ways and the bad practices that so many people kept complaining about. If best practices aren’t happening in a school or district, its leaders better get on it. Remember what happened to the dinosaurs when they couldn’t adapt and evolve.

Jean Mee

Woodbridge, Conn.

A version of this article appeared in the March 12, 2008 edition of Education Week as ‘New Physical Education’ Is Really Not That New