The role P.E. plays growing up

THIS. “Research suggests the gap between the amount of exercise girls and boys do widens during their time at school.  A study for the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation says more than half of girls are put off by PE classes.”

I don’t know that I can speak for my more athletically-inclined female friends, but this was absolutely me growing up. Jaded by always being the last to finish running the mile (usually around 15 minutes), constantly picked last in team sports, and humiliated by The President’s Challenge week, I generally dreaded gym class. It didn’t get any better by the time middle school rolled around; in fact, I’d say I was even more scarred by the experience then. All of a sudden I’m thrown into a school where the other half of the grade is comprised of people I’ve never met before, gym class is split by gender so I no longer have an excuse for being athletically inept, AND we have to wear uniforms and you expect me to change in front of these strangers?! This shy, flat-chested, athletically challenged only child says no thank you, and I know I wasn’t the only one.

I absolutely agree that P.E. class makes many girls shy away from bringing fitness into their lives once they’re out of school. But I also agree, despite everything I’ve said, that it’s an integral part of the curriculum, perhaps even through college. Given our rising obesity rates and backwards notions about health and fitness in this country, it’s important to stress how important staying active is. But how to do that effectively is a tough call. Clearly, being forced into it doesn’t always help, but what other choice do teachers and administrators have? I could say bring Zumba to schools, but frankly, I probably would have thought it was dumb at a young age and would have never continued with it now.

The only gym class I think I truly enjoyed was the one I took my junior year of high school. Much to my chagrin, we were required to take two semesters of gym on top of Freshman P.E. to graduate, and my only saving grace was that my high school offered a nice range of options. Of course, my sophomore year I took the only non-physical class offered – CPR certification. I dreaded choosing a class that surely involved more humiliation my junior year, but one stood out – Shape Up. These electives were co-ed but it just so happens that the class was entirely girls and taught by a woman teacher – and it helped that I had a few like-minded friends in the class. We all set goals, be it to lose a certain amount of weight or simply firm up, and we spent the semester achieving that goal. Every day was something different. We spent time in the weight room, we ran, we did pilates and yoga and crunches and step aerobics and cycling. It was a nice variety, and our teacher really pushed us and motivated us because she knew we were all apathetic about fitness. But it worked, and I credit that class for my love of yoga, if for no other reason than when we walked in and found out it was yoga day, we were all relieved because it was so easy compared to everything else.

If we take what I enjoyed about that class and compare it to what I enjoy about Zumba, there’s a considerable amount of overlap. It’s in a group setting with friends. The teacher has a vested interest in helping each person in the room exercise while still having fun. Every day is a little different, and you still look forward to some routines more, yet push through the others anyway. Whether or not you’re working towards a goal, you’re still motivated to come to class and have fun because it’s ultimately your choice. You have a say in your fitness fate.

Perhaps instead of splitting gym classes by homerooms and then gender, middle schools should split gym by gender and then interest. My middle school’s fine arts elective model would be a perfect example of how to execute this. In 6th grade, we spent half a semester each in music, art, tech ed, and home ec. Then in 7th and 8th grade, we got to choose between taking a language for two years or alternating fine arts classes by semester. My point here is that we got a small taste of each option, even those we knew we wouldn’t like, and then got the power to choose our own fates. This is so powerful and important at that age, because even the smallest liberties are a huge step towards independence. Why not take this model and apply it to gym class? Perhaps split classes by gender the first year, and do a little bit of everything – team sports, fitness classes, what have you. Then in 7th and 8th grade, give kids the choice. If they enjoy high intensity and/or team sports, great! Have at it. But I think it would be so much more of a confidence booster to let girls (and guys) choose something that interests them more if they want.

I’m lucky that my disposition is such that I can look back on gym class and laugh at my many (MANY) failed athletic attempts, but I’m also lucky to have thicker skin. I’m lucky I found talents in other areas, like English and Spanish and music, so that it didn’t hurt as much failing at sports. And it did hurt, being compared to other students publicly, knowing you’re not as good as them and there’s nothing you can do about it. But it’s more than cushioning egos or babying students. It’s about mirroring the rest of the journey through high school and college and beyond: recognizing your strengths and interests and capitalizing on them, rather than being forced to endure humiliation and being fed the notion that this is all fitness will be for the rest of your life. It’s about knowing that while you still have to bide by guidelines and curriculum, you still have wiggle room, because someday you’ll have complete control over what college classes you take and what jobs you want to apply for and what role fitness plays in your life. Discourage students from exercising when they’re young and what do you get? A society with attitudes towards health and fitness much like ours, I’d imagine.

