Girl excluded from school for not playing football.
March 19, 2001 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Girl excluded from school for not playing football. She claims that football is "thuggish" and "a boy's game" and so refused to participate. The family intend to take legal action. Should kids be allowed to opt out of sports they disagree with?
 
If it were boxing (as one British school decided to try) I'm sure most people would say yes. But is football such a sin?
posted by wackybrit (37 comments total)
 
Well, seeing as our schools turn out better athletes than students, she should probably have to play. We need the farm system alive and well!!!
posted by toastcowboy at 6:37 PM on March 19, 2001


It was Oscar Wilde, wasn't it, who said that football was a game for rough girls, not beautiful boys?

Of course, football's popular in US schools because it's considered a good mixed-sex sport, since it places a greater emphasis on skill than bulk or brute strength. Spot the irony.

Anyway, no, they shouldn't be allowed to opt out. Because I had to do some utterly shitty things for PE, and I want subsequent generations of kids to suffer the horror of being flattened in a scrum, or cross-country running across a mudbath of a field in the middle of winter. Character building, see: particularly the resentful bits of your character.

It looks like this girl's just a lazy bint with clueless parents. "Girls should play something like tennis or netball." says her dad. Or "girls' sports" such as lacrosse and hockey: both with a violence quotient that makes football look like tiddliwinks.

And I don't think any state schools have boxing on the PE curriculum, do they?
posted by holgate at 6:40 PM on March 19, 2001


I'm sure most Americans will be a little thrown off by the title of this post, as I was. After all there aren't many schools that will even let girls play "American football."

I think kids should be able to opt out of sports if they have their parents' consent to do so (she can read a book or something in the meantime). What I wouldn't like to see is England copying the American habit of suing somebody anytime something doesn't turn out the way you like.
posted by Loudmax at 6:53 PM on March 19, 2001


Oh, wait, do you guys mean "soccer"?
posted by daveadams at 8:16 PM on March 19, 2001


Nope. No opting out.

A big part of school is giving kids new experiences. Some of them you like, some of them you don't. I would never have discovered weight lifting without doing it in high school. In fact, because I'm bookish, I might not have discovered a lot of wonderful sports. Nor a lot of thuggish ones.

Next she'll be opting out of English Literature because it's boring.
posted by frykitty at 8:34 PM on March 19, 2001


I dislike required physical exertion. Besides, sports aren’t academic. I think keeping sports as an elective is fine, but I hated PE. It was a waste of my time and the school’s money.
posted by gleemax at 9:08 PM on March 19, 2001


PE was great! Where else would you find the time to learn how to blow smoke rings?
posted by alan at 9:21 PM on March 19, 2001


The thing is that there are near-infinite ways of getting out of playing footie without stomping your feet and getting political about it. It teaches you ingenuity in terms of pulling sickies, losing boots, volunteering to look after acquariums, etc.

Anyway, if you're bad at it - or pretend to be - then you get picked last and put in defense and can happily spend the entire game chatting to your mates and making unconvincing trots after the odd ball.

Exercise is horrible but neccessary. Ideally schools would have the resources to offer a range of sports and a bit of choice, so each pupil would enjoy themselves and get fit. If that isn't the case, though, tough luck.
posted by freakytrigger at 1:49 AM on March 20, 2001


When I was at school in both Australia and New Zealand, I got out of sport a lot of times. But they're sporty nations, and there's only so much piss you can take, and you eventually have to do it, no matter how obviously pointless the routine is. If it's part of the school's curriculum, I guess there's not a lot can be done. Unless you want to hit every sports day with a note from mum, which'd probably get you more grief than any amount of being slammed by the bigger, faster kids would. Hell, I would fake a brain tumour just so I wouldn't have to go in my primary school's swimming day, but I'd always end up having to get my (ahem) then-tubby arse in the pool. Athletic derision made me what I am today, people!

