Reform Manifesto for School Physical Education

Reform Manifesto for School Physical Education

Authored by HKIN 369 Class, May 5th, 1994

Guidelines to Counteract the Poor Quality Physical Education Witnessed and Experienced in Schools by Course Members and Instructor:

  1. Choice should be given to students in many areas of their program in order that they may learn through the process of making wise and unwise choices over time. Teaching styles which contain more choices for the student can be very productive.
  2. Fun and enjoyment should be a main by-product of participation. If students enjoy what they are doing they will be more likely to continue to pursue an activity. How can we have fun, learn and be accepted in the educational community?
  3. Challenge – we need to challenge students to improve, to do their best. This does not equate with competition nor with any kind of negativism, quite the contrary. It is what Haus Seyle calls the “stress of life” – the necessary goals, challenges and healthy stressors which allow us to grow. See an early study of mine called “Education Through Challenge and Adventure”.
  4. Comfort – or security is one of the basic needs of life that Abraham Maslow enunciates. Our concern must be how we can cause students to feel comfortable in our learning environment.
  5. Freedom to Learn” is an interesting term, it implies liberation of some sort. “Freedom to Fail” is a direct corollary. Freedom, liberation, empowerment are noble concepts that become clichés unless we facilitate them in our work with students. People interested in freedom might like to read what A.S. Neil says about freedom and responsibility. His work is eminently readable.
  6. New experiences were cited as being essential to a good physical education program. We need to make a distinction here between encountering new and legitimate things and novelty; as we said in the movie “Six Degrees of Separation”, we need to move from anecdote to authentic experience. There is so much that we can do to enrish our lives and those whome we teach. The introduction and acceptance of new experience relies greatly on the trust which has been established between teacher and learner.
  7. Support and feedback are entitlements of students. The literature on teaching is clear that we must provide specific constructive and corrective feedback to our students. It is not simply a case of giving praise. The texts have lots to say about this. Support is related but different. To me it is what Don Hellison has called “Love” – that concept we feel so awkward in discussing. It shouldn’t be so difficult. It really means an irrational concern for our students which causes us to keep going back to the well with them no matter how many times they screw up. I hope people will look at Hellson’s work to decipher this further.
  8. Non-competitive programs were suggested by some in the class as being important for us to foster. This is a very difficult thing to develop and promote particularly given our competitive sports backgrounds and the corporate world we now live in. Cooperation is a much-used phrase in education and physical education, but to move from the word (anecdote perhaps) to significant experience is quite another matter. Works by Johnson and Johnson, Terry Orlick and Frederick Rand Rogers are very helpful.
  9. Individualization – how can we match learning experiences with the needs of children and adults? We set our programs in advance of knowing our students; even after we know them in some superficial manner we proceed to “program” them according to our intentions and understanding of the world rather than in keeping with their visions and lives. If we are ever to really progress with helping people to learn we need to stop treating students as some kind of mass object and instead make them subjects of their own learning and existence. See works by Paulo Freire and Martin Buber if you want to learn more of this.
  10. Goal Setting is important in our teaching. Students should set short-term immediate goals on a daily basis. This is directly related to the matter of choice. Practice at setting realistic goals becomes a precursor to setting and achieving broader objectives. Let’s try to model this in our work together and with the children we will be teaching.
  11. Motivation – how can we motivate students to learn? Charisma is a rather fleeting characteristic and external rewards (behaviorism) has its limits. What are the means by which we can cause students to become internally motivated to learn and gain competence? What a challenge!
  12. Flexibility was said by our group to be important again, what does this mean? Is it anarchy, laissez-faire behavior, or permissiveness on the part of the teacher? Or is it something else? How flexible are we in our teaching? Why should we be flexible? There are some indices which look at this – we should hold a mirror up to ourselves in this regard.
  13. Inclusion versus exclusion – what a wonderful sentiment, how difficult to achieve. A wonderful teacher from Ohio by the name of Ambrose Brazelton came to B.C. and coaxed eloquent on the need for “inclusion”. He continually cried out that, “There mist be another way!” I wonder if we can find it? With our problems of poverty, racism, gender inequity, and the dominant patterns of socialization that work against inclusion what can we do to foster it?
  14. Planning and organization are seen as necessary to good programs. Amen! Why is it we tend to plan in isolation? Why do we as teachers fail to participate in much comprehensive curricular, unit or lesson planning once we are out in the field. If you doubt me in this respect, have a look at most teachers’ plans – are they not simply a few words in a day book? Have you seen serious planning going on in the schools you are familiar with? I have seen some good planning, however, most of it has been for school teams and the elite performer. Can we change this?
  15. Energy and focus were also given as characteristics of good teaching and good programs. I’m not sure that much needs to be said here except that we should be introspective and reflective about our own teaching to see first how energetic and focused we are in what we do and how we attempt to foster these qualities in those with whom we work.
  16. Be Yourself – you will recall that Harry Hubbel cautioned us to be ourselves in our teaching rather than to try to be something we are not. He has pointed out some of the hazards of playing the role of teacher in someone else’s image. Again, see what Hellison and the others say about authenticity and teaching. Whatever we do we need to show empathy, to really listen to our students, to act upon what we hear and to model what we espouse. Beyond that we need to be real and human to our students; to practice what Martin Buber calls the “I-Thou” relationship.

