emmelinemay: (Franz?)
[personal profile] emmelinemay
OUt of the batch of news storied emiled to us today, this is the one that caught my eye.

Only one in 250 girls takes enough exercise.

Fewer than three per cent of 11-year-old children are taking enough exercise at the time in their lives when they should be most active, a major research project on the inactivity of youth reports today.

Doctors point to a range of problems, from the sale of school playing fields to children being driven to school.

Do you want to know what *I* think is one of the problems?

Well, it's my journal, so i get to tell you anyway...

I've long had a bee in my bonnet about this. Ever since I left school with a 'fitness level'¹ of 4, and a note in my record along with my GCSE certificates that said 'Emmeline's fitness level of 4² should cause concern for her future health', PE has been one of the the things guaranteed to get me on my soap box. Or I would, but that sounds too much like exercise.

The whole experience of PE, from having to be in public in gym knickers to being shouted at in front of the class for coming last in Cross Country, is one of the single most dreadful experiences in my whole life, and has genuinely affected me well into adulthood.

If you were sporty at school or good at games, you may not understand. But for those of us who were not terribly good at any of it, PE was HELL.

The assumption is that those of us who aren't fast runners, or that can't hit a hockey ball in a straight line, or can't jump a long way into a sandpit are just NOT TRYING. It's not that we aren't any good at it, or have poor co-ordination, or painful feet, or any other reason. No. We're just NOT TRYING.

And, as a result, PE for those of us who clearly AREN'T TRYING was a regular session of ritualised embarrassment, ridicule and punishment. The girls who were good at tennis, or hockey, or lacrosse, or cross-country, or track-and-field; they got encouragement and support. Those of us that weren't could never please. Our individual improvement didn't matter, that we'd maybe run 5 minutes faster in cross country this week that last week. It didn't matter because we weren't good at it. SO there was no point trying to improve yourself, because you'd never be as good as the golden sporty ones.

The emphasis was very much on the school winning against other schools, or your class winn against other class, or if you went somewhere really posh, that your house won against the other houses. If you couldn't help your fellow students win things against The Other Ones, then you were useless.

There was no education about how your muscles worked. About how important it is to keep hydrated as you exercise. How exercise affects your health and well being. There was no encouragement to the non-sporty (NOT TRYING!) ones to exercise for the sake of fitness itself. There was in fact no encouragement to exercise for the sake of fitness itself at all. As a result, the sporty ones got fitter because they liked to, and the non sporty ones got the impression that exercise FUCKING SUCKS.

Don't even get me started on the horrors of the communal changing rooms and the lesbian PE Teachers.

Is it any wonder, really, that so many girls leave school firmly associating exercise with pain, humiliation and just general awfulness? Is it any wonder that so many of us even now have a MASSIVE mental block about going to the gym?

I really enjoy the gym classes I go to, I know I do, I feel great during them, after them, and I sleep better, feel better and am much fitter. But making myself go is such a massive effort of will, because I have it deeply ingrained deeply into my very soul that I HATE PE, and PE = EXERCISE and therefore I HATE EXERCISE. And I'm pretty damn sure I'm not the only one.

Personally, I believe that a major solution to this alleged 'couch potato generation' is to shift the emphasis on PE in schools away from 'winning' and overall achievement to a greater emphasis on personal fitness, on how your muscles work, on how to keep fit, and most importantly, that exercise can be fun, and that it can make you feel really good.

Is there any point to me knowing how to play hockey? Or lacrosse? Will i really use cradling skills or ball control in my daily life? Nope. But would I have benefited from understanding how to get the right muscle groups working to keep me healthy, and to know that if I do a good physical work out then I will feel good mentally too? I should bloody coco.

I have struggled for most of my life with my weight and fitness. If anyone at school had said to me 'it's really not whether you win, or how fast you run. It's about getting your body moving so that it gets stronger, and you feel better' I think it would have made a HUGE difference.

