Steves Thoughts on Physical Training in a Classical School Setting

Alright, here goes my attempt to start some discussion on why “PE” must return to its historic and theoretical roots, and be called Physical Training (PT) again, and rise to prominence as a major manner in which a classical Christian school teaches wisdom and virtue.


  • The Greeks believed that if you “owned the body, you owned the mind” and therefore pursued perhaps the greatest example of formal physical training in relation to education in history.
  • As the rationalism of the Philosophers increased, the Greco-Roman use of PT backed off, but never disappeared.
  • Medievel folk of course were quite practical about PT – you had to know how to use a sword, ride a horse, etc. to be what you needed to be.
  • It seems that more modern views on PT have been either one of two camps:
  • “You gotta get’em out there and run around so you can bring them back to the boring classroom to sit still some more” (a caricature, with all the truth inherent in a normal caricature)
  • We love sports in this country, so let’s let the kids who might not be the best in the classroom shine on the athletic field (an institutional acquiescence to the notion of ‘dumb jocks’ IMHO)


  • If the man is whole, soul and body in full connection, then PT is indispensable to a whole educative experience.
  • If “poetic learning” or sensory experience is a part of how we gain knowledge, then PT is indispensable to any education that seeks to maintain a poetic notion of learning.
  • If virtue is a goal of education, then PT is a major way in which many virtues are modeled and “played” with.


  • PT needs passionate, virtuous, well-educated teachers (does this match current practice? I had one teacher who truly fit that mold in 20 years of formal education, of which 15 included some form of PT).
  • Should this program be within the confines of the normal school day (which seems like a necessity because folks won’t show outside school hours) or after school so that several hours can be given to it?
  • How should the whole conversation and “rethinking” be accomplished in the typical American setting with so many years of thinking about this totally different? There is the issue of voluntary vs required, how to pay for it, the time it takes, etc.

So I am left with the following questions (not that the above are not mostly questions)…

  • Is this a hill worth dying for educationally in our time and place?
  • How can we “start the conversation” regarding this recovery?
  • If the above is all somewhat accurate and on target, then what virtues are to be obtained most notably through PT?
  • What are the highest and best aims of a PT program?
  • What should be the focus of the actual program: “fitness,” training in specific sports, competitive or purely self-actuated, “graded” or not, etc.?
  • What are the probable oppositions to these thoughts of mine?
  • How would a school provide for both interscholastic competition (that would necessitate choosing certain members to make up a team, the notion of “cuts”) and maintain a mandatory, every last student must be involved, type of program? I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, but how do they complement each other?

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