Friday, June 25, 2010

Opinion Piece: The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition

Our Physical Education friends have a lot of different opinions and while we may or may not agree with all of them, we definitely value their input and want them to keep on talkin’!

Check out what C.J. Cain, Physical Educator from Panther Run Elementary in Lake Worth, FL has to say about the new committee for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Read the blog and let us know what you think in the comments below.

***Please note that the views stated are not necessarily a reflection of PE4life's beliefs, but rather an opportunity to open the doors to discussion.***

Author: C.J. Cain

Yesterday the First Lady launched the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. Read the official press release here.

Looking at the council members it appears not one person has experience as a Physical Educator. This disappoints me. This looks more like a PR gimmick than an actual agent of change.

Why not seek out the best of the best from the world of Physical Education for their insight? Why not include like Dr. Ratey and Dr. Medina who have studied the effects of exercise on the brain for their insight? Why not include Dr. David Katz for his insight into child nutrition?

Nothing personal, but I'd rather lean on the knowledge and minds of people like Dr. Robert Pangrazi and the other great Physical Educators of our time on matters concerning Physical Activity, Sports, and Fitness than Carl Edwards who drives a race car for a living. While I respect the accomplishments of the individuals appointed to this Council it is my opinion that they are not the right people for this very important job.

We wouldn't ask Homer Simpson for advice after a power plant accident. Why are we not including Physical Educators on these councils? Why is Physical Education and the importance of the Physical Educator not being promoted more through the "Let's Move" initiative?

We need to stop pretending that having a bunch of professional athletes lending their name to support obesity initiatives is going to make more of difference than the people who come in contact children everyday - parents, teachers (especially) Physical Educators), and the members of their community. That's where it starts. That's where it happens. That's where the support needs to be. That's who we need to be listening to.

With that being said, I would be remised if I didn't commend Annika Sorenstam for her commitment to fighting childhood obesity. I have tremendous respect for Annika. She's donating her time and money to passionately fight childhood obesity. Her example is one professional athletes should follow. Annika is not simply lending her name to PR council's like Obama announced yesterday. She is out making a difference and is to be commended for all that she does for children and families.

In closing, it's my opinion that a Physical Education summit is needed. It's time for the leaders from within Physical Education to come together to discuss Physical Education as it is today & put an actionable plan together to move Physical Education forward. Government once again has made it clear that it values Public Relations more than solutions as it relates to fighting Childhood Obesity. I'm certain if you asked the athletes appointed to this council that many of them would thank a Physical Educator for helping them along the way.

I encourage every Physical Educator to write a letter to Shellie Pfohl, the Executive Director of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and protest the failure to include a Physical Educator on the newly formed President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.

President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition:

Attn: Shellie Pfohl

1101 Wootton Parkway, Suite 560

Rockville, MD 20852


240-276-9860 Fax

Also send a copy of your letter to the President & First Lady:
The White House

Attn: President Barack & First Lady Michelle Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

C.J. Cain



Dr. Ernie "Exergaming Evangelist" Medina, Jr. said...

It does seem strange to have someone like Carl Edwards on there when his only "qualification" to getting nominated is his donation to charities. The others seem to have done something more in helping this cause.

In general, I agree that it would be nice to have a PE teacher on the council. My guess is that with only so many slots, there are a a lot of other good people that could be on there as well.

From reading the bios, what these folks bring to the table are networks/contacts and $$, all needed to help fund any kind of movement.

Also, in the PE world, does AAHPERD select a "PE Educator of the Year"? If so, I doubt that many in the general public would have an idea of who that person is--nothing against them for not being famous in the general public.

While it may just seem like PR, the value I see in having high profile names like Kwan and Brees is to show the general population of kids that these athletes are more than just athletes, that they care about other things besides their sport.

Not only that, since they are well known, if kids see their star advocating "eat right and be active", there's a better chance that that will make a positive impression on them vs the to PE educator saying the same thing.

For so long, we've had the smartest educators scientists, and other healthcare professionals sounding the alarm and preaching the message and where has that gotten us? Not very far, unfortunately.

