Brian Edwards Media

Mens sana in corpore sano: Why I don’t much like Trev’s recipe for Kiwi kids.

As a kid I hated sport, both looking at it and playing it. Looking at it I could just about tolerate, but as an activity,  sport – any sport – was for me a torture.

Kids who hate playing sport generally aren’t very good at sport. And it’s probably a truism that people don’t get enjoyment from taking part in activities they aren’t good at. I could not kick a ball, throw a ball, hit a ball, catch a ball. I could neither run nor jump. I was hopeless. Being hopeless isn’t fun.

I also had no interest in doing any of these things. I was physically non-competitive, the rational outcome of always losing and of being a fearful child, frightened of being hurt by an oncoming cricket ball or an oncoming front row forward.

I was particularly frightened of rugby. Crashing into other boys on a muddy paddock for an hour was my idea of hell and I refused to do it. But rugby was compulsory at our school and my mother’s pleading that Brian was a delicate little boy fell on deaf ears. The only permitted alternative to rugby was to join the Combined Cadet Force.

I joined. But the uniform felt rough, and the boots hurt, and the .303 was heavy and dug into my shoulder and I would not take orders from anybody. I was eventually allowed to turn up at rugby but not actually play. “You can sit on the sideline and study, Edwards, till the game is over.” Nirvana had arrived.

My problem with all forms of sport wasn’t just that I was physically uncoordinated, (though I was) or that I was fearful (though I was). My interests were simply elsewhere. I loved public speaking, debating, acting, playing music (I was a talented harmonica player), going to the movies,  listening to the radio and, when it finally came along, watching television. Above all, watching television. Though I may not have thought it at the time, I was a show-biz kid through and through.

You can see that I have some pretty personal reasons for disapproving of Trevor Mallard’s proposal to make participation in school sport mandatory. Here’s what he said:

‘I think we’d make it compulsory. I’m not saying everyone should play rugby, but encouragement – unless there are medical reasons – of some sort of club-type activity.’

Bit of ‘mens sana in corpore sano’,  eh Trev? And the only justifiable reason for not taking part is that you’re sick. Not being good at it won’t do; not being interested in it won’t do; not enjoying it won’t do; hating it with every fibre of your being won’t do. You will play sport because sport is important and sport is good for you.

Actually I don’t think sport is important at all. But what Trevor seems to be missing is that the word ‘sport’ and the word ‘compulsory’ are antipathetic. For something to be ‘sport’, it must by definition be voluntary. Anything you have to be forced to do can’t be ‘sport’.

So you’re going to end up with a percentage of kids (perhaps a small percentage) who are going to be made miserable once a week because they don’t like sport, aren’t good at sport, aren’t interested in sport, are anxious or fearful, or maybe have body-image issues, including being overweight or obese – ironically one of the very problems that the Mallard diktat is meant to fix:

‘I hate playing sport, sir, because I’m fat and can’t run and people laugh at me.’

‘What you need to fix that, boy, is to play sport.’

To be fair to Trevor,  there is an out – those ‘medical reasons’ of his that serve to equate not playing sport with sickness.

‘Why isn’t Janice at netball?’  ‘Didn’t you know? She’s got asthma.’

‘Why aren’t you coming on the trek,  Rangi?’  ‘Cos I got diabetes.’

Then a question arises as to what to do with the kids with real medical reasons for not playing sport (not to mention the kids with compliant doctors and fake medical reasons) on those weekly ‘study-free’ afternoons. Maybe there could be a special room for them not to study in together? A ‘sick room’ perhaps.

Here’s what I think, Trevor. It’s fair enough for you to be obsessed with sport. But it really isn’t fair that every Kiwi kid should be compelled to share your obsession.. Generally speaking, the vast majority of them do that already. Why not leave the rest alone? Why not just have a study-free activities afternoon, including sport but not excluding any other feasible legal interest that a kid might prefer – without having to be being considered a big girl’s blouse.

[Er… go the All Blacks!]

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  1. I was rubbish at maths – should we make that voluntary too?

    BE: See my answer to Bea.