On another matter, if there's this much stink being kicked up about something as lame as this, I'd hate to see how real problems get handled at the school in question. Possibly not at all.
posted by captainfez at 2:48 AM on March 20, 2001


School games and PE put me off sport for life, because it was so supremely miserable. The whole 'team player' stuff is a load of bollocks if you're really crap at anything necessitating the catching, throwing or hitting of a ball - covering pretty much any team sport that's played in schools. If you're as useless as me, then you either end up on the crap team, and freeze your tits off at one end of the field while the good side scores all the goals, or you end with a load of wicked sportsmen/women who get really hacked off with you and shout at you because you're letting the team down. Or most humiliating of all, athletics in the summer. Having your PE teacher scream at you because you can't get over the high jump, being told "you're tall, you can do it, you're just being stubborn just don't want to" as she makes the entire class wait while you try and get over the bloody bar, as they get more and more pissed off because they're missing their PE lesson, was no fun at all - I used to invent countless imaginary injuries so I could get out of it.

I'm not saying that allowing it to be completely optional is necessarily a good idea, but I do think a re-think into the way it's taught might encourage the kids who really don't enjoy playing sport. After all, in my experience at least, the good ones who were on all the school teams were the ones who played sport out of school anyway, and perhaps it's the uncoordinated and ungainly ones like me who should have been encouraged a bit more...
posted by kitschbitch at 6:19 AM on March 20, 2001


PE classes should be eliminated. They are evil. Period. I spent my entire school career trying to find ways to get out of them. By sixth grade, I managed pretty well. I just pretty well refused to participate. I was sent down to the principal's office a few times, I think, but nothing happened.

In fourth or fifth grade we were going to play kickball, and I was like "Do we have to?" and my teacher, not entirely seriously, said "That, or pick up trash on the playground." Betsey and I chose the latter.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:34 AM on March 20, 2001


Wow. I guess my school did something right. Being non-athletic, I certainly had some intimidating experiences; but my teachers were always inclusive and encouraging. Heck, I was made to feel so okay about it that I went out for several teams. Without the positive introduction to movement I received in school, I'm sure I'd be completely sedentary today.

But, as usual, one positive experience is balanced by ten negative ones. Yeesh. Home-schooling, anyone?
posted by frykitty at 6:40 AM on March 20, 2001


When I began secondary school (about 12 yrs old, UK) I hated PE and if you'd asked me then I'd have agreed with the others here who suggest it should not be compulsory. Now I'm not so sure.

Its all to do with how its presented and approached by the PE teachers. It sounds like frykitty above was one of the fortunate ones, but my experience was that anyone who was not naturally talented and inclined to play sports was humbled and embarassed by the teachers.

I was for a couple of years, until one of them woke up to my ability to run, despite my total ineptitude at anything involving balls. Suddenly I was on athletics and cross-country teams, one of the good guys and enjoying a total change in attitude from the staff. The majority of the 'bookish non-sporty' kids weren't so lucky and left school with an understandably cynical attitude to PE.

I'd argue in favor of compulsory PE, simply because, like it or not, physical exercise is very important to health and most kids aren't going to do something just because its healthy. The problem isn't the exercise, its presenting it in an inclusive and fun way that involves schoolchildren, in a non-hostile environment. Its the exclusive emphasis on competitiveness and being a 'winner' that needs to change.
posted by normy at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2001


PE should not be a "class" per se. It should have no bearing on one's grades nor ability to graduate. It should not be compulsory to engage in a set and instructed form of activity that one finds distasteful, disinteresting, or out of their skill set. It is not important that a student know how to play football if s/he doesn't want to. (Nor do I buy that team-building claptrap. Perhaps on a real team, not in a PE class.) Give students options, and just make sure that they spend the time actually doing something physical, and end the horrific concept of PE teachers. What a useless "profession."
posted by Dreama at 9:18 AM on March 20, 2001


The problem isn't the exercise, its presenting it in an inclusive and fun way that involves schoolchildren, in a non-hostile environment. Its the exclusive emphasis on competitiveness and being a 'winner' that needs to change.