PE is one of the few subjects where the syllabus remains virtually unchanged for years and years. It's about bloody time they looked at it again, especially in the light of these findings.

If I was queen of the universe, PE would become 'Health and Fitness' and would consist of a much wider breadth of sports covered, it would focus on individual improvement over school attainment, and would teach children how important exercise is, and that exercise is fun.

And I'd make gym knickers and communal changing rooms illegal.

1 - AKA the beep test. I am pretty sure this is not accepted as a test of 'fitness' and is more a test of your ability to run from one wall to another in time to a set of beeps.
2 - This is because a friend of mine started having an asthma attack next to me, so i took her outside, got her inhaler, and so on. I was later told that her health was 'no business of mine' and that I should be 'more concerned about my own fitness level'.
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Date: 2007-09-13 02:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cookwitch.livejournal.com
AGREED! *applause*

But for those of us who were not terribly good at any of it, PE was HELL.

Aye, it was. Bloody PE teacher leering at us in communal showers and telling me to get a move on in lessons very loudly with her horsey voice, and saying that I was just being lazy...

Date: 2007-09-13 02:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
I've always wondered - and i may offend some people horribly, but political correctness be damned...

It was common knowledge (not rumour, actual real honest to goodness fact) that one of our PE teachers was gay.

You wouldn't let a male PE teacher into a all girls communal changing room, would you? Or female PE teacher into a all boys communal changing room?

So how is it right to let a woman who fancies girls into a room full of 16 year old girls in their pants?

But then, any of us who had to experience these changing rooms can all dress and undress without ever once removing our towel until we're fully clothed underneath it. There, that's a useful skill PE left me with.

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Date: 2007-09-13 02:24 pm (UTC)
canudiglett: (cocktail)
From: [personal profile] canudiglett
I couldn't agree more. For me, PE was about getting weighed and measured (I was always the heaviest in the class), being forced to parade around in huge green knickers with yellow stripes down the side with my big, white, lumpy thighs exposed, standing there in said attire miserably hoping someone would take pity on me and pick me for their netball team and then being stuck with the positions no one wants because I was so useless. Everything was races and competitions and tables and I was always LAST. And then the whole thing was topped off with stinking verruca inducing communal showers which leave you smelling worse than when you got in.

Strangely enough, I decided to have four periods a month and got fatter and fatter and unfitter...

Date: 2007-09-13 02:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] androktone.livejournal.com
is this why we became goths do you think?

Looking back, I was reasonably attractive and slim back then (better than i am now anyway) but I learnt to hate my body so much at school I'm still only just getting over it (these days i feel fond of my body for letting me get away with doing so many stupid things without being too ill, and i don't mind so much what it looks like).

Date: 2007-09-13 02:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yaruar.livejournal.com
You might find it suprising that i didn't particually enjoy PE at shool. I loved playing sports outside of the lessons, both at school and for the various adult teams i played for, but pe at school was equally pointless for the people who were good at the sports because most of them played elsewhere and it was so badly structured it was pointless (and i won't even mention the fact at least 1 of the PE teachers refused to let me play for a number of the school teams because i was a better basketball player than he was and was quite happy to prove the point..)
I would have prefered something different in the school PE lessons, more of a choice or an emphasis on everyday health and fitness, it would have been a lot more useful for everyone involved.

Date: 2007-09-13 02:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kynon.livejournal.com
You'd never guess it from my LJ, or from meeting me IRL, but for most of my school days (up to about age 15), I had a very similar experience where PE/Games was concerned.

I agree that there should be more education on the physiology and effects (i.e. the point) of exercise - nearly everything I know about that has come from self-study & reading.

Date: 2007-09-13 02:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] redshira.livejournal.com
Oh, god, everything you said is 100% truth. I could go on a long rant about my own experiences of PE but I won't bother, apart from to say this one thing: As well as everything you said, a problem I also had with PE was that everyone expected you to know all the rules for everything, and if you didn't know them, you didn't have them explained, you got ridiculed and told to pick it up as you went along, which was fucking impossible because everyone was SHOUTING at you for not knowing the rules and messing up the game!