  2. I suggest blogging to be included as a form of competitive sport such that it can be included for wowsers like yourself Brian.
    And lawn bowls. I’m sure you’d enjoy that. Especially with a drink in the spare hand.

  3. I do sort of see where you’re coming from, Brian. But then, I was forced to do maths at school. It was compulsory. Not being good at it was no excuse to not participate. Not being interested wasn’t either. Nor not enjoying it, or even hating it. It was considered to be in my best interest and so I was compelled to participate, and, for the most part fail, with all the attendant stress and self esteem impact. I hated every minute of it. But you know what? It’s probably important that I was forced to make an effort, as I undoubtedly got something of value out of it.

    Why should it be any different with sport – or rather, to give it it’s contemporary name: Physical Education.?

    BE: “Why should it be any different with sport – or rather, to give it it’s contemporary name: Physical Education.?” See my answer to Bea.

  4. I hate the idea of kids being forced to play sport too. I listened to some commentary about Trevor Mallard’s plans on Radio NZ National. A school teacher who commented that he disliked the focus on “sport” – what they are trying to encourage children to do is to live physically active lives. Physical activity can include: walking, swimming, scooting, biking, running etc.

    The competitive nature of sport and the having to “be good at it” doesn’t sit well with some children (I was one of those kids too). Physical activity of a different kind can be a positive replacement. I love to be physically active. My body needs me to be too.

  5. Brian, if you quoted Mallard accurately:
    ‘I think we’d make it compulsory. I’m not saying everyone should play rugby, but encouragement – unless there are medical reasons – of some sort of club-type activity.’
    the idea seems reasonable to me. ‘Club-type activity’ could offer choices like poetry reading, harmonica playing, debating, gardening etc for those who dislike sport.

    BE: I really don’t thnk those were the sort of activities he had in mind. Do you really think Trevor wants to make poetry reading, harmonica playing, debating and gardening compulsory? It’s a thought though, but maybe not the gardening.

  6. It is not about competitive sport, Brian, it is about learning the joy of life long physical activity, whatever that happens to be. I suffered from asthma as a child and found it difficult to be involved in sport. These days they consider physical activity is good for asthmatics. I may not have been any good at sport but I would have loved to be involved. The challenge is for schools/educators to accommodate all children irrespective of their talents. We are not all born to be All Blacks – let’s face it, half the population don’t even qualify!

    BE: That’s just fine, Joan, but for many people there is no “joy of life” in sport. And sport and physical activity are not the smae thing.

  7. It is called enforced conformity. The world needs more diversity, not less. Or rather, people need to be more accepting of ‘difference’.

    Mallard’s proposal is a backward step. It doesn’t look to the future at all.

  8. What connection are you suggesting by showing a historical picture of the Hitler Youth Movement?

    BE: Why Merv, what could be more admirable than clean cut young men striding through the countryside for exercise and sport? You’re surely not opposed to mens sana in corpore sano, are you?

  9. There is a theory that rugby is secular New Zealand’s religion. In the not too distant past it was normal for impressionable young minds to be force fed with religious nonsense, often by people who didn’t believe any of it themselves. A form of child abuse for sure. Children’s minds should be opened not force fed on bullshit of any kind. It would be better for everyone if education was left to proffesionals and politicians kept well out of it.

  10. I don’t know how else to put it Brian, but fearful of everything, uniform too rough etc…you do indeed sound like a big girl’s blouse.

    BE: You seem to have taken the self-parody in my piece rather literally. I didn’t like sport and was a rather anxious child, the product in part of not having a father and of being the only child of a solo mother who had to work all day, leaving me with a succession of not very kindly landladies. (This is all in my memoir Daddy was a German Spy, if you’re interested. You probably aren’t.) Dismissing that sort of person as ‘a big girl’s blouse’ is a very New Zealand approach. Perhaps you’d like to define for me what ‘a big girl’s blouse’ is and who you would call ‘a big girl’s blouse’.

    Sport helps you with physical co-ordination. Its not a bad thing. There’s also something to be said for team sports in learning democracy and diplomacy – learning to work successfully with many hands of varying levels of co-ordination. Kids also learn to tackle new skills with a degree of confidence. And a sport activity like swimming is something that’s a necessary survival skill in New Zealand.

