The true north strong and free?

Canada is a great country. We have so much to be thankful for. But all is not perfect in our land. We are known to be a progressive and diverse culture, and in the bright-shining light of progression I speak to all the parents, administrators and educators of our fair nation.

We stand proud on our achievements in literacy and numeracy, for our children are among the most capable in the world when it comes to Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. No surprise really, as the 3 Rs have been long-standing pillars of our education system and our Canadian mindset. From the Pacific to the Atlantic, we measure our achievement of the 3Rs using mandatory provincial examinations. We know where we stand, and we can rightfully stand tall.

Literacy is crucial to the acquisition, by every child, youth, and adult of essential life skills as it is an indispensable means for effective participation in the societies and economies of the twenty first century. –United Nations 2002

Despite these marvelous literacy and numeracy achievements, the health of Canadians, child and adult alike, is being insidiously eroded. Sadly, our Canadian way of life has become sedentary for over 95% of us and more than 65% are overweight and obese, leading to the unprecedented development of “inactivity diseases” such as type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

The true north isn’t strong, it’s weak

This unhealthy lifestyle – our behaviors – is a reflection of our Canadian values and attitudes. Thank goodness for our health care system which has, up to this point, been able to manage the negative consequences of our collective sloth and gluttony. But our health care system is beginning to fail under the burden of our lifestyles.

We want our health care but we do not want our health!

How do we rectify this? Well, thankfully the health and physical education (HE/PE) objectives that are a part of our provincial education curricula can provide the foundation on which we can create physically literate children that actively participate. Which could save the next generation of Canadian bacon, so to speak.

Parents and educators must start to insist on the delivery of the HE/PE objectives, just as we have insisted for reading, writing and arithmetic. Perhaps this would form the foundation of a new Canadian culture, one that is active and healthy.

Physical literacy is crucial to the acquisition, by every child, youth, and adult of essential life skills as it is an indispensable means for effective active participation in society, leading to a healthy twenty first century nation.

The physical education curricula for all provinces can be found here. Parents should become familiar with what our children are supposed to know and behaviors that they should exhibit as a result of being enrolled in our health and physical education system. You will be surprised to learn what the learning expectations are. Parents want their kids to be healthy. We all do. We may not yet have provincial examinations for physical literacy, but if we value what physical literacy gives to our children we need to measure it. Just as we measure the ability of our children to read, write and do math.

Like most provincial HE/PE curricula, Manitoba’s has strands on fitness, movement, safety, healthy lifestyle practices, as well as personal and social management. For your interest, here are some of the learning objectives of the Grade 6 curriculum from three strands: fitness, movement and lifestyle. What you’ll notice is that the objectives are quite bold. If kids were able to do the things that the curriculum sets out, they’d be well prepared for the future.

The problem is that schools aren’t delivering on the curriculum. Our children are not able to do everything that the system itself expects. As parents, we need to work cooperatively with our education system to actually deliver on these objectives.

Physical literacy should stand on the same strong footing as literacy and numeracy

The recreation and sport sectors need to become integrated into our school systems via the parent advisory council to complement the physical literacy education process. Our teachers know which children are in need of improved healthy lifestyle behaviors, and they can play a very important role in guiding their students toward suitable, physically active leisure pursuits in the community.

We don’t need to worry about who is already active in sport and leisure activities. We need to worry about who isn’t.

So, parents, please politely get in the face of your teachers, engage your principals and superintendents, recruit your parent advisory councils. Leave them in no doubt as to your hopes and needs for your children and our country: “Hey, my kids have to be physically literate and active!”

We’d never tolerate our kids practicing reading only twice a week because we know that regular reading is what builds literacy. So why are we okay with our kids only getting physical education and activity in schools with only a couple of sessions a week?

As parents, we can do our bit outside school time. But schools can make a powerful contribution during the day.

Let’s make sure that Canada, the true north, really is both strong and free.

So, parents, please politely get in the face of your teachers, engage your principals and superintendents, recruit your parent advisory councils. Leave them in no doubt as to your hopes and needs for your children and our country: “Hey, my kids have to be physically literate and active!”

Physical and health education curricula for all Canadian provinces

Selected student-learning objectives from Manitoba’s Grade 6 health and physical education curriculum

One response to “The true north strong and free?

  1. Hi Dr Dean,
    You raise some interesting points regarding the emphasis placed on the traditional definition of literacy. It is no secret that the three R’s receive the most attention when schools plan their individual school goals/mission statements but the definition of literacy itself is ever evolving. The advances in technology have challenged the traditional definition of literacy as people are communicating in so many different ways. Digital fluency has given rise to multimodal literacies that constitutes a spectrum of literacies, one of which is physical.
    You mention that ” We may not yet have provincial examinations for physical literacy, but if we value what physical literacy gives to our children we need to measure it.” I hope that by no means are you suggesting we need to move towards more standardized testing within the P.E. curriculum. I do not believe this gives any discipline more value over the other and in truth, does the complete opposite. You make a great point about us focusing our efforts not on those that are already physically active, but rather those that aren’t. Unfortunately, it is usually the athletes within schools that get all the attention and focus whereas less gifted students in this area seem to drift and loose interest. We need to re-evaluate not only our definition of literacy but also our current model of delivery in hopes of promoting a healthy and active lifestyle inclusive of EVERYONE regardless of ability.

    Thanks,

    Manny L.

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