The problem with the stuff you do in gym class, is that not everyone can run for long periods of time, or hit baseballs, or do a bunch of push ups, or jump over things, or any of the things that you do. But unlike, say, math, everyone can see who does well and who does poorly. And kids care about that sort of thing, because our society is obsessed with athletics. And it has absolutely no relation to the workplace, to life, to being an informed member of society, to being a good person.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:05 PM on March 20, 2001


P.E. serves no useful purpose and should be an extracurricular activity with no academic credit.
posted by kindall at 5:23 PM on March 20, 2001


And let us not forget that saying that footbal is "thuggish" and "boyish" is sexist towrds boys. Not all boys are thugs (not even that many of them).
posted by davidgentle at 6:09 PM on March 20, 2001


Excellent point. In fact, all boys aren't even "boyish."
posted by kindall at 7:17 PM on March 20, 2001


P.E. serves no useful purpose and should be an extracurricular activity with no academic credit.

Well, it serves the highly useful purpose of being the one time that kids are forced to get off their flabby arses.

I'd make an analogy between the provision of PE classes, and the availability of school dinners. A couple of years ago, in a classic case of corporate irony, McDonald's bought a section of the local school playing field and stuck a drive-in there. Now, of course, the kids stuff themselves with burgers at lunchtime. You force kids to eat school dinners, you make sure they have one vaguely healthy meal a day. The same applies to PE.

And yeah, not being good at team sport is horrible -- especially if you come from a footballing hotbed like the NE of England. (Three boys in my year at primary school went on to be professionals. It was that competitive.) But a good PE curriculum should expose you to enough sports to find something you can hold your own in.
posted by holgate at 7:51 PM on March 20, 2001


The "uselessness" of a subject doesn't matter. I can almost guarantee that learning the diatomic series will improve my life less than learning how to play good defense. I do agree that, at least in preparatory high school, PE should be elective and non-credit. Sport is a fun way to improve your fitness. If one "can't run for long periods of time", that's what the PE class is for.

Not as if the standards are that high.

When I was in junior high a while back, a girl had to run a *nine* minute mile to qualify as fit by the "President's Council". I'm pretty sure an "in-shape" person could run a nine minute mile running backwards.

As for being able to opt out because you don't like the specific sport, that's even worse. The chance of physical injury in soccer is negligible.

Kevs

(It should be noted that the US consistenly drills England's Women's Soccer Program into the floor ^_^)
posted by Kevs at 8:42 PM on March 20, 2001


I'm a little baffled by the body-mind disconnect here. PE isn't about being humiliated in sports. It's about building a healthy body that energizes the mind, learning agility, grace, stamina. It's about discovering what you can do with that awkward lump of flesh all of us have growing up. Physical movement sharpens and improves every other area of life--especially academics.

Learning to move one's body is fully as important as learning polynomials. In fact, I'd put it a couple notches above.
posted by frykitty at 9:32 PM on March 20, 2001


The chance of physical injury in soccer is negligible.

I broke a knee ligament playing soccer. The orthopaedic consultant that operated to repair it told me that he saw more injuries (this is in the UK) from soccer than every other sport combined.
posted by normy at 10:04 PM on March 20, 2001


I can almost guarantee that learning the diatomic series will improve my life less than learning how to play good defense.

Learning to move one's body is fully as important as learning polynomials. In fact, I'd put it a couple notches above.

You have got to be kidding. Right? I mean, it's not as if kids are kept in a straitjacket until they are delivered to the public school system. Have you ever tried to keep a two-year-old from "learning" to move their body -- into every nook and cranny they can possibly get it into? Ever tried to keep up with a herd of kids running every which way?