Date: 2007-09-13 02:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-soap.livejournal.com
Your personal experience of PE isn't necessarily everyone else's. I was crap at hockey and running too, and went to a school where those who excelled at PE were lauded, but was never made to feel bad because I wasn't one of them. I hated the communal changing rooms [still do] but never felt as deeply about it as you do.

I don't think fear of embarrassment is the current issue with poor PE provision - half the time it's not even on the curriculum. As the article point out, kids aren't even being allowed out to climb trees/rocks or run about, play skipping in the street - all that active stuff we did as children.

I'd be interested to see how much PE is actually on a Year 7 timetable these days. We had a minimum of 50 minutes every day of a winter or summer sport plus we were encouraged to join more 'interesting' gym clubs, like trampolining and badminton, which ran after school. I doubt it's anything like that today.

I never thought of PE as being exercise; it was just PE, and stuff like lacrosse and hockey teaches the concept of team working, as well as strategy and planning - skills which are useful in the wider world, even if being able to score a goal/hit in a straight line isn't.

Date: 2007-09-13 02:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] androktone.livejournal.com
Lillith gets 2 hours a week at her school (she's 7) - which is probably enough. I have to take them to the park or on a long walk in the holidays or on days they don't have PE (even if it's just to the shops or something) every day to tire them out or they're insufferable. Having kids is a bit like having a dog in that respect - you shouldn't keep them cooped up or they go mental but you shouldn't let them run around unsupervised either - it's up to the parents to make sure they get out, not the school.

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Date: 2007-09-13 02:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] androktone.livejournal.com
Oh that really resonated with me!

Being shortsighted, I wasn't allowed to wear my glasses during most PE lessons and consequently couldn't see anything! I was quite healthy at the time in my own right and went swimming and windsurfing and climbed trees and could do arabesques and stuff, but after 6 years of PE in an all Girls' school I was clumsy, introverted, and hated my body and showing it to anyone. It was hideous.

And it hadn't even occurred to me that maybe thats why I don't like going to the gym - all those people, looking at you, comparing you.. ugh. I love to walk, I like to cycle, but exercise ugh.

I also remember three of us getting taken to hospital with severe heatstroke one day after being forced to run 20 circuits of the hockypitch in mid-summer at mid-day and not being allowed to drink water! Is that even legal..?

Date: 2007-09-13 02:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
I do yoga, and one of the things we are always being reminded is to not look at anyone else in the class, because yoga is about you going to your own personal limit, and improving yourself, and not about being bendier than anyone else.

While I agree with [livejournal.com profile] miss_soap when she points out that team games teach more than just the rules of the game, teaching kids that exercise isn't all about competitive-ness is really important.

I remember having to do games in the full sun with no water too. Crazy, really.

If you love walking and cycling, you do like exercise, you just think you don't! Just like me!

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Date: 2007-09-13 02:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dextradawn.livejournal.com
I'm in total agreement here. PE was pure hell when I was a kid. I couldn't do a chin-up to save my life, cross country runs were pure torture, etc. By the time I got to high school, I was lucky enough to get a class with a teacher that let a bunch of us just hang out on the bleachers in the gym and use that time for independent study (i.e. naptime) and still passed us with a B.

Date: 2007-09-13 02:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] missfrost.livejournal.com
I agree with everything you said. Interesting point you make about the water too, if I go to the gym now, or even on a long walk, I take water. But at school it wasn't available anywhere except in the canteen at lunchtime.
And this from a school that now laughably calls itself a Sports College.

Date: 2007-09-13 02:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bluekieran.livejournal.com
Yeah, PE was shit at my school too. I suspect the subject as a whole hasn't been advanced/formalised enough to ensure proper training of PE teachers and a decent syllabus.