So… this is a summary of the points which we proclaimed were essential to quality physical education programs during the first week of our class. Our task, our challenge is to see if we can turn this rhetoric interaction; to make explicit what we know is valid. The exciting thing is that our little reform manifesto arose with the group rather than being something that was preconceived by me – for better or worse it is authentic. It is as good a set of guidelines as I have seen concerning learning. The text books contains no better. We now have to see how our words and our actions intersect, whether or not we can exercise the “praxis” which Paulo Freire cites. My hunch is that together we can achieve much of the reform we have called for.

A Framework for Physical Education & Sport

A Framework for Physical Education & Sport in the School Setting

Guiding Principles:

  1. Programs are individualized for students based upon their expressed needs in consultation with parents or guardians.
  2. Primary consideration is given to each student’s optimal growth, development, health and well-being rather than the mastery of a general curriculum of activities.
  3. Choice and decision-making by students are central features.
  4. Both freedom and responsibility are emphasized.
  5. Mentoring, sharing, and students helping one another on an organized basis are practiced.
  6. Programs and activities have, as their basis, the play ethic from which most physical education activities and sport are derived.
  7. Involvement of the wider community, particularly parents, is central.
  8. The program promotes skill, physical fitness, health and well-being, holistic learning, and the development of social skills and responsibility.
  9. As much as possible activities will be conducted in the natural environment and with a strong appreciation for nature.
  10. Emphasis is upon simplicity rather than techno-centric processes.
  11. The progress of each student is charted and maintained over the years for the benefit and appreciation of all involved.
  12. Programs and practices are consistent with the philosophy of the school.
  13. The socio-cultural context for activities is emphasized and appreciated by students and parents; multicultural activities are a feature of programs.
  14. All attempts are made to give voice to students and parents and to practice inclusivity and democracy on a day-to-day basis.
  15. Communication among students, parents and teachers is paramount; the program is developed in partnership with students and parents and is fully supported by them.
  16. All persons in the school’s community are considered to be both teachers and learners.
  17. Encouragement, success and mastery based upon choices made by students are emphasized; activities are conducted in a positive and supportive environment.
  18. The rich folk history of sport and physical culture is explored by students and teachers; the games and pastimes of earlier eras are preserved through a variety of means.
  19. Respect, caring, cooperation, safety and trust are essential features.
  20. Individual, partner and small group activities predominate.
  21. Celebration of involvement and progress occurs regularly.
  22. Good nutrition is emphasized in individual programs and in school provisions for students.
  23. The primary role of the teacher is that of guide, facilitator, resource person, and fellow learner.
  24. Innovation and resourcefulness on the part of all are encouraged and practiced.
  25. Physical education and sport are considered as an integral part of each student’s education rather than something special and apart.
  26. Adequate time and resources are provided for programs to ensure success and the achievement of goals set by students and their parents.
  27. Whenever possible, intergenerational learning is practiced.
  28. The practice of exploration, selection and refinement is central to learning.
  29. Students show responsibility and trust through a willingness to attempt the unfamiliar.
  30. The “Joy of Effort” is understood to be the major metaphor for the curriculum.

