Put yourself in a scenario here with me. You're a young pre-teen student who has always struggled with math. It's just not your thing -- it's tough for you. And maybe because of that, you've avoided working very hard at it, which hasn't helped. You WANT to be better at it, you just don't quite know how to get there, and it's hard. But in any case, you are now placed in a homogenous math class with students at various levels of math ability.
Some of these kids are naturals with numbers. It all comes very easy for them; they hardly have to try. Some of them have even competed in math competitions and gotten special coaching and practice in the subject. You're at the bottom of this class. And it's obvious to the whole room.
Everyone in the class is given the same assignment -- one that is beyond your current ability. The work is graded by other students in class. And when it's time to tell the teacher your scores, you're required to announce it . . . out loud . . . in front of everyone. "85." "92." "100%!" And then you give your score: "27." Kids snicker and look at you amused out of the corner of their eyes. And the teacher seems oblivious to the snickers and to your humiliation.
Does this make you love math? Does this motivate you to want to work harder to get better at it? Does this encourage you to develope lifelong healthy "math habits"? Would anyone say this is an appropriate way to conduct a math class?
Well, if it's not appropriate for math class, why is it appropriate for P.E.?
For a country who is so concerned about the healthy lifestyles of our youth, you'd think we could find a better way to conduct our Physical Education classes. P.E. is notorious for being a locus of fear and shame for the non-athletic child. How have we allowed that to continue? I suppose it's because the only people who become P.E. teachers are those who loved P.E. as a kid -- and they apparently can't put themselves in the mindset of a child who hates this. Or maybe it's because we simply don't allocate the money and resources to be able to do P.E. in anything but a mass production factory fashion.
I hated P.E. after elementary school. I assumed things surely had changed; apparently not. We've got to be able to do better than this, folks.