I'd like to say PE should be Crossfit-for-kids (plus lots of assorted sport), but Crossfit requires a pretty high standard of coach, and PE teachers just wouldn't be up to the job. But certainly even an egghead like me came out of school with very poor knowledge of what what exercise was for and how it should work, and that's just pitiful.

Date: 2007-09-13 03:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
Oddly, the sports sciences lot were based on my campus, and the degree was actually quite tricky. It went great detail about nutrition, muscle groups, individual learning plans, and lesson planning.

Half of them wanted to be PE Teachers, the other half fitness instructors...

Most of the fitness instructors at my gym are GREAT, they explain what the exercises do for you, show you how to do it safely, modify them for people with different needs.

Why can't school be like that?

Mind you, a lot of the SS students made up most of their assignments on the night before they were due in, and still passed.

Date: 2007-09-13 02:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jaketherat.livejournal.com
Amen. Although, after a certain point at least, I really WASN'T TRYING!

Date: 2007-09-13 03:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
hahah! Same here! Mainly because trying didn't seem to make any difference, i was still crap.

I figured i get no reward for trying, so i may as well not bother.

Date: 2007-09-13 03:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sepheri.livejournal.com
Hell yes! Well done you. I wish you were queen of the universe now, I would give you my badge that says it and everything.

When I came in last in the cross-country run (a few weeks after having been let out of hospital for yet another relapse in my juvenile arthritis) I was held up in front of the whole school and told by a teacher that "her 90 year old grandmother could have done it better". When she found out I was actually ill she was forced to apologise to me and she clearly hated every moment of it.
After that I never had to do PE again and I got to help the special needs class learn to read instead. A far more useful use of my time.

Date: 2007-09-13 04:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] medusa-nw.livejournal.com
*points down* that sounds just like my PE teacher! :-)
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Date: 2007-09-13 03:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
i, for one, am very glad you aren't gay.

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Date: 2007-09-13 03:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mnowster.livejournal.com
I find it interesting that the article doesn't even mention a change in circulum to help educate kids or to encourage them to do exercise and make it more fun.

I agree totally with you. For me PE was all of what you've described AND some. Changing rooms were the perfect place for the bullies to get at me when no-one was looking and beat me up and ridicule/taunt me further. I don't even like thinking about it but glad I've overcome a lot of it and now enjoy going to Tai Chi and swimming each week, which took A LOT for me to actually go and do. My instincts were screaming at me to run away the first time I went swimming a month ago, only thanks to my big sis that I went through with it and when I received some ridicule from fellow adult pool goers, my sis gave them hell and swam next to me to stop me getting out the pool and running home. So I don't think it ever ends, physical activity/sports still has that competitive comparison streak in it and I dislike that. I still force myself to go and enjoy the benefits of it, even if I am swimming slowly and with a float, I know I'm improving each week. PE at school never focussed on you bettering yourself and doing what you could and feeling good for what you achieved, it was never good enough.

Date: 2007-09-13 03:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
Good on you for the swimming, i still really struggle to have the guts to get into a pool, and even then it has to be virtually empty.

Yoga and Tai Chi etc are great, because they're about individual goals and not competition.

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Date: 2007-09-13 03:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nyarbaggytep.livejournal.com
The only good thing about PE was that I could batter the shins of girls that bullied me with a hockey stick with impunity.

Other than that it stank like the *spare kit* they made me wear if I forgot mine.

Re: *applauds*

Date: 2007-09-13 03:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
Oh god, the Spare Kit.

I'd forgotten about the Spare Kit.

I think i must have blocked it out of my memory for it being simply too traumatic.

I was forever in the Spate Kit, as i had a DREADFUL memory and forgot things on a regular basis.

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Date: 2007-09-13 03:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] suicideally.livejournal.com
I didn't like PE either, and I was excellent at sports. It was more to do with the communal changing/humiliation factor.

But I'm not sure this is why children aren't fit - PE is only a couple of hours a week. It's more than their out-of-school activities are too sedentary IMO.

