Physical and Health Educators Demand Their Fields Be Included in Goals

By Jessica Portner — March 31, 1993 3 min read
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WASHINGTON--More than 800 high school coaches, health educators, students, and college professors last week marched to the steps of the Education Department here and demanded that physical education and health be included along with academic disciplines in the national education goals and standards-setting efforts.

Wearing T-shirts and carrying placards that read “Educate the whole child,’' the marchers presented to members of Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley’s staff a petition signed by 25,000 educators and students.

“To be complete, a student’s education must include knowledge about the importance of good health and physical fitness,’' the petition read.

The national education goals specify that students should demonstrate proficiency in core subject matter, including mathematics, science, English, history, and geography. In response to critics who had charged that the list slighted some important subjects, Secretary Riley said this month that legislation to codify the national goals would also include the arts and foreign languages.

The only mention of health education in the goals is an objective toward the goal of insuring that every school is drug-free by 2000. The objective states that every school will develop a comprehensive K-12 drug- and alcohol-prevention-education program, and that drug and alcohol curricula should be taught as an integral part of health education.

Need To ‘Educate Their Bodies’

In addition to pushing for federal recognition of their fields, members of the American Alliance for Health and Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, who presented the petition during the group’s annual meeting here, said they also hoped to persuade Mr. Riley to endorse their efforts to create national standards for health and physical fitness.

Over the past year, the Education Department and other agencies have sponsored projects to develop standards for student performance in the five subjects named in the goals, as well as in civics, foreign languages, and the arts.

Using private funds, two groups that are members of the alliance--the Association for the Advancement of Health Education and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education--have developed standards for their subjects, which are expected to be completed this year.

“People don’t see P.E. as a curriculum; they see it as recess,’' said Kathleen Sirovy, the 1992 National P.E. Teacher of the Year and a coach at a Roseville, Calif., high school. “But there is knowledge involved.’'

The physical-education standards emphasize that all students must be taught about the importance of daily physical activity and nutrition, and have a knowledge of physiology and stress management, said Angela Lumpkin, president of NASPE.

“What students need to educate their bodies is no different from [what they need] to educate their minds,’' Ms. Lumpkin said. Physical-education programs should include motor skills, walking, and sports that are geared by grade level to an individual student’s ability, she added.

Ms. Lumpkin also stressed that “it is essential that well-qualified and certified professionals provide physical-education instruction for K-12 students.’'

A. Gilson Brown, the executive vice president of the health educators’ association, also argued that the health-education standards could help the Clinton Administration achieve its aim of reducing health-care costs.

No Promises Offered

Education Department officials declined to say whether the education goals would be redrawn to include health and P.E. But they applauded the groups’ efforts.

“We have been proactive on this issue,’' said Fritz Edelstein, an assistant to Secretary Riley. “We want to listen, not shut them out.’'

Ramon C. Cortines, a special adviser to Secretary Riley, told the marchers that Mr. Riley “does take this demonstration very seriously.’'

Members of the alliance said they would return to Washington to press their case.

“We want an ongoing relationship with the [Education] Department,’' said Mr. Brown.

A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 1993 edition of Education Week as Physical and Health Educators Demand Their Fields Be Included in Goals


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