1.18.2005

learning to be fat in high school

i saw this article on cnn.com today. the basic gist of it is that physical education classes are becoming less and less of a priority for secondary and primary schools. the priority has been decreased so much that only 28% of enrolled school kids have a daily phys-ed class. i know that this statistic is problematic when you factor in students who don't have to take phys-ed because they're on a team sport or something, but you have to admit, 28% still sounds really low. and given the recent attention given to obesity in this country, it's still compelling. anyways, i think i'm going to try and work some of this stuff into my thesis so i'm going to write a little blurb here for posterity.

this article is really surprising to me given the fact that perhaps with the exception of brazil, there is no other sports-mad country in the world that us. i think part of this is that sports represents some kind of pargidigmatic capitalist/democratic/rugged individualism that lies at the heart of the american dream. related to this is the idea that in order to achieve some kind of new age "wholeness" we have to be active both mentally and physically. seriously, there is no other group of people more excoriated in this country than fatties. erik's friend f suggested that generally fat people are seen as jolly. while that may be true to some extent, i think that most people are just grossed out by them. media images and cultural values aside, i think most people consider lack of physical shape to be some indicator of moral deficiency, that out of shape people are lazy or gluttonous, both extremely antithetical to the protestant work ethic. anyways, my point is, this attitude which i think is pervasive in the US is so contradictory so some other attitudes about humans in general. for example, african americans are considered the par-excellence when it comes to athleticism, and despite our view that physical fitness is an indicator of moral quality, we are super quick to villify the dumb jock. even in the more liberal circles that i run in, i think there's still a disconnect. for example, here in the UCSB soc department, we are pretty freakin' quick to dismiss the idea of social darwinism. we like to think that we're better than animals in that we do more than just look for qualities in our partners other than physical attributes that assure the survival of our offspring, the way apes or lions choose thier mating partners. yet, we constantly also harp on this new age, sound body and sound mind thing.

i don't know what any of this means yet in the context of baseball statistics (which is what i'm writing my dissertation on), but i suspect that there's something to this that causes mainstream baseball to frown upon the stats geek.

like i said, i've just started thinking about my dissertation, so i'm just brainstorming about possible angles at this point, so maybe this isn't related, but i still think that it's interesting that acording to this article, we as an american culture are valuing physical fitness less and less.

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