Don’t Ignore the Body, When Educating the Mind

Mind and body are intrinsically part of one system. How we must wish that this fact had been drilled in to the heads of the industrial-mindsetted perpetrators of today’s education systems. They may have been ignorant and didn’t have data and information available to them. Today’s generation of educators have no such excuses and yet all too often we see a failure to acknowledge the significance and importance of physical aspects of educational activity alongside the mental and academic studies.

Here’s an article I came across a little while ago from MSN Health Today (click on the link) that highlights the results of a study in the US that found a clear and significant correlation between academic performance and level of fitness. To me, such evidence, makes it unquestionable that a decent amount of high quality physical exercise must be given its due importance in the weekly timetable of all schools.

I stress on the quality. Being given a football and 30 minutes to run around with it is a poor substitute for most children for high quality PE. Firstly, the actual amount of concerted effort put out by each child in such circumstances is quite modest. Secondly, it doesn’t even prepare them well for building competency in football. Instead, it reinforces a belief that football ability is innate – my classmate is lucky and has it, I don’t. Along the way, even the child with the innate headstart can be assured ofpicking up enough bad habits that will probably make it very unlikely that he’ll ever really fulfill his potential on a football field.

Here in India we’re plagued by a lack of understanding or interest in physical education on the part of most school heads, a lack of professional training and development for PE teachers (nearly all of whom refuse to see themselves as anything other than sports coaches) and a host of unhealthy influences on children about what it means to be physically active or why they should pursue a physical activity.

I wish I had never had all those experiences when I have heard supposedly intelligent and educated people standing on a stage telling children and their parents that it’s good if they pursue a sport because that way they might get rich!! I don’t get too excited about whether a handful might get rich. I do get very disturbed at the potential numbers who will suffer physical and health problems at relatively young ages – thereby ensuring that their fine academic educations don’t bear the fruit they should have done. I fear the best chances of getting rich really will lie with the doctors who will reap the benefits of their unfit young bodies breaking down.

Maybe, just maybe, the realization that a fit body can enhance a child’s academic chances will lead to the desired attitudinal changes and proper, effective support to physical education. We can but hope.

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3 Responses

  1. I am so delighted to read this write up….I consider myself to be so lucky to have had a great dad who believed in outdoor adventure activities and sports as a way of life and scoffed at all those [ even his close friends] that excelling in sports will get you a job or bring riches…!
    Today I am a very happy individual because my hubby,too is a die hard believer in leading a healthy life…doing marathons, triathlons and now running high in the Himalayan ranges and together we took the difficult decision of sending our 12 and 10 year old sons to Lawrence school, Sanawar so that they can breathe in the cool healthy air and pursue all kinds of sports.
    Every time we meet them our tight hugs and kisses lead into beautiful conversations on their Hodson’s run [ a mini marathon for which they practice all year around] , to the ways their sports teachers noticed their sporting caliber and how they got their berths in various school teams..etc. As parents we soak in their happiness and feel good about giving them this opportunity to ‘live life’ and …. then we get to hear from them that they have scored in their 90s in their exams…… They have not felt the agony or the pressures of having to work harder to do well in academics…or is it that sports gives them so much of joy and satisfaction that academics is no longer a burden…

  2. “Here in India we’re plagued by a lack of understanding or interest in physical education on the part of most school heads….” Very disheartening to hear this from you, Mark…. You have to understand Indian circumstances to understand their psychology… We are 1 billion people facing cut throat competition in every phase of life… Marks in examination is considered to be an objective benchmark to judge kids… A capitalist society with no social security system (unlike many developed countries) where sports other than cricket is given steply treatment… I am not underestimating the importance of sports or other physical activities… May be your wordings need to be toned down… Cheers

    • I don’t disagree with what you say, but stand by my words. I believe a student who is physically fit has all the potential to offer up better academic results – it’s not an ‘either or’ equation.

      Imagine, for a moment, class 12 students offered the chance for an organised football match at 7.30am on a Sunday. They don’t play, because ‘we have boards this year’! What time does that student start studying on Sunday?

      I put it to you that if they played soccer, they would be finished by 8.30, showered and breakfasted by 9.30am ready to start work and ready to give great focus to their work. Instead, they fall out of bed at 8.30am, switch on the TV, eventually the parents fight with them to start work and around 10.30am they sit down at the table staring at the book, pretending to study to keep the parents off their back!

      Who will gain most?

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