    BE: I don’t disagree with any of that. But that isn’t the issue. The issue is: should kids who (for whatever reason) don’t enjoy sport or are made unhappy by having to play sport, be forced to do so? I took the trouble to look up several English dictionaries this morning. The term that appears most frequently in the definitions is ‘for pleasure’. People who enjoy sport, should take part in sport. People who don’t enjoy it, should be allowed to do something else instead, take part in another activity. They should certainly not be subjected to name-calling or stigmatising.

    Fitness is also good for the brain.

    BE: At 73 I’m extremely fit. Judy and I walk for up to an hour and a half every day – a ‘best’ exercise. We like our own company, so ‘sport’ really doesn’t come into it.

    There’s a lot of kids who are miserable a few times a week because they have to do maths. There’s a lot of other kids who despise English and suffer humiliation with their lack of prowess in it. And other kids who hate whatever subject a teacher they don’t get along with is teaching. They have to do them anyway.

    BE: I tutor some of the kids you’re talking about in South Auckland. Perhaps the primary question should be why they ‘despise English’ and who is allowing them to ‘suffer humiliation with their lack of prowess in it’? You seem to think well, them’s the breaks, they just have to put up with it. I disagree. The argument that several commenters have made ‘Well, if sport doeesn’t have to be compulsory, why should reading, writing, maths and all the other school subjects that a lot of kids don’t like be compulsory?
    Because they involve tools that are essential to a child’s future life, to his or her job, career, profession and in turn to his or her success and happiness. Sport is, or should be, a recreation. A very good thing, if you enjoy it. Not at all essential, if you don’t.

  11. Ahh-Ha! Now we all understand the writer’s love of netball. If, as you-lamely-claim, that you aren’t “A Big Girl’s Blouse”, you most certainly are a “Pleated Skirt”. Can imagine you in this Age as a young boy working your digits on a Kindle or iPad, while your schoolmates are outside, exercising body and brain.

    BE: I assume you are ‘a real man’, Bevan.

  12. Compulsory sport in schools, what a good idea! But why stop there? Why not pass a law that turns the kids who skive off, for whatever reason, into criminals? And as they are under age so to speak the parents could be fined for not inculcating the ‘correct’ values into their children.
    Actually I thought sport was already compulsory in schools; it certainly was when I was at school. And I loathed it. Unfortunately I was good at it and so had to endure years of torture.

  13. Like you, Brian, I loathed sport at school but unlike you I was good at it. Every adjective you’ve used I would use too. All I wanted to do was go fishing, bike riding or hiking – not in the curriculum! For me I needed time alone, not being forced into team events or being competitive, even though I usually won!
    My best moment in sport (rugby actually) was when my English Grammar School sports teacher said “You’re a good, tall lad, Howe. Just what we need for the under 15 team”. To which I replied “I’m sorry sir, I’m leaving for New Zealand on Friday!” And what a relief it was to get to NZ and find that sport was not compulsory.
    Comparing it with maths is silly, as maths is something everyone needs, to some extent, to survive in our society. You don’t need sport to do that. (Although at the moment it appears so to some.)

    I was absolutely useless at languages and get annoyed whenever someone suggests making Te Reo compulsory. What is the point of being forced to do something you are useless at? Only breeds resentment.

    BE: Thanks for that, River Howe. As an only child who never knew his father I developed as a rather solitary kid who liked either his own company or the company of a very few close friends of like mind. This may have some bearing on my aversion to sports. But, as I say in the post, I wasn’t good at sporta and you tend not to enjoy what you aren’t good at.

  14. I too was forced to play rugby at school. Fortunately it inoculated me against all forms of competitive sports, for which I have been eternally grateful.

  15. I struggle with the mental image of Trevor Mallard with the promotion of any form of education. At school I feel he would have made the ideal bully. The Hitler Youth reference is valid in exposing the hypocrisy of politicians getting involved in promoting health or sport. One look at an obese Goering, a runt like Goebbels or even the sickly looking Fuhrer himself, must have sent a shiver through any Nazi personal trainer. However physical fitness should be a life long aim for everyone, if only to be independent of the medical fraternity as long as possible.

