20111220

Disabling in Physical Education


As I was walking up the stairs today, I had a flashback to my elementary school PE class.

The teacher's name was Mr Clooney, or some variant thereof (Clune, Cune, etc). He was in his mid-forties, probably the coach of this-or-that team, or a former athlete. His navy blue jumpsuit outlined the frame of a sports-player.
In this particular memory, Mr Coony pulled David Lynch (a fellow student, not the director) aside to explain to David how to improve his throw while running. I think the idea was to throw the ball he stepped on to the frontal arch of his foot and before his next step, so that the spring from his ankle would give the toss an extra thrust. Or something like that. David had a pretty large frame, and I'm sure

The reason, I imagine, this memory was evoked was because of a recent pointer my Alexander teacher gave me. He said that as the typical person walks up the stairs, ze tends to tilt whichever foot is on the upper stair in order to pull hir body upwards. My teacher, Peter O'Reilly, suggested that I instead let the foot on the lower step tilt so that my other knee bends/reaches toward the next step. This allows my full leg, not just my ankle and lower back, to essentially spring me up to the next step; as our musculature is meant to fan upwards as gravity pulls down.
Eadward Muybridge, The Human Figure in Motion. (1955)

 
Why is it that the student who looks like a potential athlete is taken aside and given tips on how to use the geometry of his physique for an advantageous purpose, while many of us are occupied with not getting hit by the dodgeball, climbing the rope to the ceiling in time, and not cutting corners as we run around the gymnasium? As a matter of fact, the school system seemed obsessed with (masculine) athleticism in favor of what I would consider physiological self-discovery.

Though, as a person with a disability, I should mention that I was also provided with separate sessions in which I was stretched. It seems unfair not mention the physical therapy which was provided by the school district. My aide, usually a female Japanese student who would be about my current age, 22, was instructed to take me through a series of stretches once a week. She was not an educator, and was following a sheet of paper with drawings which explained how to move my arms and legs. I was between the ages of 5-11.

Physical Education, as provided by pre-college educational institutions, are not so much about physical education as they are about body-image programming. Whether or not you are a deemed a "physical" person is dictated by your achievement of certain physical goals and competitive success. It is no wonder that many of us crave the safety of the theater's cushy upholstered seats, the big screen TV viewed from a La-Z-Boy, and, most of all, our comfy office (/home-office) desk chairs where we can switch off any use of ourselves and fall in to the digital reality that we construct in our immobile brains. Many of these activities lead to general degradation: slouched shoulders, Carpal Tunnel, and a whole lot of tension.

Mr Croonip was hoping that this advice could help David in a future football career or some sport of the like.
There is a systematic formula to force people, from a young age, to categorize their bodies by signs of weakness or strength. The sacred human form, with its complex relationship to that which immediately exists around/within it, has been conceptually and physically mutilated by our current means of learning about it.

I think it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyways: we need to drastically redefine how we learn to relate to our bodies. PE classes are meant to disassociate those who lack, and harvest those who have. The so-called "disabled" should not be given separate but equal "educations," while people with great physical potential are bludgeoned into abandoning their bodies because they have no interest in sports.
Cut dance and theater classes. Fund more sports. This way our school systems will be driven to hire more teachers like Mr. Clompy, which will secure public funding for schools, fortify a branch of the patriarchy, and drive us further away from our embodied selves.

PS: In case you haven't seen it before:

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