There’s always mandatory curriculum up until a certain point. There’s standards, there’s national averages, there’s so much more than the student’s interests at stake in elementary and middle school. But gym class goes beyond that; it’s not just ensuring that our children are competent and well-learned enough to someday contribute to society. Once you get out of school, the only one responsible for keeping you active and healthy is YOU, and I believe it’s so important to let kids know that they have a hand in that fate. Keep them active, give them choices, show them they’re more than run times and national averages. Fitness is so individual and independent that if we don’t get kids excited about it now, there’s a good chance they never will be.

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Dear major news networks: You’re not losing to Twitter

The archenemy

Stop throwing darts at him and embrace him instead. If eight measly birds can do it, so can you.

I saw this article today, and every time I read these stories with such befuddled language towards twitter sprinkled with the slightest tinge of jealousy (“Twitter is once again being credited for outracing traditional news sources on a major story…” aaaand cue sympathetic violins) I have to laugh.

I can see all you news directors and producers, fuming in your newsrooms like a villain that got busted on Scooby Doo (“And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling Tweeters!!!”). Let’s face it, major news networks: You don’t want to admit it, but Twitter scares the hell out of you. You feel like you’re losing your audience to this beast, and you’re frustrated because you don’t understand how or why people actually trust or turn to Twitter to get their news. What does Twitter have that you don’t? Is it the 140 character limit, or that blasted fail whale with the gorgeous blue eyes?

While that adorable whale does hold a special place in my heart (even though he’s probably the bullseye of a dartboard you have hanging in your newsrooms), that’s not why I use Twitter. I was one of millions who heard the news about Osama bin Laden on Twitter before all else. I hate to break it to you, but I don’t watch the news every night; I don’t even have a television in my room anymore, and the number of times I’ve actually sat down and deliberately watched TV over the last few months are few and far between. I am the generation Y prototype who seems to have so much power, and who you feel threatens your very existence. I am the elusive college student who rarely reads the newspaper and gets all the day’s important news from aggregates like Google News, word-of-mouth on Facebook, and my News list on Twitter. It’s fast, it’s easy and it’s convenient because, let’s face it: social media is my part-time job. I know that’s exactly the last thing you want to hear right now, but drag yourselves out of your corner of shame, put down your darts directed at the fail whale, and just hear me out. As a soon-to-be journalism graduate who knows a thing or two about this topic, here’s a few words of advice, direct from me to you.

There IS hope, O Disgruntled Mainstream Media! More

Her? POLITICAL?! HA

Me in Madison this weekend

Had you told me 10 years ago that in 10 years I’d be out protesting something, I might have believed you.
Had you told me 10 years ago that in 10 years I’d be out protesting something because I was interested in politics, understood what was happening and was truly passionate about the issue, I may have found that harder to believe.

I’ve never been Nancy Politics. I’ve never been genuinely interested in social studies or history or government or economics or unions; I learned it because I had to, and that’s that. But when I read that Walker was planning on taking away collective bargaining rights from unions and wanted the bill passed in a week, something struck a chord inside me, and I was pissed. I did my research, made sure to read up on both sides. Posted on facebook, had debates with neighbors. The more news stories I read, the more interested I became. The more debates I had, the more fascinated I became. And it all culminated with me taking a trip to the capitol this weekend – to do a news story for senior sem, yes – but more importantly, to give Walker a piece of my mind. And it was fantastic.

I’ve never been involved in a protest before. Closest thing to it was the gay pride parade I attended in DC, which was also wonderful. But this was something different. This was democracy in action; this was what it means to be American. There was so much anger yet so much respect for one another. It was unity in its purest form. It made me proud to be an American and even prouder to be a Wisconsinite. This is MY state and I’m not going to let some idiot eff it up.

There were firefighters marching down the streets with bagpipes, showing their support for unions; there were doctors writing notes for teachers; I EVEN SAW MY SIXTH GRADE TEACHER AND GOT TO SAY HI TO HIM. I knew I always loved him :) Anyway, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was history unfolding in front of my eyes.