Dr. Gary Pennington, Adelaide, SA, December 2004

The Playworld of Children and Youth in the New Millenium

The Playworld of Children and Youth in the New Millenium: Policy, Programs and Practice

By Gary Pennington

In schools, children and youth are often grouped according to play interests, ongoing involvements, and preferred playmates.

Greater attention is paid to the need by many young people and their teachers for more time to engage in certain activities, there is less reliance on the fixed timetable and the school bell, and time is often allowed to “stand still” in the various play pursuits of children.

In homes, schools and community settings, working with one’s hands is considered a noble and necessary thing to be doing; children are given real hand tools to work and play with rather than poor facsimiles; natural materials and not synthetics predominate children’s playscapes.

Programs in schools and recreation places honour democracy, equality, and youth leadership in tangible ways.

Communities subscribe to Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which includes play as one of the basic rights of children.

Communities have consciously implemented policies and programs under the broad social umbrella of being “Child and Youth Friendly” with a consequent reduction in bullying and violence.

The professional preparation of teachers, day-care workers, youth leaders and others involved in services to children and youth place a high priority on study and fieldwork to do with the topic of play.

Play spaces in schools and communities are designed and operated to be accessible in the broadest sense of that term.

Many streets in each community have been reclaimed for children’s play and for festive community activities.

Family housing is guided by “Child Friendly Housing” concepts advanced by the Society for Children and Youth of B.C. and many family homes and other housing units have been playscaped as well as landscaped.

Qualified play leaders are provided in schools and on playgrounds for all after school, weekend, holiday and vacation periods.

The International Association for the Child’s Right to Play is a primary affiliative group for many professional and lay persons.

Natural play spaces in the community are preserved and there is a general welcoming back of the wilderness and green spaces to urban landscapes.

There is an active and ongoing partnership of professionals, politicians and lay persons designed to ensure that policy and projects to do with play are embodied in the broad social services network and are sustained rather than being subject to political or economic vagaries.

Children, youth and adults work together in planning, design, construction, use, and stewardship of new play settings and in the refurbishment and enhancement of existing play spaces.

Unions, the corporate sector, public and private agencies and the volunteer sector work together to develop policies and practices which ensure that play environments for children are not impeded because of bureaucratic or technical regulations.

The innate artistic nature of children is fully recognized and fostered in home, schools and community settings through provision of ongoing opportunities to draw, paint, sculpt and express themselves in many artistic forms and media.

The practice of enrolling children in extra-curricular classes and community-based programs is balanced with ample free time to engage in time-honored free play and exploration with friends and family members; parents are well aware of the ‘Over-Scheduled Child Syndrome’.

Parents, coaches and youth league officials recognize and implement the benefits of giving the game back to the original owners and provide children and youth with many opportunities to exercise responsibility in organizing and conducting their own games and activities.




The purpose of gathering the information asked for below is to assist us in providing experiences that will enable your child to progress in terms of his or her physical well-being in the most efficacious and sensitive manner possible.  Please know that all information will be private and confidential and used only in the planning of your child’s educational experiences.  In many respects, this record is similar in intent to the medical record card that family doctors maintain on their patients.




