THE CASE FOR P.E.
There has been a disturbing trend on the part of school boards in recent years to cut budgets for physical education, but the case for putting the physical back into education is incontrovertible. As Exhibit A, we offer the popularity of a phys-ed program in, of all places, the South Bronx, perhaps the worst slum in New York. Lou Schlanger's physical-education class at South Bronx High begins at 7:10 a.m., an hour before the start of regular classes, yet 133 students have signed up to join him in the school gym for aerobics, push-ups, sit-ups, long jumps and general conditioning. In a school with a historically high dropout percentage, Schlanger's dawn phys-ed class has an absentee rate of only 10%. "The class carries over to the rest of their lives," says Schlanger. "Instead of lowering the standards, we want them to set the standards and feel there's nothing they can't do."
When Schlanger, 31, began the fitness class three years ago, it was extracurricular and attracted only 11 students. A year later it became an official course that counted toward the seven semesters of physical education the state of New York requires of high school students. (Stunningly, only 17 states have any phys-ed requirements in their public schools.) The downside of this story: After early funding of $2,500 from New York City's Dropout Prevention Program, to buy equipment and pay students' travel expenses to fitness competitions, the class has depended on private donations, which have amounted to less than $3,000.
To understand the importance of this course to the participants' education, listen to what 17-year-old Sharmagne Solis told The New York Times. "I've learned to push myself physically, and when you know how to push yourself to do 60 push-ups, you know how to push yourself to do your homework. I used to go to school because I had to, and I was bored and I cut a lot. But last year I had perfect attendance because I didn't want to miss the fitness class, and then I began not wanting to miss school."
The University of Utah's football program has gone daffy. Call up the school's sports information office and you may be quacked at with a duck call. Migrate in the direction of Rice Stadium during a home football game and duck-call-wielding Ute fans will flock in beside you. Try to sing Utah Man, the fight song, as the school band marches onto the field and you will have to do so over the reedy cacophony of several thousand Utahans quacking like ducks. Last week against Utah State, a pregame sky diver landed on the field dressed as, of course, a duck. Says one school official, "This duck stuff is out of control."
It all started when coach Jim Fassel unveiled an offensive formation called the Daffy Duck during the Utes' season-opening 24-20 win over New Mexico. The bizarre configuration has three receivers lined up on one side of the field and six linemen on the other side, while the quarterback and center go to the middle of the field by themselves and line up in the shotgun.
The Utes, who are 4-4 and lead the nation in passing yardage, have used the formation no more than 20 times this season. They have scored two two-point conversions with it and had gains of 22 and 25 yards on a couple of plays from scrimmage. Utah fans, as you might imagine, love it.
Now a Utah graduate and conservationist named Bill Wilson has figured out a way to channel all this enthusiasm to benefit Ducks Unlimited, a group committed to preserving waterfowl habitats. Last week Wilson and Salt Lake City's KALL Radio arranged for the distribution of 1,500 Ducks Unlimited- University of Utah Duck Kalls, which went on sale in local stores for $5 each—about a dollar of which goes to Ducks Unlimited. Wilson hopes to have 5,000 of the duck calls in the stands for the Utes' Nov. 7 homecoming game against UTEP That should be sufficient to drive everybody quackers.
KOA AT KSU