There are many injustices in our competitive system, but to blame this system for the inability of one fourth of our youth to pass the very minimum of physical fitness tests is ridiculous. The main reason that our physical education program has failed is the lack of interest and support on the part of parents and educators.
We do not have to make a choice between a few champions and a nation of healthy, fit citizens. We have to institute a program that will actually educate the physical body, teaching specific exercises and skills, getting gradually more difficult from the first grade through high school. Those children who are unable to do the required work should be given remedial instruction by specialists in cooperation with physicians.
Since children are competitive by nature, some competition won't hurt them. The goal of excellence in our schooling, whether academic or physical, is a noble one. Though many fail it isn't necessary for normal, healthy children to "withdraw ashamed and embarrassed," as long as they have done their best.
If a man has no more self-control than to break a putter when he doesn't win, it is not golf that is at fault.
My boys have been fortunate in being born physically strong. However, we have seen that they have adequate exercise, walking or riding bikes to school, swimming and playing what comes naturally. We are delighted that a very rigid physical education program has been undertaken in the school and when our youngest comes home complaining of soreness in abdominal muscles from the sit-ups he had to do, we simply tell him to do a little more the day after, let him soak in a tub of warm water, and in a week or so all soreness is gone and he can go on to more strenuous endeavor. The same thing applies when he comes in with an arithmetic problem that is more than he feels he can cope with.
When the time comes that a boy wants to try out for a team, then he will learn the lessons that participation teaches. These lessons are as important to his development as most others in his schooling. They are additional lessons in patience, hard work and fair play. If he discovers that even with teaching and practice he doesn't measure up to what is needed to win, then he has learned another lesson, that each of us has his limitations, mental and physical.
Now, if you want to debate the morality of proselytizing and the virtue of the semi-professional athletic system that prevails in our colleges, that's a different story. However, the two—physical education for fitness and varsity sports—arc different fields and must be argued separately.
MRS. J. W. BEGALA
I read Mrs. Ross's Open Letter with a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction. To hear a mother make these statements is all we in the YMCA need to feel we are on the right track.
Not much has been said publicly about the Y's answer to the President's report on youth fitness. But the program is there—and it's working—and in the manner in which Mrs. Ross described.
The Y makes no distinction between the left-footed and right-footed teams or players. Every boy (and every girl in most cases) plays with the accent on team spirit and enjoyment. Winning is secondary.
WILLIAM L. BLAIR