Date: 2007-09-13 03:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
I think if more children enjoyed games within school, they'd be more likely to play them outside of school.

I think its one of many factors, not least my *other* soapbox issue - TVs in bedrooms.

TVs and games consoles and DVD players.

My kids will hate me, they're not having ANY of that in their bedrooms.

Date: 2007-09-13 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_yungfuktoi_/
I agree with you, that PE is designed too much around competitive sport and not around 'physical education' and fitness. But if it were about fitness alone, how would the grading system be implemented? I think therein lies the challenge. That, and sport teams are used to generate revenue for the schools (which I feel is totally improper) giving PE teachers all the more reason to act like drill sargents.
I know the biggest thing that put me off was that we had mixed boy-girl PE. In the adult world this is fine, but to developing girls it's terribly humiliating.

Date: 2007-09-13 04:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
We never got 'graded' on PE, as far as I can remember, in the same way we were in other subjects. There weren't exams or anything. In Gym we followed this BAGA thing where you got bronze, silver and gold depending on how good you were. I've never been very bendy, and never got past a silver, and that was entirely do to a chance move i managed to do my accident.

I think US schools and UK schools probably differ there, if US ones grade PE achievement.

oh god, MIXED PE? and i though all girls schools were bad. Being awkward, chubby and crap in front of other girls is bad enough.

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Date: 2007-09-13 04:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] medusa-nw.livejournal.com
Completely agree. I wasn't particularly good nor particularly bad at sports (my sister is the sporty one in the family and was a champion gymnast), but I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for the last two years I was at school, which still flares up occasionally now if I'm not careful. It got so bad that at one point I had to do my exams orally as I couldn't hold a pen in either hand.

Yet as far as my PE teacher was concerned I was faking it and overreacting. Never mind that I loved playing volleyball and softball (both of which were done outside school) which I had to give up as it was too painful!

She gave me hell and reduced me to tears more than once. I hid it from my parents until someone told my mother. Luckily my mum is aces so she went straight to the school director to complain, and it didn't happen again (to me, anyway), but it was too late by then as it was a couple of months before my A-Level exams.
Complete and utter bitch. I wasn't the only one she treated like that either. My sister is now a PE teacher (and a good one, she actually teaches at a teacher training college), and she did part of her work experience with the woman. She had heard all my horror stories about her when I was still at school, but even that didn't prepare her for how much of a bitch the woman was. She actually thought about putting in an official complaint, but as it was her last year before taking early retirement she decided not to bother.

Date: 2007-09-13 04:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
Funny, isn't it, how you often find that kids enjoyed the sports they did outside of school, but hate them in school.

Your teacher sounds like a NIGHTMARE.

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Date: 2007-09-13 05:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] liz-lowlife.livejournal.com
Thing is, PE has changed since we were at school.
Kids are educated from a very early age about healthy choices, how the body responds to exercise and why it is good to be doing it.
Most schools offer choices to kids these days and everyone is praised for at least 'having a go'. Most schools try to make it a positive, fun and where appropriate competetive for those who enjoy competing.
The problem is, PE has become eroded from the curriculum. Less PE is occurring in schools.
Fewer kids are choosing sporty activities after school, such as swimming or Karate, in favour of the X box. Parents are afraid to let kids play on the streets and cycle around, because of perceived fears of 'strangers' and what not. Parenting is generally going downhill.
It's the PARENTS who need to be educated more so than the kids.
If parents were more likely to act as positive role models then children would follow. Whatever happened to family biking, hiking and swimming?

Take my example.
School failed me in PE on every level, same as you. I HATED IT.
But I had good parents who realised very early on that I loved more solitary pursuits such as gardening, swimming, ice skating, a spot of Judo and cycling. They took time to ensure all these activities were readily available to me.
As a result, I have matured into a very, very active adult (albeit a slightly overweight one...see my latest post!) but I enjoy exercise because of what my parents provided. Having said that, I have an absolute HATRED of any kind of team sport, because of school and the vile experiences I endured there.
There's more to it...as usual, I blame society in general.
Oh, and don't get me started on peer pressure....

