Resilient myth robs sports of their merits

The Oct. 12 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.

If the government wants to strengthen the foundation of sports 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 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. We want to properly instruct young people on what constitutes real knowledge — while retarding false “information” and ideas. 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.

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. Contrary to the resilient mythology, it teaches them to hate sports and, by extension, other voluntary group activities. Most students quickly call P.E. their favorite subject because it requires the least from 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.

grant piper

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Joachim

    One of my oldest friendships, going back more than half a century, was strengthened through our common loathing of PE classes, though we didn’t dislike sports per se. Ideally, the mathematics teacher wants all of his pupils to be mathematically competent, even if their abilities and accomplishments vary, and, again ideally, the sports coach wants even the small, weak, and clumsy kid to engage in healthy exercise. But in reality the number one priority is fostering the best athletes for the greater glory of the school. Of course, the juken system is also elitist, but true athletic talent is even rarer than a good head for theoretical physics, and the obsession with the few who can hurl a baseball across the plate at dazzling speed becomes a pseudo-religion.