  16. your points are timely and well stated Brian – I can relate to almost all that you wrote having been made miserable by such compulsions through much of the 1950s at Anglican Church boarding schools that I was sent to.

    It’s no coincidence that as I near my 70s I have dismissed Christianity and am taking no interest whatever in the current rugby “spectacular’

    As for Mallard, his demeanor over the years in parliament and on the hustings shows an air of the bullying menace that tainted much of my young life.

    The same sort of attitudes appear in many of the replies you’ve already received. These people, and Catcus Kate in particular, simply don’t understand how the other half lives and continue to hand down the same arrogant, insensitive, bullying nonsense which I’m sure they passed out to some unfortunate contemporaries when they were at school.


  17. I also have an aversion to sport, but didn’t mind playing basketball or volleyball during school time physed periods. Earning a guinea a week delivering the Evening Star was more important to me than representing the school in my own precious time.
    Funny how so many sports fanatics seem to be drongos.

  18. Yeah, I have some sympathy with your argument, BE.

    I have to say I absolutely LOVED sport at school and was particularly strong on Rugby (despite my occassional bad-mouthing of the code), Swimming, Long-Distance Running, Volleyball – but, above all else, my two great loves: Football (The Beautiful Game/The Sport of Kings/Soccer) and what we used to call ‘The Sprints’ (50 and 100 metres – or the equivalent in yards).

    However, it was clear that there were a group of “bookish” kids who absolutely hated sport and were no good at it. And far from being some sort of wonderful ‘confidence-builder’ for them, their participation generally seemed to involve some sort of unnecessary ritual humiliation. Not great for their self-esteem.

    I’ve long felt those kids should be able to opt out.

  19. BE: You really are a nasty piece of work, Cactus, though well named.

    A tell-tale sign of growing “older” is that the ‘tolerance threshold’ drops. Sensitivities and sensibilities become veneer-thin. So much so, that a little less-than-gentle ribbing causes abrading of said veneer to the point of rupture. Acidic, Cactus Kate was; “nasty piece of work”, she wasn’t.

    Oh, and choosing that pic to convey a corollary between Nazism and “Trev’s recipe for Kiwi kids”, reveals a very narrow and jaundiced view.

    BE: Perhaps you have to take this commenter’s previous contributions into consideration to understand my ‘sensitivities and sensibilities’ in this case. And there’s the ageism again, Merv, that I’ve commented on recently. It would be really great if people could disagree without ascribing the disagreement to the other person’s senility.

  20. Hey markus,

    Caught up with 1987 Pt 1. Anti-Nuclear policy. Got it. Didn’t need to use as many words and qualifications as you did. Is a straight-forward argument. Please speed it up, and use those direct skills you implemented at inside-right, or on the shuttle runs…

    Also, call me a pedant, but I think horse racing is the “sport of kings”.

    And did you see my question a few threads ago? Who is your All Black forebear? Given your extensive skill set, I’m guessing George Smith: –

    However, I think he never made it back to NZ after the All Golds tour, so I’ll eliminate him from my consideration. Billy Wallace?

    Also, pity you never stuck at rugby, Brian. You may have been a late developer. “The centre-pairing of Mike Gibson and Brian Edwards of Ulster, Ireland, and the Lions” has a certain ring to it…

    But yeah – like learning Maori in schools. Is probably counter-productive (for slightly different reasons) to enforce sports.

  21. Making physical activity compulsory is a non starter – it does not work. And how would it be enforced – through some form of loss of privileges. (I can just see that getting past ERO).

    For some children, no amount of coercion, will make them more active – just witness children in the Junior areas of school. Children will only participate in activities that are of interest to them – and they very quickly learn what is routine as opposed to an activity that has a purpose or benefit.

    Perhaps if the physical activity was built into a theme study where increased levels of fitness and body strength were critical to achieving a measurable end product – (just as an example say erecting a tent in a certain time: the reward for which might be for the class group to sleep in it.) Children’s individual fitness goals could be measured and children could see their progress.

    It would appear, from the press releases, that Mr Mallard believes it will not require any significant funding. Sorry but that will render the initiative dead in the water.

