Bombardment and the Presidential Physical Fitness Award

I was never aware that there were children who lived in mortal fear of gym class. That the worst thing in life that could happen to them was learning it was Bombardment day. In retrospect I know who those kids were, but I was never able to share their terror of the possibility of participating in an activity that might help them feel better. See, I was good at sports. I enjoyed gym class. I felt at home there. The jocularity never bothered me. The sensation in one’s happy parts one can only get from climbing to the top a rope has never fully been equalled as an adult.

One of the happiest days of the year was the day we took the Presidential Physical Fitness test. This was my day. In the 1950’s President Eisenhower saw data suggesting Americans were woefully out of shape and flabby compared to Europeans, and he set out to establish a commission to remedy that. When President Kennedy took office he considered physical fitness a priority, even writing in Sports Illustrated “in a very real and immediate sense, our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security.”

The fat kid in gym class was a threat to national security.

The Presidential Physical Fitness test was established in 1966. It included a softball throw, a shuttle run, a broad jump, and pull ups. To earn the award, students had to place in the top 85th percentile as compared to the national average. Winners of the award received a blue badge with a number denoting how many times they had received the honor. Those who didn’t exceed the standard didn’t get one.

In 2012 the Presidential Physical Fitness program was replaced with a more relaxed program called The Presidential Youth Fitness Program. Apparently since not expecting anyone anywhere ever to earn anything or be good at anything in order to be recognized for being good at anything or having earned anything, now everyone is a winner.

And if you look around it seems to be working. This type of thinking has been enormously successful in raising reading and math skills in students, and I expect it will drastically improve the level of physical fitness in this new generation.

here’s my second and third Presidential Physical Fitness Awards. I saw some people even got a fourth and fifth, but who wants to put in that kind of effort?

Badges

 

And if you think I’m a heartless Conservative parroting some sort of crud I heard on a talk show, you’re wrong. I’m more Liberal than you. Trust me, and I’m all in favor of everyone getting a trophy for participation. Because that’s a self-esteem issue, but relaxing standards on physical fitness isn’t a self-esteem issue, it’s a health issue. Nothing is more important than health. Nothing. We all know this. So, when we relax these standards we’re not adding anything to our children’s lives, we’re taking something away. If anything I’d like to see those standards stiffened. Why not? It’s not about awards, or badges, or even self-esteem, really. It’s about health. And that trumps almost everything.

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