Recent studies have stated that 27% of American youth suffers from obesity! We are becoming a really FAT, soft, and lethargic nation…will it be a Roman repeat? Interesting enough, the average youth’s diet is probably not the main reason for our “growth”, but coupled with the enabling and self-entitlement of kids, the lack of dietary/nutritional discretion, the “sissy-ification” of our culture, and the ubiquitous achievement proxy syndrome, the chubby little ones never had a chance. Moreover, if you are 50 years or older, you averaged 180-200 minutes of active time/play(per day) in grades 1-12; today the average is less than 60 minutes!!
Albeit today’s youngsters thrive on junk food, the real villain in our plunge into the abyss of over indulgence was when the “enlightened educators” decided to basically eliminate Physical Education(PE) from the schools’ curriculum. This “necessary” cutback was a knee-jerk reaction to those who felt that PE was just for jocks and had little educational value. Hum? What about a strong body leads to a strong mind? The sad thing is that even before the end of PE, the roots of insidious “short-term thinking equals long-term stupidity” had already begun when the gym ROPE disappeared! The greatest crime in American educational history!!!
The gym ROPE…that ominous thing that hung in every school gym in America(from floor to ceiling), just dangling and daring each kid to climb it and reach the top! It was not too long ago that every youngster had to not only take PE but climb the ROPE in order to pass the class. Moreover, when it was your turn, everyone in class watched as you struggled to shinny up and touch the wooden circle at the top. The real pressure was on, not so much in passing the course, as failing in front of your contemporaries and getting the needling that came with failure!! An “enlightened” group of educators removed the ROPE because it was causing kids to cringe and feel bad about themselves; they could not make it to the top! My, oh my! How horrible! What they did not understand as educators was that making it to the top was not the real test. Most of the kids could not, nor would ever make it up the ROPE! The “life lesson” was to accept the physical challenge and learn to solve the problem…how do you get up that darn rope? One need not achieve that wondrous touch of circular wood, but you accepted the challenge and tried to do it. Would you do what it took to get up the gym ROPE? Again, as with the value of all sport, it is not the end(of the ROPE), but the process that teaches us many of “lifes’ little lessons”.
The intrinsic value of the ROPE lay in the decision-making, problem-solving, work ethic required, and the accountability/responsibility of getting a job done; achieving a goal! Yes, it embarrassed many, but it also taught you a great deal about yourself…are you a quitter or will you figure it out? Taking down the gym ROPE was a capital crime as life is rife with “ROPES”. “ROPES” are in the classroom, personal and social relationships, the workplace, and intertwined within every goal and mission undertaken by everyone. Heck, by removing the gym ROPE they removed meritocracy and simplified(sissy-fied) it for everyone…just eliminate the ROPE and all will be fine and dandy! Also, why not remove the Peg Board(older and meaner brother of the ROPE), the trampoline, daily dozens, pull ups, the medicine ball, boxing, wrestling, and of course, the PE tests that measured each student in all their physical tests of strength, speed, endurance, and willingness to compete!! While you are at it, why not give everyone a medal/certificate/prize for just “being there”? Let’s not challenge our youngsters, but eliminate all the hard things and enable and entitle them rather than empower each one to be productive, hard working, and self-achieving individuals whom will risk and try to climb the ROPE! The point of the gym ROPE was not to shinny to the top, but to motivate youngsters; to create and stoke the passion to NEVER QUIT, work hard, and maintain the drive to survive against seemingly insurmountable odds. The dreaded ROPE was the ultimate “carrot’, but we ate it before they could even attempt to reach it!
27%? That is really shocking…certainly the number should be higher as PE, team sports, and other competitive physical activities are on the way out in every level of school, to include the university level. Under the guise of “budget cuts”, insurance liability(love that one), and forever “scarring” a youngster’s psyche, the authorities rationalize that PE is just not very valuable and someone else will teach kids to “bite the bit”, learn the games, discover competitiveness(oh yeah, video games), and to climb the ROPE!! In lieu of the ROPE, the Peg Board, etc, many schools have replaced these with vending machines and candy sales to raise monies for the school. Paradoxical? Nope, just a failure to see that humans need to be prodded, “urged”, forced, and/ or coerced to do things that they really would not do on their own, for their own good! Surprisingly, society just encourages students/youngsters to take PE on the internet and “workout” with friends on Face Book.
Sadly, many generations have and will miss the fun and challenge of the gym ROPE, but, they will have the opportunity to play video games, indulge in fantasy sports/leagues, vicariously watch others struggle on reality shows, and eventually succumb to heart disease, malnutrition, and other fun “challenges”. Only in America…may the beloved ROPE rest in peace!!!