Being in good physical shape meant a lot when your next meal depended on being able to catch a gazelle. It means a lot less today than mental development. If being physical your thing, and of course for some people it is, there are plenty of opportunities to engage in it. Three hours of mandatory exercise a week is not going to save anyone's ass (or arse) from getting fat, especially if the off-days are spent in Home Economics class baking cookies as they often are.
posted by kindall at 11:30 PM on March 20, 2001


I'm a little baffled by the body-mind disconnect here. PE isn't about being humiliated in sports. It's about building a healthy body that energizes the mind, learning agility, grace, stamina. It's about discovering what you can do with that awkward lump of flesh all of us have growing up. Physical movement sharpens and improves every other area of life--especially academics.

Dude, where the fuck are you from? Like, seriously. Maybe you went to some magical school with magical PE teachers, but I've generally found that PE has less to do with excercise and "energizing the mind" than spending 2 hours a week jumping around like idiots. I think I've gotten more excercise from one night of dancing at a rave than I got in an entire year of PE. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against excercise, it's just that PE and excercise have been pretty much mutually exclusive in my own experience.
posted by ookamaka at 2:36 AM on March 21, 2001


PE is all about mastering the art of gym scooters.
posted by gluechunk at 2:50 AM on March 21, 2001


Frykitty, in my experience, PE was less about straining for physical achievement and more about being picked last or doing inane tasks. Like whole periods of rope-climbing. Learning to use one's body is important, and I wish I were better, sportswise, but unfortunately, in teenage years, those who can't use their bodies with grace, poise, or sheer meaty might tend to get slammed, insulted or worse. Teenage deadshittery really cuts loose in PE class, if only because it's one of the only times in school that having learned all the Periodic Table or large chunks of Hamlet *doesn't* come in handy, and those who mightn't be the best at that can trounce the brains.

And how.
posted by captainfez at 4:38 AM on March 21, 2001


(It should be noted that the US consistenly drills England's Women's Soccer Program into the floor ^_^)

That's because the US recruits English coaches. (A friend, and ex-professional, gave up minor league football to teach on a "sports scholarship" at an Ivy League college. He wasn't the only one.)
posted by holgate at 4:45 AM on March 21, 2001


You force kids to eat school dinners, you make sure they have one vaguely healthy meal a day. The same applies to PE.

But since when is it the job of schools to make kids have healthy meals/exercise/etc.? They're supposed to teach you stuff. I know, I'm horrendously old-fashioned, and I know from my own experience in public schooling, 1980's and 90's style that schools are responsible for everything but education. I just find that disturbing.

Yet another reason I would sooner die than ever again be affiliated with our public K-12 school system.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:09 AM on March 21, 2001


But since when is it the job of schools to make kids have healthy meals/exercise/etc.? They're supposed to teach you stuff.

Ahem. Not only do schools have a duty of pastoral care, since they're legally acting in loco parentis, but they also have a responsibility to send out people capable of contributing to society:

"Personal and social education... promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities, and experiences of adult life."

That's from the National Curriculum. It's an education that, in the big picture, is more valuable than differential equations, if it can keep people out of prison with a GBH conviction, or out of hospital with Dick Cheney's Disease.

Now, I support that, and I think I'm old-fashioned.
posted by holgate at 6:17 AM on March 21, 2001


So...because public school doesn't handle the subject perfectly, the subject itself has no value? If that's true, then we'd better scrap the whole system.

Actually, not a bad idea.
posted by frykitty at 6:31 AM on March 21, 2001


PE isn't about being humiliated in sports. It's about building a healthy body that energizes the mind, learning agility, grace, stamina.

How in hell do you energise your mind, learn agility, grace or stamina by being forced to play soccer, especially when you don't want to?

More often than not, the proficient students will hog the ball, and when those who aren't get anywhere near it, they will be subjected with a barrage of "instruction" which, if not followed, will be followed with a barrage of insult. Half-heartedly chasing a ball around a field for forty minutes while trying to stay out of the fray in order to keep your dignity about you isn't instructive, doesn't energise the mind (saps it, more like) or teach anything other than the lifelong rule -- the people who dominate can and will treat you like garbage when you don't help them to succeed.

