Rage Against the Political Machine


SPARK was born and bred in California, and while we’re proud of our beautiful beaches, mountains, deserts and diversity, 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. CA was in terrible economic shape BEFORE the great recession hit. Now, our Governor is actually talking about closing state parks, selling the Del Mar Fairgrounds and racetrack, and other extreme measures to make up for the revenue shortfall. CA is beyond broke which connotates no money to spend — 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 physical education (PE), and politicians begin writing non-sensical legislation. I”m embarassed to say, that a local, San Diego based Assembly-person, Mary Salas, was the ringleader for one of the worst PE 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, (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 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 of 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 and ROTC, of course, but to draw a parallel to those programs and physical education is simply wrong. It’s the equivalent of allowing students to take band instead of Math (afterall, they march in formation, count the number of instruments) or ROTC instead of Science (guns are made of metals and consist of elements) or cheerleading instead of English (students read and write routines). You get the idea.

Now look, we all love giving students choices, and ROTC and band 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.

And, with the CA high school PE requirement already limited to freshman year — and one more before graduationpresenting more “opt out options” represents a move in the wrong direction. Students need MORE quality PE, daily; not less.

Fortunately, physical educators around the state, including Arleen Hammerschmidt, Joe Herzog, Kim Butler, Ashley Wirth, Bruce Bettey, and countless others, rallied with organizations (including SPARK and CAHPERD) to fight this bill and it’s backers.

However, in the end, logic and reason prevailed. The bill was killed — DOA! A true victory for physical education and physical educators — and our supporters in health, and other related fields.

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 and 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