It was invigorating. It was enlightening. And I can totally see myself becoming one of those politically-obsessed people I used to hate. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but if I ever cross a line with any of you, please let me know. This is all new to me, and I still have so much to learn. But I couldn’t be more excited.

(picture is of me on State Street today in front of the Madison, Wis. capitol building :])

‘Glee’ not all about vocal talent and drama

I’m just going to start out by throwing this out there: if there’s one thing that grinds my gears, it’s hypocrisy and/or double standards. I respect opinions different than mine, and obviously support those that I agree with, but I’ve always felt as though if you don’t practice what you preach, why bother? I’ve always valued personal experiences as a valid and necessary form of education; most of the time, you don’t learn/understand something until you’ve actually experienced it yourself. If you say one thing but act in the opposite way, how can anyone really believe what you’re saying? I may be the most idealistic person you’ll ever meet and perhaps seem to be caught up in my dreamy irrational world, but if there’s one thing I need, it’s consistency and logicality in things like arguments and conversations.

That being said, I’d like to take this opportunity to officially proclaim myself a ‘Gleek.’ That’s right, I am madly in love with that crazy hybrid comedy-musical-drama where the outcast teenagers sing and dance about their school like buffoons. Judge me as you will, but this show appeals to my idealism and band geek identity, kay?

Anyhow, the show is in its pilot season and, in case anyone reading this is currently living under a rock, doing quite well. I make no claims to be a T.V. critic and don’t watch much of it to be honest, but the story line thus far has kept me interested and remained relatively believable; after all, this is a show about kids that randomly break out into song and dance throughout their school day, right? Either way, the drama has been real and definitely hits home. Teenage pregnancy, faked pregnancy, sexual identity, domestic issues… and the list goes on.

Since the return of the show after its (unnecessarily extensive, in my humble opinion) hiatus, the glee club’s director, Will, has been trying to “find himself” as so many characters in T.V. and movies do. Currently in the process of a divorce with his high school sweetheart, he realizes he doesn’t know how to be single or independent, and has come to the conclusion that he needs to take time to work on the issues he has before he can commit to being with a new woman. And by ‘work on the issues he has,’ I mean that he does what any adorable, singing, lovable, near-perfect man would do in his situation: sleep around with the once-forbidden numerous women swooning over him.

Now, of course the writers of Glee haven’t presented the situation it quite as bluntly. They’ve made Will seem perfect from episode 1, and to emphasize it even more, they set him up with a neurotic wife who took advantage of his bubbly, loyal charm. And the viewers knew it, too – they knew his wife’s secret, but it took Will almost the entire first block of the season to figure it out. So when he returned, single and ready to mingle, of course everyone was on his side.

He was the good guy, betrayed but given a second chance. Loyal viewers such as myself knew he deserved better than his selfish, deceiving wife, so I’m sure it was no surprise that by the third episode of the second block, he had already fooled around with three different women. As I’ve said, the writers were sly about it, and to me – and many other viewers, I’m sure – there seemed to be very little wrong with it. He’s the good guy, he deserves to be with someone better than his wife, he’s in a trial exploratory period in his life. Any number of justifications would explain his actions well, but Tuesday’s episode changed my mind entirely.

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!* More

What’s next for struggling airline industry?

Alright you guys… finally, a real post non-related to my life (well, sort of)! I promised news commentary… here you go. The only news story I’ve kept up on, and frankly cared about (as horrible as it may sound) over the weekend is the volcano in Iceland and half of European airports and airspace shut down for the last 5 days as a result. This is mostly because my best friend from high school was studying abroad in London this semester, and she was supposed to leave for home today. That clearly will not happen – her and her mom and aunt, who came to visit her last week, have extended their hotel room until Friday – and now they’re left waiting to see whether or not they’ll even be able to fly out before next weekend. I’ve been reading at least 5 or 10 news stories a day from different sources on this topic, and have read some interesting quotes. Here’s what I’ve found most interesting from stories published this morning:

From BBC –

Mr. Bisignani, of the International Air Transport Association, has said the scale of the crisis facing the airline industry is now greater than at the time of the 9/11 attacks on the US.

