My kids, both my daughter and my first graders, complain about P.E. This has surprised me for a while because I remember enjoying P.E. in elementary school and felt like it was typically a favorite activity. But it's been pretty consistently whined about for a few years now. The kids like the P.E. teachers but not P.E.
When I've dug a bit deeper with my daughter I've learned that what she hates are the push-ups and curl-ups at the beginning of P.E. class. Often she loves the rest of P.E. but all she can think about is that beginning. The same seems to be true for my students. They focus on this one small piece of P.E. class and forget about all the parts they enjoyed.
I asked one of our P.E. teachers about this phenomenon recently. She wasn't at all surprised to hear how the kids felt. She told me that at the end of the year the kids would all be tested on their push-ups and curl-ups (state requirement, I think). So they practice them at the beginning of each period to prepare them.
When I heard this I nodded my head and thought, "Well, that makes sense."
As I've thought more about it, I don't think it does.
Doing push-ups and curl-ups doesn't make a child healthy or fit. Those two exercises aren't the greatest ones ever created, ones that will work all the muscle groups or anything. They are simply the two exercises someone far removed from the kids has decided they need to be able to do.
It seems to me that this is what school has become, a focus on the specific content and skills required for a test rather than offering students opportunities to follow their interests or to develop themselves broadly. I just didn't realize it had hit P.E. as well.