Cheerleaders are Athletes Argument - AB 351 Information


Oh we Californians. We’re proud to talk about our beautiful beaches, mountains, deserts and diversity, but when the topic turns to politics, we deflate like a leaky balloon.

That’s because when you google “budget crisis,” you see a big picture of the Golden State with a black hole where Sacramento used to be. California was in terrible economic shape BEFORE the great recession hit. We even heard our Governor talk about closing state parks, selling the Del Mar Fairgrounds and racetrack, and other extreme measures to make up for the revenue shortfall. California is beyond broke, we’re in debt, big debt, all the way up to the top of our surfboards.

You know the cycle. Budget woes affect schools, school budgets effect teachers and students, and if your image is the one on the bottom of the educational totem pole (read, you’re a physical education teacher) you have to tolerate yet another battery of low blows to your professional mid-section. I’m embarassed to say, that a local, former Assembly-person, Mary Salas, was the ringleader for one of the worst physical education inspired ideas since picking teams for dodgeball. She drafted and tried to pass a bill (AB 351) that would allow high school students to take band, ROTC, cheerleading, et. al, in lieu of their PE requirement.

This concept was popular with some parents and students, who unfortunately, don’t know the difference between today’s physical education (a standards-based, progressive, sequential, and evaluated course of study) and physical activity. And it became painfully obvious Ms. Salas and her staff didn’t either. Either that or the idea of upsetting some influential parents was just too hard a stand to take. I personally spoke on the phone with one of her assistants, and while he listened to reason, I was quite certain his boss’s mind was made up.

My argument? Students are physically active (at times) in band, ROTC, and cheerleading, of course; but to draw a parallel to those programs and today’s physical education is simply wrong. It’s the equivalent of allowing students to take band instead of Math (after all, in band they march in formation, count the number of instruments?) or ROTC instead of Science (wait, guns are made of metals and consist of elements don’t they?) or cheerleading instead of English (but our students read and write routines, why would we make them read AGAIN for English class?). You get the idea.

Now look, we all love giving students choices, and ROTC, band, and cheerleading in and of themselves, should absolutely be a part of every high school’s program. There is no disrespect or devaluation here, I believe ALL learning and moving opportunities are important. It’s more an apples to oranges approach when you talk about equivalent substitutes. So while I agree 100% with Patrick Henry High students Dickerson and Szabo (Aug. 15, 2010 “Cheerleading isn’t physical? Get real.”) that cheerleaders are athletes and should receive the same support and opportunities as other athletes, I’m saying, athletics is to physical education as math is to science.

And, with the CA high school PE requirement already limited to freshman year — and one more before graduation — presenting more “opt out options” represents a move in the wrong direction. Students need MORE quality physical education daily; not less. Fortunately, Michelle Obama understands the link between childhood obesity and our rising high care costs.

So, what happened to the Salas bill? Logic and reason prevailed. The bill was killed. And what happened to Mary Salas? Let’s just say, good luck Juan Vargas.

Well, California is a great place to live. We still have our budget crisis, our crazy politicians, a Governor who has trouble pronouncing our state, but that’s OK. When cornered, our people pull together, fight the madness, and do what’s best for our kids. Let’s all hope we have a few parks and pennies to leave them when our latest financial mess is behind us.

-Paul Rosengard

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