“The decision that Europe has made is with no risk assessment, no consultation, no co-ordination, no leadership,” he said.

“Europeans are still using a system based on a theoretical model which does not work… instead of using a system and taking decisions on facts and on risk assessment.”

He said airspace closures were costing airlines $200m (£130m) a day in lost revenue.

European airlines have asked the EU and national governments for financial compensation for the closure of airspace, British Airways says. BA estimates that it is losing between £15m and £20m a day.

From USA Today –

Passengers [at Incheon International Airport in South Korea] complained about having to sleep on the airport floor due to a lack of hotel rooms and said they were only receiving a voucher for one meal a day at McDonald’s. Some were running out of money.

“We are on the floor,” Andrew Turner, a graduate student en route to London after a holiday in Sydney, told Korean Air officials, referring to sleeping accommodations. “We have one meal a day … at the moment a lot of people are not eating.”

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines said it had flown four planes Sunday through what it described as a gap in the layer of microscopic dust over Holland and Germany. Air France, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines also sent up test flights, although most traveled below the altitudes where the ash has been heavily concentrated.

“There is currently no consensus as to what consists an acceptable level of ash in the atmosphere,” said Daniel Hoeltgen, a spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency. “This is what we are concerned about and this is what we want to bring about so that we can start operating aircraft again in Europe.”

From CNN –

“I believe this is one of the most serious transport disruptions we have faced,” [British Prime Minister Gordon] Brown said. “It’s got financial consequences as well as human consequences and we will do everything in our power to make sure all the arrangements are in place to help people where possible to get back home.”

Brown said that he had spoken to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero about using airports in Spain — which have been less affected by the air travel chaos — as a hub through which to bring people back to Britain, the agency reported. Further information would be released later today, Brown added.

From NPR –

The loss of air transport to Europe has also wreaked havoc in countless other ways.

Some U.K. schools may not be able to reopen after spring break because teachers and students are stranded in holiday destinations.

Motorists cannot get their cars fixed because foreign parts can’t be shipped in.

Kenya’s fresh flower industry is losing $2 million a day and fresh fruit from Africa destined for Europe is rotting in warehouses. Still economists say Europe’s economic recovery should not be derailed unless the disruption lasts for many weeks or months.

I’ve been getting conflicting numbers, but from what I can tell, the last major time this volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier erupted (yes, this is really a name – an entertaining lesson in Icelandic pronunciation here) was in 1821. Eruptions continued intermittently for at least a year.

First of all, I’d like to point out what this says about our society, as far as globalization goes. I know it’s pretty cliché, but it’s incredible how much “smaller” the world has gotten over the past centuries. Right now, millions of people are stranded, some with little or no money or food. Billions of dollars, euros and pounds are being lost in an industry – and in economies – that are already struggling. People around the world are being affected by a naturally occurring event that, even 50 years ago, would not have been nearly as impacting. It’s times like these that make me, at least, step back and realize how much we take technology like the airplanes (directly affected by the eruptions), or the internet (used to communicate the news, and with people affected by the eruptions) – technology we now depend on – for granted. As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

So what now? Do we keep waiting with no direction, no set system of rules, no certainty, until this volcano stops erupting? How long will that take, and how much more money will be lost? Not only does this event say a lot about society, but about the airline industry, already halfway down the hole. I think a serious change is in order over the next few years. What happens the next time this volcano erupts? I think there needs to be standard protocol – or more specific guidelines, at the very least – for crises such as this. Passengers are pointing fingers at airlines, airlines are pointing fingers at government officials, government officials are pointing fingers at Mother Nature… and it’s getting us nowhere.

And don’t even get me started on the already absurd standards that everyone just seems to accept about the airline industry. Charging prices as much as a ticket for a person – for LUGGAGE? Being able to double the prices of your tickets in the middle of you purchasing them – for NO reason? Being able to overbook flights? Charging $150 if you want to change your ticket? Providing little to no compensation for errors on their part, such as delays or lost baggage?