Parent’s Contact Information

How to you come to school (walk, bike, car, bus)

Height              Weight

Physical Fitness Record (if any):

Health Status (please provide any relevant information):

Community Clubs/Teams that you are on:

Games/Activities/Play that you do on your own or with friends:

Favorite Sports/Recreations (if any):

Activities/sports that you can do quite well (if any):

Activities/sports that you would like to learn or get better at:

Things you like best about Physical Education classes:

Things that you do not like about Physical Education:

Goals to do with Sport, Fitness or Recreation:

What kinds of things would you like to learn about in PE and Health classes?

How would you like to be evaluated?

How do you learn best? On your own? With one other? In small groups? Other?

What skills do you have that you would be willing to share with someone else?

How do you feel about you look? The way you feel? How you interact with others?

How do you feel about physical activity? Do you find it pleasurable? Painful? Why do you or don’t you take part?

What kinds of people do you want to learn with? Better performers? Both male and female? Those of about the same fitness or skill level?

Any additional information that you or your parents can provide that may assist us in providing a Quality Physical Education for you that will meet your individual needs:




The main purpose of the Childhood Memories Project is to preserve and share the cultural heritage of play experienced by children throughout the world.


  1. to compile a broad and accessible data base of information about the play of children that will be useful to people in many fields
  2. to preserve and embed much of the folk history of play that is rapidly being lost with the passage of time
  3. to demonstrate the basic values of children’s play to parents, teachers, agency workers, government bureaucrats, politicians, researchers and others involved in programs and policies for children and youth
  4. to chronicle the play of youth over many generations and in different cultures
  5. to provide voice to adults, and particularly seniors, about their precious childhood experiences
  6. to enhance the current play worlds of children by rekindling the free and unfettered play of children in earlier generations
  7. to illustrate the play history of children by means of photographic documentation of play activities and settings
  8. to help the public and professionals recognize the profound values of play in the lives of children and youth
  9. to counteract the technological intrusion that is diminishing the child’s right to play in our modern society
  10. to continue to develop the world’s largest depository of stories and documentary evidence about childhood play
  11. to provide a permanent archive of the vivid memories of childhood that need to be preserved
  12. to develop a user-friendly portal for the inclusion and retrieval of stories about childhood play
  13. to enhance personal family history collections through the provision of childhood play memories
  14. to foster inter-generational dialogue in the family context through the sharing and collection of stories
  15. to showcase the richness of play across many cultures
  16. to enhance multicultural understanding and appreciation through sharing of play histories
  17. to promote diversity in play activities and play environments by profiling the multifaceted nature of play
  18. to preserve the many indigenous forms of play that are in danger of being lost in the post-modern world
  19. to facilitate the return of adults to their childhood and youth through remembering their play world
  20. to give example and life to the huge host of statements about the merits of play that have been authored by philosophers and theorists over the centuries

The Inmates Are Running the Institution


Where else would you see an ‘elderly’ man blow in the ear of a lifeguard & a class mate and not get into trouble?

Where else would an instructor give big hugs and kisses to the men and women in her class?

Where else would an instructor whip a participant with a noodle and tell him he cannot leave class early?

Where else would an instructor boogie on the deck with Big Richard as he came by the class?

Where else would ye find a Walmart Greeter wandering around the pool talking to everyone?

Where else would you hear the laugh of your instructor all the way into the change room?

Where else would you get into trouble for writing a letter to the editor about a kind act on the part of an instructor & then live in fear of being confronted by the woman who was offended?

Where else does a participant get away with giving a Hitler Salute to his instructor?

Where else does a man give the nickname “Nice Bum” to an instructor and get away with it?

Where else would a man say to a woman leaving the pool, “Has your diarrhea cleared up?”

Where else could we appreciate a lifeguard with the most naturally seductive walk ever?

Where else do people always ask with concern about members if they aren’t in class that day?

Where else does one get to know the children of participants and other family members?

Where else do some people dutifully face the wall and do all the exercises while others spend much (if not all) the time socializing?