As I said, PE has no place being counted as an academic class. Take it out of the grade point average and remove the necessity of every student to meet some non-individualised goals (that are simply unreachable for some students) as the requirement for passing the class, and therefore graduating from school.

There are hundreds of ways to exercise and remain physically fit. If this is what PE is supposed to be about, let the swimmers swim, the gymnasts tumble, the runners run, the dancers dance, the bikers bike, the skiers ski (NordicTrac?) and the team sports types play their team sports.

Right now, students can be exempted from mandatory PE only if they demonstrate injury or other physical condition that prevents their participation. Why must we continue to only recognise that people are differently-abled when it's in the extreme?
posted by Dreama at 8:13 AM on March 21, 2001


Jesus Christ. Where did you people go to school? To read these posts, either PE classes are hopeless gulags or they're rah-rah wellsprings of Good Health.

Some days in PE, we did weight training. Booooring. Some days, we played volleyball. Fun! Just like about any other class. I sense some very personalized issues being worked out here.
posted by Skot at 8:40 AM on March 21, 2001


My PE classes were hopeless gulags, and I went to one of the best schools in the country. It was an all-girls school, so we had to play hockey, gymnastics, lacrosse & netball in the winter; tennis, rounders and athletics in the summer. There wasn't a hope in hell that my games lessons would "energize the mind, learning agility, grace, stamina" - let alone a healthy body. Because I was so inept at all the above, I spent my time on the playing field trying to keep as far away from the ball/play as possible, terrified that someone would throw/pass it to me, expecting me to continue the play - knowing that I'd never catch it/would drop it/pass it to the wrong team/make a complete fool of myself/ be shouted at by angry sportswomen who I'd let down. So I would spend an hour standing in the cold at one end of a hockey pitch, watching the game take place, along with the other people who were in the same boat as me - and the teacher didn't really care one way or the other, because the people they were really interested in were the best players, seeing how they'd perform for the school teams.

Thus because my sporting experiences consisted of about 10 years of compulsory physical education in school, I have absolutely no desire to play sport at all, because I associate it with humiliation, boredom and miserable hours spent in the rain getting whacked with freezing cold hockey balls.
posted by kitschbitch at 9:28 AM on March 21, 2001


I look at my now crooked fingers and remember the jams caused by unwanted softballs hit in my direction. The only real good memory was of breaking a guy collar bone while playing football, he ran into me and broke himself, while I stood hands on hips in Jolly Green Giant fashion going HoHoHo. He dealt drugs, and I did not (at the time) have much sympathy for weak boned drug dealers. Now I feel somewhat bad about it, as it never did heal right. Straight Edge rulez.

My time would have been much better spent learning COBOL.
posted by thirteen at 10:43 AM on March 21, 2001


All I can say is that walking around a city without a car for 6 months (now that I'm in college) did far more for my health than two semesters of half-heartedly jogging around a track three days a week. I think P.E. made sports, for me, into something forced and extremely unpleasant that I certainly didn't want to do in my free time; now that I'm not forced to do it, I find myself taking two-hour walks for the fun of it.
posted by Jeanne at 11:01 AM on March 21, 2001


Yeah, you would have made a killing for Y2K.
posted by kindall at 11:02 AM on March 21, 2001


I did one years worth of Sports at school, and ended up feeling just like kitschbitch does on the subject. Ever since then I found a new, different and creative excuse for each and every PE lesson so that I could avoid going out there. The only lesson I did enjoy was Tennis, simply because for some miraculous reason I wasn't so crap at it, and also because I didn't have any 'team players' ranting at me.

Hmmm perhaps I should start a thread for 'PE Avoidance Excuses' :)
posted by Frieza at 11:41 AM on March 21, 2001


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