The Daily Iowan has an article today about the push to add physical education standards to the Iowa Core.
Apparently motor skill development and physical fitness are out and “the notion of teaching physical literacy” is in. And physical literacy, apparently, requires standards.
Physical literacy is the mastering of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permit a child to read their environment and make appropriate decisions, allowing them to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity situations. It is the foundation of long-term participation and performance to the best of one’s ability. Physical Literacy is the cornerstone of both participation and excellence in physical activity and sport.
Which is just a fancy way to say that kids should learn to walk, run, jump, skip, balance, swim, ride a bike, skate, ski, throw a ball, hit a ball, kick a ball, and catch a ball so they can participate in a variety of physical activities on land, water, snow, ice, and in the air (the environment, which children are supposed to read and make appropriate decisions about). Which is pretty much what physical education teachers already teach students to do.
I don’t know if I was most surprised by the use of the term “physical literacy”, the fact that the Department of Education employs at least one physical education consultant, or the fact that physical education specialists find it necessary to sell “physical literacy” as the route to better academic performance (as opposed to physical fitness and physical activity as legitimate end goals).
I have written previously that it seems likely that the push for standards will be followed by a push for new assessments aligned to these new standards so physical education teachers can be drawn into standardized-test driven evaluation and accountability. Otherwise, it seems hard to understand why uniform, statewide physical education standards are necessary. How much could physical education really vary from district to district in Iowa and why would it matter?