Where else do some men get labeled as “Speed Bumps”?

Where else do we hear the cacophony in the locker room of two old tenors trying to sing, “It don’t matter if you’re old a grey…”

Where else do the ribald stories and jokes get retold at the homes of participants?

Where else does a ‘very punctual member’ get scolded for coming late and then told he cannot leave early to be on time for an important appointment?

Where else does an ‘elderly’ participant leave class early to go to the hot tub so that he can ogle the instructor from behind?

Where else does an instructor know all the names of the many people in her classes?

Where else does an instructor not take her good doctor’s advice about becoming a school teacher, particularly since she is one of the most natural teachers he has ever seen?

Where else does the roof leak only over the head of Keith, one of the male participants?

Where else do you hear the words, “Finally, you are all doing the right exercise!”

Where else do you find an instructor with the numbers 21.5 on her T-shirt? (and that’s not her age!) or one with the letters, BBB on it?

Where else does an instructor give the name, “Hotty Scotty’s Poppy” to a new participant?

Where else does the story of the 100 k/hr BBQ get told so often?

Where else are groups labeled as “The Viagra Cartel” and the “Estrogen Girls”?

Where else to people socialize at a local ‘high class restaurant’ each day and come together for many other social events at people’s homes for food, drink and sharing?

Where else do we witness some of the world’s most bizarre dives by a male participant while we are supposed to be doing the exercises?  Come to think of it, there are two in this category.

Where else do we see a man doing tribal dance moves in the shower and steam room while keeping in time to the music over the P.A.? (well, maybe not really in time with the songs)

Where else does a man exit the change room, in the buff, to get his gear from the cubicles?

Where else does a woman claim to her pool mates that Donald Trump is well read?

Where else do we find a former school teacher with a nearly indecipherable Scottish Brogue who has given up teaching for concrete finishing?

Where else does the pool maintenance man get wolf whistles for the wild shirts he wears?

Where else would a kindly young woman cook a turkey for her friends to compensate for the grossly lacking skills of a man who should have learned by now how to stick a bird in an oven?

And, where else do people care so much about their fellows that they celebrate special occasions with them and take the time to express their concerns and empathy when persons are ill or failing?

And finally, where or where else do you find neighbors of all ages who share so many laughs, life’s trials, celebrations,  healthy activities, and good times together day after day?










Alternative Ways of Looking at the World and Working Together


I developed this matrix, or way of looking at things when I was on sabbatical leave in Australia back in 1994.  I believe a consideration of these two dominant paradigms is very pertinent to the work that we do with one another and to projects both large and small.  I originally prepared this grid with a view to its application for the development of children’s play environments; however, I think its application is much broader.  I drew upon a similar matrix used in the Halifax Land Development Project with which I was associated during my tenure in Australia. I welcome comments regarding the value of this document and suggestions for inclusion and improvement. 

The Development and Response Process



On Feb 26, 1966, some 50+ years ago, the Vancouver Sun published a 3,000 word piece by me entitled, “PE: Herald the Learned Weaklings”.  It was headed with a cartoon by Peterson of the Sun.  I am not sure what impact the article by that wet-behind-the-ears young man had, but we did see major progress in Canada over the next couple of decades in terms of physical education programs and services for both youth and adults.   The recently publicized findings from a large study by ParticipAction and UBC researchers, confirm that we are in much worse shape than we were several decades ago regardless of age or gender.
In this respect, I see that there are some key ironies at play in terms of our poor state of our national health and fitness.  Here are some:

1. We have more highly sophisticated facilities for sport, recreation and education than ever before in all sectors of our culture.

2. The training of teachers, professionals in related fields, and amateur sports coaches has never been more extensive or technical.

3. Sports Medicine programs abound.

4. Play equipment is highly engineered.

5. Community sports programs are extensive.

6. The advocacies of early reports such as The Golden Plan in Germany and other national schemes have been adopted in large measure.