Even in the world of exergaming, if I go out there and make an ad about the benefits of exergaming, they're going to say, "Who's he?" But if I get Kobe Bryant promoting the use of exergames to get kids moving, you know that sites such as Exergame Fitness will be swamped in a matter of hours!

This Council isn't necessarily set up to provide and promote the best science for physical activity, it's to MOTIVATE people to "be like Mike", and the only way you can do that is with star power. (Man, I'd love to have some stars doing exergames vs someone like the legendary Dr. Steven Blair, no offense to him!)

Coming back to a PE teacher on there, I think the challenge will be is which camp will you want a PE teacher on such a council from? The "traditional" school of PE teachers or the PE4Life teacher? I have to admit that my own personal experience of PE did not promote me to lead a physically active lifestyle--it was a lot of standing around in line, waiting to do a layup drill. Maybe that's why people's idea of PE are still colored by their own personal experience as a kid, therefore they do not see PE in our schools as a main force in instilling LIFESTYLE changes to be more physically active.

I know that PE4Life is different, but it seems that it's still the minority, and therefore, we still have a ways to go in transforming your own house before we can have a unified PE message that would actually get kids and families more active outside of the gym.

Maybe someday, when PE4Life is the norm in all of our schools, someone like the late Phil Lawler will be appointed to such a high profile Council.

C.J. Cain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C.J. Cain said...


“The Billionaires Boys Club" of Gates, Walton, and Broad have donated millions to education. Gates, Broad and Walton are committed now to privatizing education via charter schools and to evaluating teachers by test scores. And that’s now the policy of the US Department of Education. We have never seen anything like this, where foundations had the ambition to direct national educational policy, and in fact are succeeding.

The fundamental idea, which has been enshrined at least since the Brown decision of 1954, was equal educational opportunity. “Race to the Top” is not equal educational opportunity. It is a race in which a few states race to the top to have more privatized schools, more test-based accountability, more basic skills, no emphasis on a broad curriculum for all kids, and no equal educational opportunity. I think that’s wrong.

Let this be an example of the negative influences name recognition and money can have on education.

C.J. Cain said...


Please look over Section 3 of the Executive Order.

The council's authority goes far beyond "to MOTIVATE people to "be like Mike".

Let me toss some names at you. Dr. John Ratey, Paul Zientarski, Jean Blaydes Madigan, Kymm Ballard, George Velarde, Dave Spurlock, Dr. Chuck Corbin, Dr. Aaron Beighle, Dr. Robert Pangrazi, Dr. David Katz, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, Jack Olwell, Artie Kimaya.......could go on....I would entrust the people I just mentioned with the responsibilities laid out for this council more than I would the 25 people appointed the council.

If the goal is to "motivate people to be like Mike" or like any professional athlete we are missing the boat completely and aiming at a high jump bar the at Sergey Buba heoghts where far less than 1% of the population will ever travel.

It's nice to have professional athletes supporting the message but they should not be entrusted to create the message. Coach Parcells summed it up like this, "you can't expect me to cook the dinner if you don't allow me to buy the groceries".

Physical Educators are not be allowed to buy the groceries, heck, they aren't being allowed to make suggestions to the grocery lists

C.J. Cain said...

As to your curiousity.

We must change the "business model" of Physical Education. We cannot continue to teach PE the way it has taught for generations. The public perception of PE has been developed over generations of failing to meet the needs of each individual child in classes.

We need to move towards the "new pe" model of emphasizing fitness and well being, not athleticism. We need to move away from practices that humiliate students. We need to expose kids to the fun and long-term benefits of movement. Educational and traditional Physical Education leadership must embrace the work of Dr. Ratey, Dr. Medina, and Dr. Tillman that shows the link between exercise and learning. They've moved much to slowly in that regard.

We need to take a long look at our college preparation programs and revamp them. We cannot continue to put new PE teachers into the system for 25-30 years teaching PE the same way it was taught in the middle of the last century.

Take Florida. 18% of 6th graders, 27% of 7th graders, and 32% of 8th graders waived PE this past school year. Think of any restaurant you have been to where the service was awful and the food was terrible. Did you ever go back? Likely not. What incentive are we giving children to elect to take Physical Education when the courses largely haven't changed in generations and there isn't really anything appealing to them as individuals on the "menu"???