    For increased physical participation to be achieved through to adults, it has to have a major input at primary level. Currently schools have to fundraise for indoor facilities and generally finish up with a multi-purpose hall that caters partially for some activities but are not specific to any – music / drama / and gymnastics all happen in the same place as assemblies and shows.

    In most areas of New Zealand, the grassed areas of schools are rendered unsuitable for weeks on end because of the rain (we have an average of 1200 mm annually).

    So, provide primary schools with covered playgrounds allowing physical activity to happen every day regardless of weather. Provide purpose built gymnasia, and employ trained instructors whose job it is to develop programmes for individual children to monitor their progress and where they can experience success. (Surprise, surprise, that is how the rest of the curriculum is delivered at the primary and intermediate levels of schooling today – god knows what happens at the secondary level)

  22. Well, how’s that for timing ? At the very moment Edward’s typing-up a comment that ends “Funny how many sports fanatics seem to be Drongos”, I start typing-up a comment that begins “…I absolutely LOVED sport…” I mean, Gor Blimey !

    Mind you, Edward’s probably right. I notice I was daft enough to use the term “some sort of” twice in one sentence in my previous comment – the sure sign of a drongo / pseudo-drongo if ever there was one.

    @ Kimbo: “Didn’t need to use as many words and qualifications as you did” and “Please speed it up”: True. It’s been a very trying week. Not much in the way of quiet spare time available.

    “inside-right” ?: Nup, Centre-Half, occassionally Right-Half. My God, I miss getting out on that pitch and showing-off my silky skills to that section of spectators we call ‘The Women-folk’. And, as I used to tell my team-mates: ‘If Football be ‘The Beautiful Game’, then it just got a hell of a lot better looking while I was out there !’

    Great-Grandfather ?…well, I’m in two minds about revealing the name. I like my anonymity – not least because it lets me make a complete drongo of myself. I’ll have to think about it over the next few days. (But I will say it isn’t George “the Greyhound” Smith – without doubt one of this Country’s most brilliant sportsmen and deeply, deeply popular with the ladies – not least because of his absolutely splendid Edwardian moustache. Female spectators were fainting all over the place when they saw it. You’re roughly in the right ballpark era-wise, though).

    “Sport of Kings” ? God knows what I was thinking. Like I say, it’s been a hard week.

  23. My problem at school was that I loved sport, cricket and fotball in particular, but I was so bad that nobody would pick me for a team. My youngest son suffered the same problem; the number of times he would be in tears because once again he was dismissed for a duck

    I dislike Mallard and I dislike his suggestion. He reminds me of most sports masters I encountered. They were generally bullies and stupid. Mallard may not be stupid but he is a bully.

    I have to say that there were teachers who also managed to ruin any subject they taught, but sports master were particualry good at it, and judging from my sons’ experiences they still proliferate.

    There are too many things in this life that we have to do ‘for our own good’. Let’s leave some things that we can do just because we enjoy doing them, not because some control freak like Mallard thinks it is good for us. If Mallard wants to turn a Labour voter into an ACT supporter, let him carry on like this.

  24. I dont see the compulsary side to this issue as the problem.I see the ability of teachers to make it enjoyable to all.I coach a junior soccer team and too often I see children alienated from the game by unrealistic expectations,over competitive coaches and parents,and atitudes expressed by opposition players.Its about letting them achieve the best they are capable of without undue emphasis on differing abilities.Allowing for physical disability most of us are capable of a reasonable sporting achievement.Dr Edwards batting in Cricket is a good example of this.

  25. @ markus

    Hmmm. Part of me wants to lock in Billy Wallace – you share the same capacity to disregard accepted form, and you seem to wander this blog attired in a metaphorical sun hat while the rest of we plebeian tyros play according to convention: –

    However, with the clues you have given, and your ability to rhetorically hurdle, it could be one of the original rugby (league) rebels, Opai Asher…

    Or maybe Frank Mitchinson. But keep your anonymity, by all means.

    And if you’re looking for a good source on players (and a bit of social history of the era), check out the mighty T. P McLean’s book, “New Zealand rugby legends” (1987). Now there was a guy who could write – good journalist, one New Zealand’s greatest and most prolific writers, fit to compare with Sargeson, Shadbolt, or Hume.