7. Canada has had major success on the world stage in sport and we have we have recently hosted both summer and winter Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games.

8. Numerous governmental and NGO programs such as ParticipAction have been introduced over time.

9. There has been a huge amount of research published on fitness matters.

10. Public awareness has never been greater concerning the value of nutrition and exercise.

11.  There has been a prohibition on smoking in many places and many foods must be labelled in terms of nutritional components.

12. Developments such as the above have been central to efforts in most western cultures.

There are undoubtedly more facts and developments that I am overlooking that contribute to a huge ironic syndrome concerning our sad state of affairs.  How can it be that we have initiated so many wondrous things and yet remain so entrenched in our low state of health?  I believe that what may be needed is a broad societal recognition of the flaws in our approaches, some of which are not obvious to the public nor to policy makers.  As with many lasting things in culture, we need to see a broad societal awakening that causes unrest, action and hopefully sustained effort over a long period.  I am not at all sure if this can be done.  The recent findings are a timely wake-up call.  I am less certain about the value of Olympic Games and our preoccupation with national heroes to give us the impetus to enhance our national health and fitness.  I believe some of the answers to the low state of fitness in our country , particularly of our children and youth, is to introduce the kinds of things that follow.

Adventure. In the early 1970’s we authored and extensive research study of 1400 schools in BC looking at physical education programs throughout the province. We found a number of good things taking place but the over-all state of things was very poor. The title of our report was, “Education Through Challenge and Adventure”. Many positive things resulted from that study but, due to shifting government priorities, change was short lived. To really progress in terms of fitness and health we need to do something to re-instill the notions of challenge and adventure in our young people. It is reassuring that the current reports also reemphasize this need.

Independence. Community and school programs almost universally are run by well-intentioned adults who over-govern the affairs of kids. Coaches are intent on early selection of those with athletic potential to the exclusion of the huge majority of children who will mature late in terms of sport. What is needed is to return the game to the original owners, the kids, and find ways to give them more free reign and places to play and learn, complete with the exploration and the many mistakes that true learning requires. In earlier times, parks and playgrounds abounded with children and youth playing on their own until parents called them in at dusk. Playground leaders, there for supervision and safety, knew to stay out of the kids way for the most part. These practices could be reintroduced.

Playspaces. The play world of the child has been corporatized. Current playground equipment is of a Disneyland style, it is hugely expensive, and has mainly novelty value. Studies have shown that children actually spend little time on the high-tech equipment that has been introduced over the past few decades in schools and recreation places. The preoccupation with safety and uniformity of bureaucrats and policy makers does no justice to the needs of youth for diversity, interaction with nature, and risk. In many ways we have unwittingly been guilty of robbing children of their childhood where they need to learn through real exploration and discovery. We need more “Secret Gardens”, trees to climb, sand to play in, grass, driftwood, large rocks, water play, and the many things that intrigue children than we do a poor, plastic facsimile of what children should encounter. Representative realism is unacceptable in the art world and even more pathetic in the world of the child.

Support. Each time new provincial and federal political parties come to power they are intent to discard programs and policies of their predecessors. This leads to a lack of sustainability and coherence in our approaches to health and fitness. What is required is a resolve on the part of politicians to adopt a non-partisan approach to health and fitness and to support the productive works of those who came before regardless of their political allegiance. The expense and disruption of services required to mount new programs for political gain is enormous.

Leadership. The professional preparation of physical education teachers has been decimated. At the University of BC where I taught for more than 30 years there was once a thriving Professional Preparation Department of twelve people who were responsible for the training of elementary and secondary physical education teacher. Now, there is one full-time person and a handful of sessional teachers and no required physical education courses for elementary teachers. This savaging of programs over the past twenty years is common to other university as well. Ironically, very sophisticated programs for the preparation of out-of-school professionals has developed rapidly with a predominant research focus. The base line is that current programs do not cater to the practical, everyday needs of those preparing to be teachers or recreation leaders. The seemingly endless change of program emphasis that is part of the university game needs to revert to proven approaches that developed sound practitioners rather than the current emphasis on research productivity.

