Sunday, August 13, 2006

Human Rights?

I was interested to see this story earlier in the week (but being a lazy lazy blogger didn't actually go out and find the link for myself until it appeared on the RW website). Basically, the issue is whether making schoolkids do cross country breaches their human rights.

Of course, as a dedicated runner (hee hee) I am minded to see the claim as a load of crap, but still, I remember the horror.

Between the ages of 11 and 16 my life was blissfully cross country free. No traipsing through fields or up and down hills, and not much running at all, to be honest. Then at 16 I moved schools and came back down to earth with a horrifying bump the first time I got introduced to compulsory cross country.

I didn't dislike all sport. There was some sport I quite enjoyed. I wouldn't say that I was good at it, but I enjoyed doing it. Apart from one thing - the attitude of school PE teachers that you fell into one of two groups. Those who could, and those who couldn't. And if you couldn't, then you weren't worth attention. There was no point in encouraging you to improve, if you weren't going to get selected to play, or run, or jump or whatever for the county, you weren't going to get the attention. It was quite nice sometimes as it meant you could get away with more when their attention was elsewhere, but, from a life long fitness and health point of view it was us un-coordinated, slow, chubby ones who would have benefitted most from a bit of encouragement.

There was nothing to compare to the horror of that first cross country run though. I have no idea how long it was, or how long it took me, but I remember the long steep downhill at the start, and the realisation that you'd have to get back up the hill to the school at the top on the way back. The frustrating thing, with hindsight, is how much better it could have been, with decent shoes, if we'd been told about how to start building up from a run/walk programme, if we'd been encouraged to race against the clock rather than each other.

I'd never have believed then that I'd end up loving running, the freedom it gives me, and the fitness, and the knowledge that I can run from Keighley to Leeds.

I don't think that cross country running at school was abuse, or in any way a breach of my human rights, but what I do believe is that it was one of the biggest missed opportunities of my life, and had my teachers inspired me to keep going with it at the time, I could have spent the last 10 years in a far healthier and fitter state than I did.


Blogger Lee said...

I know exactly where you're coming from. I too hated cross country with a vengeance. I had to run it for the five years I was at primary school. I vividly remember the cross country when I was ten. I was coming dead last, as usual, and the school principal came running up to me, and we ran the last km together. He was so encouraging, and made it a point that it was about my participation rather than being a good athlete.

I have also found that running is a great way both to lose weight and to get away from it all. So, I thank my principal from all those years ago for making running something I COULD do. And now I am.

11:24 PM  
Blogger K said...

I'm not sure ANYTHING could have won me over to cross-country running at school. I was the class non-athlete, so I was always last, which isn't very good for the self-esteem. I think my teachers tried to be encouraging, but I wasn't in the mood to be receptive.

In the last two years at school we were allowed some choice as to what we did. That made such a difference; earlier on there was a mix of activities, but no choice.

11:35 PM  
Blogger kathrynoh said...

I'm so with you on this. You don't learn PE at school - it's not about learning, it's about the good getting better and the unfit learning to avoid sport at all cost.

Plus there's the added torture of making a bunch of kids all going through puberty change and shower in one room!

5:51 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

I thought I was the only kid who loathed cross country in school! I've often thought how much easier my life could have been if someone had taught me to enjoy moving instead of ridiculing me for my lack of coordination. Great topic!

6:37 AM  
Blogger M@rla said...

I'd hoped phys ed had come out of the dark ages since I was a child, but apparently not. It's still exclusive, not inclusive. I often wonder how my life would have been different if I'd learned a liking for some kind - any kind - of sport as a kid, instead of loathing it all.

I have mixed feelings about it - I think it's important that physical activity be mandatory for school children, but perhaps the particular programs should be redesigned. Hey... maybe when you are tired of being a lawyer, you could teach PE. Cool!

11:51 AM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Sometimes our tastes (or tolerances) just change as we get older.
I hated any running, athletics, gymnastics in PE at school. My body was not designed for those things. I am scared of heights so hated any climbing activities etc.

However, I loved swimming and most team sports. I played hockey at both school and club level from 11-17.

These days, I don't have the time to commit to a team sport and swimming isn't as fun as an adult. On the other hand I really enjoy working out at the gym and doing classes. I wouldn't say i love running but I don't hate it and am trying to get better. Not sure I'll ever love it the way you do though...


2:25 PM  
Blogger skinnyminny8 said...

For me, running doesn't work.

I do get an enormous buzz after running, I always liked sprinting especially, but I can't motivate myself to run for exercise on cold rainy mornings in London. I haven't been able to stick with it long enough to progress. Any tips?

I even enjoyed cross country runs as a kid ( the amazing feelings, endorphins and pride when finishing)

However, pe is just like academic work at school. Some people are naturally good, some need to work harder to attain the same level of proficiency.

I just wish schools had more optional, fun activities instead of focussing all their energies on the best. This means those with natural ability and fitness just get better and the rest do not improve. Kids can be very mean too about those who struggle in pe. Maybe its just human nature.

I don't think its breaking human rights to force kids to do a cross country run. But this seems to be a rarity in many schools. In my school, we did one a season, so weren't really fit enough to do it. How about a progressive training scheme where each child is put in groups and who run at their own level regularly?

I expect the cross country run has contributed to many a person's dislike of running.

We used to pretend to be sick... except when i tried to get out of it, I was sick. Suffice to say, the next week they forced me to run.

5:41 PM  

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