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Whatever Happened to Gym Class?.

Fat Chance

Ground Zero continued...

Award-winning physical education teacher John Williams, of North Carolina's Ayden Elementary School, has heard the criticisms and acknowledges some teachers still fit the cliché. But, he says, most PE teachers take their jobs very seriously and have incorporated wellness programs into their classes to teach children skills that will help them stay fit for life.

The 25-year teaching veteran has gone one step further and includes math, geography, and social studies in his classes through games the children play.

"These days PE teachers are expendable, and they know it," he says. "That is why I believe it is best to learn how to integrate curriculums and work the whole child."

While some of those interviewed expressed pessimism about the future of school-based physical education, others say administrators and public officials are beginning to recognize its value. Late last year Congress passed the Physical Education for Progress Act (PEP), which authorizes up to $400 million in grants over the next five years to expand and improve PE programs for public schools.

Young sees this as evidence that the pendulum is beginning to swing back toward a more balanced view of a school's role in educating the mind and keeping the body healthy.

"If kids aren't healthy and fit, we are going to have a diminished return on that academic investment," she says. "We are asking kids to sit in classes for six hours a day, and we wonder why they misbehave. I can't keep adults sitting still in a meeting for an hour and a half without giving them a break."

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