History. The old adage that we are bound to repeat the errors of history unless we learn from them is true. For the last quarter century I have been collecting stories from adults around the world about their childhood play. These stories speak to the wonderful adventure, risk, freedom, joy, mishaps, memorable times, etc. They invariably demonstrate the wonder of childhood as it should be experienced regardless of where one grew up. While there is a huge diversity of experience there is much commonality. It is only in the play of recent generations that the quality of childhood play diminishes. Where I saw this most graphically has been in the relatively impoverished play world of the urban child whose activities have been often limited to the apartment and to supervised trips to public or private domains. Childhood play, as known in earlier generations, is at great risk with profound consequences to our cultures health and well being.

Freedom. Freedom is the hallmark of our Western democracies. In the world of the child, this should mean freedom to roam, being free to move, and freedom of association. Of course, with freedom comes responsibility. These two are interdependent. We need ‘Free Range Kids’, as advocated by many childhood authorities. The element of ‘Stranger Danger’ has been greatly over-estimated. Communities can do much to ensure these time-honored freedoms through neighbourhood watches, safe houses, play leadership provision, walking buses, traffic-calming, etc. The value of the notion of freedom to explore and move safely in our communities cannot be overestimated.

Cost. What is advocated here is not the expenditure of more funds, rather it is for a major reorientation of our resources and priorities to face the many ironies and dilemmas that are at long-last surfacing. I believe that we have the talents, energies and resources to become world leaders in giving back childhood to our children and at the same time ensuring that we have a healthy and hardy nation. The challenge is before us and it the game is now in over time!

Dr Gary Pennington, Associate Professor Emeritus, UBC

June 10.15



This Manifesto is primarily directed at school and community agencies as well as governing bodies charged with the responsibility of serving the needs of children and youth. It is unique in that the content is the product of work undertaken by young professionals in concert with elders who have worked in social, recreational and educational services for many decades, thereby bringing both contemporary and historical perspectives to bear on the subjects and issues. We advocate:

  1. Equal time, resources and commitment to the curricular areas of STEM, the ARTS, and PHYSICAL CULTURE in all school and community programs.
  2. Inclusion of all children and youth in sport and recreation programs throughout their school years rather than the current practice of early selection and exclusion.
  3. Participation of youth in many sporting and recreational activities throughout their developmental years rather than early specialization.
  4. Recognition of and support for drawing as an essential educational tool and a child’s right in their development for both communication and aesthetic expression.
  5. Less consumerism and more ingenuity and improvisation on the part of parents and youth in the provision of playthings and other objects in their material world.
  6. Development of youth leadership in sporting and other activities to offset the coach dependence that has come to dominate western culture.
  7. Opening-up of schools and recreation facilities for unscheduled, free-time, informal (sandlot) types of youth-organized activities.
  8. Community development of school yards and community parks that is focused on naturalization rather than disneyfication.
  9. Promotion of a broad array of multicultural activities in school and community programs.
  10. Outreach programs for newly arrived children and youth to make them and their families welcome and an integral part of the community.
  11. Fostering of inter-generational programs in school and community programs.
  12. Reclaiming of streets and other urban areas to foster children’s ‘Freedom to Roam’, to know, and explore their communities.
  13. Promotion of healthy food and nutrition on a broad scale that helps ensure the health and well-being of youth and families.
  14. Recognition that children and youth develop and prosper when their education is a sound combination of security, risk and adventure.
  15. Equity in the use of school facilities to ensure there is no ability or gender bias.
  16. Promotion of the concepts of ‘Physical Literacy’ and ‘Movement Education’ among both youth and adults to foster a common understanding of the values of human movement and health in our culture.
  17. A curricular balance in physical education that fully recognizes the benefits of games, dance, gymnastics, athletics, aquatics and other forms of developmental activities.
  18. Incorporation of social responsibility models in schools to instill citizenship values in children and youth.
  19. Teacher Education Programs wherein all generalist teachers are well-schooled in the methodology required to teach in the arts and physical culture.
  20. Policies that greatly reduce the imposition of commercial interests and huge costs that prohibit many youth from engaging in the arts and physical culture in both school and community.
  21. An ongoing alliance among educators, health professionals, sporting agencies, arts organizations, and recreation workers to help develop and sustain worthwhile policies and programs irrespective of political agendas and changes in governance.
  22. Programs that are flexible enough to meet the individual needs and interests of students and other participants in community affairs.
  23. Emphasis on the joy of effort and the play ethic in recreational programs and broader physical culture in the community.