    They gave McLean a knighthood, but even now he doesn’t get the acknowledgement he deserves from the literary and academic community. Possibly because he wrote on a subject that, as BE alludes, has not always been viewed kindly by the non-sporting community who are perhaps in greater abundance amongst university literary faculty.

    BE: I don’t really want to enter this scrimmage other than to note that education probably has very little to do with liking or not liking sport. That has to do with one’s personal make-up. One’s educational or social background may, however, affect one’s choice of sport, either to play or watch. Soccer seems to be a working/lower-middle-class sport while rugby union seems to have more appeal to the middle/upper classes. There certainly used to be a saying that soccer was a gentleman’s game, played by yobs, while rugby was a yobs’ game, played by gentlemen. Not entirely surprising since the game was invented at an English public school, whose pupils would have been expected to go on to university. Of course these terms may have no meaning in egalitarian New Zealand.

    One hopes one has explained oneself satisfactorily.

  26. Thanks, Brian. Yes, I was talking slightly tongue-in-cheek, and I acknowledge that deep-down, you don’t seem to subscribe to the “muddied oafs” prejudice.

    No, in a New Zealand context, I don’t think, “Soccer seems to be a working/lower-middle-class sport while rugby union seems to have more appeal to the middle/upper classes” applies. The UK and Ireland (except wales), and probably Australia- yes. But not New Zealand.

    Here, rugby league seems to be the working-class ghetto sport, cricket the game for the monied-classes, soccer the sport of immigrants (and Kiwi mums who want to protect their kids from physical harm). But rugby (and netball) is the sport for all – except Asian immigrants it would appear.

  27. Mr Mallard needs to decide whether he wants physical education at school to be used to create a bigger pool of top flight athletes or whether he wants to improve the health and well-being of the nations young. It was, after all that the Health and P.E. curriculum was merged under his watch.

    To limit P.E. to major code sports is a nonsense. To make P.E. the base of greater physical involvement has to be the aim.

    I am sure many here would have elected to participate in “Wednesday-afternoon-exertions” with some enthusiasm if it was linked to a school tramping group or other outdoor pursuit and could see that the enjoyment of same was enhanced by better fitness.

  28. pjr – surely you are missing the point here. You feel that a good teacher will make it enjoyable for all and helping each child to make the best they are capable of. The point is that some of us had/have zero wish to be involved in the first place, we just did/do not like ‘sport’ and that’s that. (And I was very good at it but just hated the competitiveness, and the whole ‘team’ thing.) You must have disliked some things and presumably would not have enjoyed being forced to do them, no matter whether the teacher was any good or not?
    logie97 gets it right for me – a school tramping group would have had me totally involved and would have got me supremely fit and healthy as tramping trips did many years later (and still do).

  29. Trev’s plan – the solution to a question never asked. Before people wind themselves in knots over the desirability of coerced sport/PE, they should ask – what problem does Trev want to solve?

    Lack of general populace fitness & health? Then it’s a PE program he wants.

    More elite athletes bolstering the pseudo-professional sports clubs? Then he wants a sport program.

    But both these will founder unless the ongoing problem of the last 20 years is tackled – that many kids are unwilling participants, and even more simply opt out by not bringing sports/PE gear, or having real or bogus medical excuses.

    One is reminded of leading a horse to water, but being unable to make it drink…

    FWIW, I reckon compulsory PE is good, but sport less so (it allows too many bullies to exercise their ‘leadership’ skills).

  30. Tagging sport in schools as “compulsory” gives it an emotional overtone that I am not sure helps the debate. All school is compulsory under law the issue for me is what do we include in education or schooling, what is in mix. As an aside I am for more education and less schooling.

    You are right Brian team sports are an individual choice, works well for some and not for others. Physical activity of some sort is, I think, a critical need in human development but hey we can be a lot more creative about that than just relying on sport. As others have mentioned, walking is a wonderful exercise, what about dance, yoga, tree climbing, weight lifting or protest marching down the main street.

