Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Another route to sporting achievement

Do I take delight in watching this national debate unfold? The one called Sport in School.

Absolutely. I enjoy the unending national soul-searching and the free platform to air our familiar and comforting opinions. The state of schools, fascist PE teachers, pathetic parents, the future of the nation's values, competitive team games, the glory of trying and failing, woolly-headed multiculti teachers, and what's the point of running about a field when you can watch it on TV?

At the heart of this turmoil, as usual, is poor young Tinkertop. Here she is, Fattypuff Tinkertop, gorged on a daily diet of McDonald's burgers by her untrained parent who never breastfed her so what do you expect?

It's the debate we can all pitch into. So I'll endorse what millions already said. What did anyone expect when the streets and playgrounds are cleared of kids thanks to the endless fear of Mr Spooky the Child Snatcher? What was likely to be the result of a calculated greedy policy of selling off sports fields, swimming pools and local rec space to private development? Who's benefiting from fast-food feeding replacing family dinner-times? And DUH. If you chain Tinkertop to a desk for 40 hours a week chanting the 12x table just so she can make the internationally assessed school league tables look good, when does she use the monkey bars at the local rec? (Oh, sorry, rec sold for a spanking new Tesco.)

Local examples abound. Our local historic lido provided three pools and surrounding play space for ball games. The council, desperate for cash and having already failed at Icelandic gambling, sold the land to a developer for The Sports Academy (my heart sinks). They promptly fenced off the land and built a bog-standard rectangular swimming pool which remains inaccessible to the puffy paunches of the general public.

Yes, I sympathise with the hand-wringers of Britain, examining the nation's fat backsides and shaking their heads in despair at Tinkertop, size 22, age 11. I do, honest.

But I also feel a little pinch of mischievous glee, watching you go around on that national fretting carousel, people. Because here is where home ed offers a different point to stop and think.

It does me no good to say it. I'll hand it to someone who'll say, smug home educating bastard, pah, they don't share our concern, they're not one of us, they're excluded from society.

I'll take it. Because the answer for us starts here, from a base as simple as this.

Spending hours outdoors, in play, following a body's imperative and impulse for activity.

Sure, home ed kids can do team games, organised sports, clubs, groups, sports sessions, lessons in everything individual and team, from archery to volleyball. I bet - because we're bringing up ordinary people in this messy world - we can also fix up our kids with ill-matched sports, unwise competition, pointless dance, miserable gymnastics experiences, expensive mistakes, failed activities, and teenage body dismorphia too. But we don't try and impose this mix on everyone nor create a national policy out of it. We don't stick to a formula that doesn't work. We have the space and time to know our kids, watch how each individual child responds to sport, recognise how that approach worked/didn't work, take the experience in our stride, forgive ourselves, and move on to try a different tack to pursue health, competition, activity, and enjoyment.

We can do all this because we have this one big advantage. The freedom to start a day and consciously create a space for a growing child.

These people, your mini citizens, are daily in your playgrounds, gardens, fields, woods, and sports halls. They build spaces for themselves, create imaginative lives, explore limits, fears, boundaries and child wisdoms. They lead each other, build packs, solve problems, fall out, make up. By suppertime they're exhausted and healthy.

Most important, in their free created space, they ran the gauntlet of those humanities you so wanted sport to achieve: self-reliance, respect for competition, team-work, resourcefulness, individual responsibility, and the ability to pick yourself up from a broken tree branch in the climbing game, more resilient, more respectful, and more aware than before.

So my sympathies ended right there. At that tree. The fuss over sport in school will die down, the curriculum will be readjusted to include a measly two hours running about in a week, someone in the staff room will take over the role of the fascist PE teacher, and the end result still won't please parents, teachers, or kids.

And I bet that Tinkertop remains size 22.


Katie Pybus said...

Great post Grit :)

Bridge Oliver said...

Although your post was entertaining (albeit quite confusing) I'm afraid the overall atmosphere is as you said...smug. Two mentions of fascist PE teachers? I'm sorry if you have had a bad experience at school. What about fascist music teachers? Or fascist maths teachers? Your lucky breastfed daughters will no doubt one day save the world from all of us lesser beings.