Teacher Strikes/Lockout: The Unspoken Element

I have been involved directly in education for more than fifty years as a teacher and as one who has had the responsibility of preparing teachers. In this time I have taught in the public schools in Canada and the United States and at numerous universities and colleges in several countries around the world. This work has taken me into literally thousands of schools at home and abroad. These professional experiences, my observations and research, and discussions with scores of parents about schooling lead me to the conclusion that there is a major unspoken element underlying current issues to do with labor unrest by teachers and government reaction to teacher withdrawal of services. I believe the matter at the heart of the issue, and ironically that has not been voiced to any great degree, is simply that of ‘Teacher Incompetence’.

While teachers’ professional organizations, professional preparation institutions, and other governing bodies claim that all teachers in our respective systems are qualified and competent, this is just not so. The experience of everyone I have ever spoken to about the teachers in our lives is that there were a few who made lasting, positive, trans-formative contributions to our education and our lives; there were many others who could certainly be termed ‘good’ or very competent in their work with us; and universally, there were numerous others who should never have been allowed to work with children and youth because of their lack of competence or understanding of students.

These observations seem to be held by parents and others irrespective of what country one is in; the matter of prevailing and pervasive teacher incompetence appears to be a universal syndrome. While there are procedures in place to evaluate teachers, disciplinary protocols to ensure that teacher misconduct is penalized, and other safeguards in place, the reality is that our schools still abound with teachers who should not be attempting to educate the young.

I do not suggest that there are easy answers to this issue. I reject the simplistic beliefs of some who suggest that many teachers go into the profession because of the supposed short work year and good pay or show voice the old cliche that those who can’t do otherwise become teachers. I do maintain that there is a highly significant proportion of teachers in our schools who are unhappy and ineffective in working with children and they should be either counseled out of the profession or retrained in major ways. Current professional development programs, while very worthwhile, do not get at this problem.

If the BCTF leadership would openly admit to the failings of the current system to deal with teacher incompetence and pledge to find effective ways to ensure that our schools are staffed only by highly skilled and effective teachers, then I believe that the government would support our province’s education system much more readily. Moreover, the support of parents would also be gained on a sustained basis when there is much more confidence in the educational system.

If the Teachers Federation, universities, and the Provincial Government, working in concert, could find ways to deal with this issue that is very much at the root of our current impasse we would escape the recurrent interruption of an educational system that is vital to our culture; at the same time we would be seen to be a world leader in educational progress.

While I expect that there will be immediate defensive reaction by many in the profession to my assertions about what I am terming ‘The Unspoken Element’ of the teacher strike, I would ask that the jury to be polled on the issue should be the public who have experienced teachers year by year in their own lives. The bureaucratic pretense that all school teachers are competent and productive in educating our children and youth is a fallacy.

We need to honor, respect and support our best teachers fully and at the same time honestly and compassionately deal with the teacher incompetence that plagues our system. Entrenchment is not the answer; honest dialogue and courageous action to improve the educational system is. Good teachers warrant good salaries and the best of working conditions; the system cannot afford poor teachers.

Gary Pennington, EdD, Associate Professor Emeritus, UBC