Right now, in my humble opinion, I don’t think the fate of the airline industry is looking so hot. There are a lot of standards that seem corrupt and a lot of issues that remain unaddressed. Now, I know I talk the talk, but I will never claim to walk the walk. As a college student and avid traveler, these facts affect and irritate me, but I haven’t the slightest idea of how to change them. It’s going to be tough; we’ve seen in the past, and will continue to see, that world-wide laws and agreements are next to impossible to achieve. Cultural differences prevent understanding and willingness to cooperate, even though both are needed so badly right now. Unfortunately, we depend on airlines as much as they depend on us, so that’s another reason why these standards will probably never change. We all complain about high fees and poor service, but they’ve got us. With our increasingly globalized world, we have no choice but to depend on them – and we will undoubtedly continue to do so.

But still, I think the airlines need to consider the human aspect of their business. At the very least, they need to provide better compensation for people put at a disadvantage by errors on their parts, or errors beyond anyone’s control. Perhaps once their customers – without whom the industry has no purpose – are treated with more respect, they’ll start making more money because people will be more willing to fly. There needs to be better protocol for emergency situations, and somebody needs to start taking responsibility for these problems. Blaming Mother Nature, as I’ve said, gets us NOWHERE.

As for how this could actually accomplished… well, I’m not the one being paid the big bucks to figure it out. But I think the industry owes it to their customers – and themselves – to do so, because nobody can afford a crisis like this to happen again.

What do you think? Is a major change in the airline industry coming in the future? Is it possible, is it necessary? Leave your comments below!

Time and Birthdays

It’s so funny how views on birthdays change over the years. Remember when you were little, and you had a birthday and got SUPER excited? And then when your parents’ birthdays came around, you got really excited for them, but they never did? I never really understood that until these past few years. I mean, I did, but I’m reaching that point where it truly makes sense.

I am, of course, excited for my 21st birthday for obvious reasons (and, sidenote, this is relevant because ANOTHER one of my college friends turned 21 today, another one turns 21 on Monday and another, the Monday after that). Yes, I’m excited to be able to legally drink (and after being able to legally drink in Spain, I find the age limit here more absurd every day). I’m excited to go out with my friends to the bars if I want. To have a glass of wine with dinner at a restaurant. To be able to make myself a few drinks with liquor I purchased myself and not worry about paying someone back, or getting caught. Yes, that will be nice. But the other half of the reason I’m so excited is because from here on out, I’ll be the one who gets to gloat.

See, for the last, I don’t know, 20 years or so, I’ve been playing catch-up with my friends from my grade. I’m not turning 21 until my SENIOR year of college… I didn’t get my driver’s license until my junior year of high school and didn’t turn 18 until I got to college. So, yes, I am young for my grade. My birthday always falls at the beginning of the school year, and it’s a nice way to start off the year. New school year, new age…. but then it’s overshadowed by the fact that everyone else who had a birthday after me was a year older. I was FINALLY turning 16 when everyone else was turning 17. And when I FINALLY turned 17… well guess what, all my friends were about to turn 18. no big deal. And like, I never got teased about it. But I’m younger than all my friends in my grade, and yeah, I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up my whole life.

This year, the tables turn.

I’m starting to see that 21 is the last birthday everyone looks forward to. And it makes sense. Some of my friends complain, “ugh, 22? I’m so OLD!” After you turn 21, you’re an adult. And not only do you get the liquor, but everything else that comes along with turning said age: the responsibility, the job, the underlying expectation that you know what you’re going to do with your life. You actually have to face the *real* world. And yeah, it sucks. I’m not looking forward to it, and I’m not necessarily excited to turn older in subsequent years.

Except for the fact that instead of playing catch-up, and instead of being the envious one… for the rest of my life, *I’m* going to be the envied one. My friends might have beamed proudly when they got to turn 10, 13, 16, 18, before me. But guess what? That also means they get to turn 30, 40, and 50 before me. 21 years of watching my friends reap the benefits of growing up…. and from now on, I’ll be the one to lay back and calmly watch everyone panic as they turn a decade older, knowing that I have at least 9 months before I have to worry about it.

Yes, revenge is sweet my friends, and I firmly believe karma will always even everything out. 21 years of “haha, I’m 16 and you’re 15!” or, “haha, I’m 21 and you’re 20!” (even though it never went *exactly* like that :p) will soon turn into, “haha, I’m 29 and you’re 30!” or, “haha, I’m 39 and you’re 40!” yep, I am definitely looking forward to this. You never realize it until now, but being younger definitely has its benefits. :)