In this era of automatic outrage about everything — Thanks a lot, Twitter — it’s no surprise that an outdated list of physical-education guidelines released from the Alabama State Department of Education has caused widespread angst. Our advice: Calm down. The world isn’t ending.
Or, as state Superintendent Eric Mackey told a gathering of local superintendents this week, “It is completely up to you which games you play. There is no directive about which games you can and cannot play. Go back, tell your principals to take care of their own P.E. problems, please.”
Bravo, Superintendent Mackey.
It’s not that this isn’t an issue, because it is — on multiple levels. Bullying, discrimination and games that intentionally harm are serious concerns for today’s educators, and the aged list was presumably compiled, as Mackey seemed to indicate, as a bulwark against such unwanted behavior. Additionally, this is an example of old-school education vs. new-school thinking: which is better? How far should oversight of children’s P.E. activities go?
Mackey, the former Calhoun County educator, is, in essence, saying both.
No, Alabama doesn’t want children playing games in school that lead toward bad behavior.
No, Alabama doesn’t disregard the seriousness of bad behavior in school.
But, yes, Alabama trusts the superintendents and principals who lead its public schools.
And, as Mackey reiterated in comments to Newsweek, “We are a state that firmly believes in local control. Local principals and superintendents should be permitted to determine how their physical education programs are run … I completely disagree with (the list).” Mackey, in fact, ordered the list to be removed from the state education department website pending further review.
We’re less interested in how this list was originally compiled or why it was released this month and more concerned with how Alabama’s new superintendent handles this mini-drama. What we’ve seen is an educator who neither hid nor ran and told Alabama educators to get on with the business at hand. He trusts their judgment until he has reason not to.
That’s common-sense leadership. Alabama needs more of it.