Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The Saturday, October 12, 2013 Japan Times editorial “Preparing for the 2020 Olympics” shows how deeply into the popular imagination false thinking about organized sports has burrowed. It’s dug in like a flea, and fleas are notoriously resilient and difficult to extirpate. Also, people hate being told they have fleas.
If the government here wants to “strengthen the foundation of sports overall across the country and [improve] the health of the general population” in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games so that Japanese athletes give a good account of themselves, impress the world, and disappoint as many of their rivals as possible I suppose school physical education programs are now in the spotlight as a convenient - even obvious vehicle. Modern schools have many concurrent tasks. We need them to inspire the young with the values and legal behaviors of society. We want them to teach young people how to find, analyze and communicate information, first with assistance and then independently so that they can maximize their own potential while growing their own interests and talents. We want to properly instruct them with ‘correct’ information - what constitutes real knowledge - while retarding false ‘information’ and ideas. And, we want to dislodge the stubborn prejudices and errors that inevitably form, misrepresent themselves and spread through society, starting in schools. Incorrect thinking about the role and function of sports is one of these.
Readers of my letters know that while I enjoy sports I think mandatory, organized team sports rob them of their merits and therefore have no place in a school curriculum if the aim of the curriculum is truth and nobility of thought and behavior. Mandatory physical education does not plant in young people either a love of sports or a regard for a healthy lifestyle. Just the opposite, and contrary to the resilient mythology on the topic, it teaches them to hate sports and by extension other voluntary group activities. Most students quickly call P.E. their favorite subject because it’s easy. They think it requires the least of them. Period.
The Olympic Games are primarily about money, plain and simple. The World Championships of each event are where we need to look to see excellence in athletic achievement. But I could be wrong.
Published on Sunday, October 20, 2013 as "Resilient myth robs sports of their merits."