Dispatches from Dystopia

By Ciara Allen - - Everything Else
The London Yodeller

Traumatized for Life by Elementary School Phys Ed

Just the other day I was standing in my kitchen working on a wheel of brie for my afternoon snack, when there arose a cacophony of prepubescent noise from the park across the street. A group of school children and their adult chaperones were pouring out along the path and into the street. Something about this sight felt familiar, and I realised it was “Play Day”, a mandatory end of year event at my Alma Mater (read: Elementary school) which had the entire student body go on a day trip to the park to engage in a series of physical activities.

Think “The Hunger Games” only with forced camaraderie and more mental torture. I winced at this memory, traumas I thought I had erased flashing through my mind. My entire body beaded in sweat.My muscles screaming in protest. The jeering and lamentation of my peers rising to a crescendo while teachers leered over us, judging.Always judging. Under whose watch were schools allowed to do this to innocent children?

From my earliest memories, myself and my classmates were forced into physical activity, pairing us in lopsided “sporting” combat. For natural athletes, it was a time to shine. For others such as myself, it was an exercise in degradation. I will never forgive or forget such humiliations being forced upon me as a pudgy, bushy-haired nerd. I just wanted to lose myself in fantastical worlds through literature, or battle my way to becoming the greatest Pokémon master in all of Kanto. Instead I was bullied into tests of physical endurance and sportsmanship for which I could not be more clearly ill-suited. There were the “games” in gym class, leaving me entangled in skipping ropes or nursing goose eggs from errant volleyballs. Worse still, the school wide Track & Field day wherein I was expected to be able to vault, sprint, and tumble my ungainly adolescent body – clad in oversized clothing and hiking boots – through each competition. The final lap race around the perimeter of the park in which it was held saw me place 13th out of 14, stumbling across the finish and collapsing into the grass as a teacher let my orange participation ribbon flutter to the ground beside my heaving form.

Then Play Day. A slapdash course of team building exercises and feats of athleticism, allegedly for our benefit. Sadly, not mine. Instead of a new found appreciation for exercise and improved relationships with my peers, I am left unable to use public gyms or perform in front of crowds, my self image crystallized as a chubby 11 year old. That’s right, elementary school sporting events traumatized me for life.

How could it be in the best interest of every child to force participation in such things? Instead of leaving proper exercise and physical health to the parents, a group of fascists (or educators, whatever you like) made it part of the curriculum. Some good that did me. I know I don’t speak for everyone, but I’ll leave you with this: I can’t remember how to do long division, but I’ll be damned if I am ever able to wash away the horrors of gym class.

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