This is an old favourite. re-presented here to lay the ground for the great return to the phys ed education debate…

Several years ago, a major organ of our professional society raised a troubling issue: namely whether the three major subfields were being taught in the proper order at the high school level .
A furor arose in the letter pages, debating the merits endlessly. Which first, which last? (also here).

Now, I think we can all agree on the basics – there are not enough resources to teach all subfields each year of high school, and I am told scheduling is also impossible if people are taking subjects for more than two years (one year intro, one advanced for college hopefuls). So, decisions have to be made.

I have thought about this, and I think that having general phys ed as grounding in the first year is essential; then basketball, because it requires the least amount of equipment to set up; then baseball; and leave football to the final year. Your typical high school student is not ready for football before their final year anyway, playing it earlier just invites injury.
Now, people argue that the final year should be general phys ed, and that football should be taught first, no later than sophomore year, so that the top players can do a second AP year to prepare for college, which they must do no later than junior year for consideration by the top programs. Now this may be fine for private prep schools, but the realities of public education, and the difficulty in finding qualified coaches clearly precludes this. Maybe the largest schools can do junior level football, or allow exceptional players to play a year early, so they can get a second year before college, but realistically the fraction of players which have the innate talent to compete at the next level is so small that it is simply not an issue for most schools.

A friend of mine suggested leaving general phys ed to the middle schools, and moving all athletic classes up a year; then the advanced students aiming for college would have time to take senior AP classes, maybe even two or three sports for the absolute top athletes, in schools with the resources to offer that. Then, the regular students could take Driver’s Ed in their final year, which is when it is most needed anyway. This could be a good compromise, particularly for the larger urban schools.

What puzzles me is, having come through the European system, how they managed to do everything from shooting and archery, to yoga, through soccer, hockey and rugby, and still manage the scheduling. Even in a relatively small school. Must be some ineffable structural difference in the education management system.

originally on the Old Dynamics of Cats blog


  1. #1 bph
    December 3, 2011

    how they managed to do everything from shooting and archery, to yoga, through soccer, hockey and rugby, and still manage the scheduling

    Really really badly. Phys ed in my high school was the time for the athletically gifted who did the same sport on a team outside of school to show.

    Any parallels you want to draw to, say, calculus or AP classes are left to the reader.

  2. #2 Anonymous
    December 3, 2011

    My mother is a superintendent at a major school district in Florida. They do not even try to fix problems concerning the actual education of the students. All I have ever heard discussed my entire life being around the politics of education is how many new cafeterias, football fields, and parking spaces they could build. The issues has never even been brought up to my knowledge. Its not a matter of resources, its the fact that no one cares.

  3. #3 Tony P
    December 3, 2011

    My high school was college preparatory.

    I was required to take four years of math, four years of sciences, four years of English, three years of a foreign language, and some very cool electives like Electronics and Computer Science.

    It’s why I washed out of college on the first pass. They were doing what I’d spent the last four years doing. So I got bored.

  4. #4 Gerry
    December 3, 2011

    Quit teaching subjects; start doing real team projects, all of which are multi-disciplinary by nature.

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