Re: Well....

Date: 2007-09-13 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
I totally agree with you in terms of parents, but as someone else here said, thats where we get the high/low income split. Many families can't afford activities outside of school, so until there's a more widespread provision of free activites, that divide is going to get bigger.

more well off families also tend to eat better, for whatever reason, be it education or knowledge about nutrition or price of food.

But then, as a lot of research seems to be telling us, surestart providing loads of free activities for the under 5s doesn't seem to be reaching the famlies it's aimed at (low income ones) so maybe it is the parents not taking advantage of what's there, rather than lack of provision...

Re: Well....

From: [identity profile] aeia.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-09-13 09:00 pm (UTC) - Expand

Spot On

Date: 2007-09-13 05:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] poggs.livejournal.com
You are so, so right.

I hated, and I mean *hated* PE when I was younger. There was nothing much in it that interested me.

I even took up playing the oboe (or tried to) in order to get out of PE lessons, as the classes clashed quite nicely. It didn't last that long though.

Reflecting now, I think I suffered from a lack of feedback, encouragement, flexibility and... well, that's enough I think.

You're so right

Date: 2007-09-13 06:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rubberwench.livejournal.com
What with the sadistic (and yes lesbian) games teacher, the not being allowed basic human rights like being allowed to wear tracksuit bottoms in the freezing rain and the general good at sports equals popular equation, it was all hell for me too.
Can I add letting the horrible little fuckers choose their own teams to gym knickers and changing rooms? It's beyond me why teachers did this. It was just authorised bulling and humiliation. The popular ie good at games kids always got to choose their teams, and because I was unpopular, I was always last. Worse it meant that the fat kids got fatter cos they were stuck in goal at netball or miles out on the hockey field where no action ever happened "fielding". I actually liked sports in primary school, and contrary to what everyone told me every day I wasn't that fat. But I certainly am now. I was also a really good swimmer and was in galas and stuff as a kid. But once I started being criticised daily for how I looked I refused to go near a pool. Sad really. Fuck it, I'm going swimming tomorrow.

Re: You're so right

Date: 2007-09-13 07:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
yeah! go swimming! fuck the popular kids!!!

That's a good point about team picking. People would DELIBERATELY leave the unpopular ones til last, just to humiliate you.

And then, when a team was 'stuck' with you, they'd sgh and roll their eyes. All sanctioned by the teachers!!

I hadn't thought about it in that way, but you're right, it's totally authorised bullying, it gave out the message that it's ok to be cruel to someone if they're bad at something or don't fit in.

Re: You're so right

From: [identity profile] rubberwench.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-09-17 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand

but there's hope

Date: 2007-09-13 06:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rubberwench.livejournal.com
You'll be glad to know there's a school in our area which has taken up taking teenagers to the gym, where they get the same info and attention from the experts as anyone else. I did a story on them, and the teacher said a lot of them started going after school too.

Date: 2007-09-13 08:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stylishbastard.livejournal.com
I don't see how any of that really applies just to girls. There must be other things to explain it..

Date: 2007-09-13 08:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
they mention boys in the article too, i think they just pck up on the girls statistic because it's more shocking.

As for what i wrote, i am a girl, and went to an all girls school, so I can only speak from experience!

Date: 2007-09-13 11:03 pm (UTC)
ashbet: (Winterheart)
From: [personal profile] ashbet
I am utterly, totally, and completely in agreement with you on this. Ugh.

*similarly traumatized-for-life by PE*

-- A :/

Date: 2007-09-13 11:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tintintin.livejournal.com
I think shitty PE lessons when I was a nipper was the reason I hated sport until I was 12 (at which point, I started playing lots of rugby, hockey, cricket, football etc etc, and adored it all).
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