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P.E. for a New Millennium
I was definitely born in the wrong decade. I played video games and danced around to goofy techno music when I was a kid too. But not once did I ever get to do that stuff in gym class.
Modern physical education classes, however, mean that kids -- really thrilled kids, it seems -- get to watch big screen TVs and bop around in unison on an electronic floor pad.
You've probably seen these games at arcades (or on TV shows that feature arcades.) Kids mimic a dance pattern that flashes on the screen, and try to keep up as the patterns get harder and more complicated.
The game is called Dance Dance Revolution, and according to an article in the New York Times, it actually has turned out to be something of a revolution. It is already part of the P.E. curricula at more than 1,500 schools at several states across the country. It is one of the latest efforts to combat childhood obesity.
Studies show that the game does help kids improve fitness, shed weight, and lower blood pressure. A Los Angeles P.E. coach who was quoted in the article said that while these games don't fit the traditional team sport/skill-building model, they do appeal to a broader range of kids. In fact, they are popular with kids who don't like the competitive aspects of sports.
This may trouble people who developed a real love of sports, such as basketball or soccer, back in school. I understand that sports toughened them up and taught them important life lessons. I know that a lot of kids gain confidence, coordination, and tremendous other benefits by participating in team sports.
But I was never that kid. I was the kid who hovered near the back of a line, trying to disappear into the background, and avoid any eye contact with my P.E. teacher. If Dance Dance Revolution had been around, I'm pretty sure that I would have been one of the kids rushing into the gym, vying to get my fair share of time on the mat.
I'm sure it's sort of embarrassing for these kids to dance like a goof in front of their friends and classmates. But not quite as embarrassing -- and probably much more fun -- than dropping a pop fly.