    My concern about sport in schools is Big sport’s agenda to develop recruiting grounds for professional sport. The rugby union has been bemoaning the decrease in kids joining up to rugby clubs blaming the “lazy gen Ys” etc.
    Make team sport central in the curriculum and whats the bet the Big Sport’s body will be lobbying to get their sport included in the mix.

    Not everyone aspires to be an All Black or professional athlete.

  31. Good afternoon Brian. On Sept 11th last year you blogged the following:

    “We spend too much time working and too little time not working. Our periods of employment are too long and our holidays too short. We have got things totally out of perspective. It’s absurd that we devote 48 weeks of the year to our jobs and only four to leisure. It’s preposterous that we take only two days off in seven. No wonder we’re all falling apart at the seams”

    This primarily focussed on adult lifestyles, but it bears relation to Mr Mallard’s proposal, on the grounds that todays adult lifestyles are significantly influenced by the values developed while young (where schooling is a central channel for learning these values).

    One human development concept “taking in the culture which surrounds”, speaks of a ‘natural dependency’. Youth have a definite need for information that comes from appreciating their surroundings, and this need is present throughout their journey to adulthood. Successive generations have to pass on this information.

    I agree that a compulsory regime of sport would be a turnoff for many youth, despite how well-intentioned Mr Mallard is. The reason is that the proposal is too extrinsic to the target population, and runs the risk of instead developing resistance in this group. A charismatic bloke named Laban lamented youth developing dislike for activity that actually was beneficial to them (resembling JFK’s “a child miseducated is a child lost”). The desired outcome would be a function of how well presented it is by the schools involved, and agreed, there would be many students who would have similar experiences to those you’ve mentioned.

    What I regard as the more mandatory concept for youth to appreciate is the concept of Leisure. Again, this does not just refer to ‘free-time’, but if you refer to the etymology, is a significant determinant for the outcomes Mr Mallard really wants to produce. The reason is that it encompasses ‘sport’ (& art, politics, entertainment..) and would provide scope for recipients to intrinsically develop their own preferences over time.

    Numerous writers (eg., Pieper, DeGrazia) and practitioners (eg. Linda Caldwell aka ‘Timewise’)have sought to understand how leisure influences all aspects of life, and a predominent theme is that it is an educational topic in its own right, independent of existing subjects.

    Please pardon the essay…

  32. 32

    Personally I think the All Blacks are a reasonably healthy expression of nationalism compared to some that cropped up during the twentieth century. I, on the other hand, spent a lot of time in the School Library (Roman Catholic) reading Milton and Dante (in translation) because all that stuff about Hell was surely subversive.

  33. 33

    Bostick Virtuosities and Mangoes

    Kids living within 2kms of a school should be made to walk to school not driven. Just ridiculous how many kids are driven to school when they live close by.

  34. 34

    Ah Bostick Virtuosities and Mangoes, we were less aware of shitty drivers and paedophile predators in those days.

    BE: True, but the most dangerous place in Auckland may be around our local primary as parents arrive and leave with their littlies. Double and triple parking, reversing into the middle of the road in front of other cars, taking off without signalling, recklessly opening doors as cars are passing, you name it. And most of these mothers are driving SUVs, take up far more space than an ordinary car and have bugger all rear vision.

    If you’re seriously worried about ‘stranger danger’, the ‘walking bus’ seems to me a fine institution. Most of these kids live a few blocks away at most.

  35. I think physical activity should be compulsory, kids like to move around and use their bodies, but not sport per se. There are ways to make sport enjoyable for all kids but I don’t think that’s compatible with NZers attitudes about competition.

    I tell my daughter that it doesn’t matter how good you are at sport at 8, it’s how good you are at 18 and that people grow and change a lot between 8 and 18. Unfortunately, that’s not the message she’s soaked up at school and she’s been turned off sport.

    That’s unfortunate because it’s not until kids get through pubery that it’s possible to say who is going to be an elite athlete. Whereas it’s the early developers and the older kids in a year group that get all the praise and the advantages of being seen to be “talented”.

    In America they have a phenomenon called “red shirting” where the parents request their child spend an extra year in kindergarten so that their child will have a size advantage (a perceptual talent advantage) through school in order to get into the high school football teams and then into college and professional sport.