Researchers Say Gym-Class Humiliations Last a Lifetime

By Debra Viadero — January 07, 2010 1 min read

Sue Sylvester, the sadistic high school gym teacher in the “Glee” television series, makes us laugh with her biting put-downs of students and fellow teachers. However, when physical education teachers humiliate students in real life, they can turn them off of physical fitness for good.

That’s according to a new study described today in Science Daily. Written by University of Alberta researcher William Strean, the study is based on 24 qualitative accounts from adults looking back on their childhood gym experiences. As one woman in the study wrote:

I am a 51-year-old woman whose childhood experiences with sports, particularly as handled in school, were so negative that even as I write this my hands are sweating. I feel on the verge of tears. I have never experienced the humiliation nor felt the antipathy toward any other aspect of life as I do toward sports."

According to Science Daily, Strean wants to raise awareness of such experiences so those who instruct children in sports will realize the experiences they provide can shape lifelong attitudes about physical fitness. Should this article be required reading for wanna be gym teachers? I think so. That doesn’t mean we can’t laugh at Sue Sylvester, though.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.


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