Warning: This post could be somewhat disjointed and rambly…and ranty. Go figure…
Yesterday on a bike ride with my friend, we discussed his upcoming book, “The Smartass Buddha” – just talking about different things – chapters he was trying to work through, philosophies he was sussing out, things which were vexing – that kind of stuff. Eventually, this morphed in a discussion (or rant on my part) about being active vs exercising. That for most people, ‘exercise’ is this very specific thing that you go out and ‘do’. You have special clothing, special shoes, special accessories, and special pieces of equipment. And for some – if all those elements are not there, there is no exercise to be happening. I’m not saying that people riding bikes don’t need, well say, a bike…my typical beef is that they need ‘the best bike with all the riding clothes and blah, blah, blah…as if being active is impossible if it’s not relegated to this special time and place with all the special things. As if you cannot incorporate ‘being active’ into your everyday life; as if you can’t park your car far away from a building (or worse, a gym) because you don’t have your $150 cross-training-walking-from-parking-lot-to-building-shoes on. AS IF.
Which, of course, lead me to a typical rant I have about what I call Subject in a Box.
Basically it’s this insane way we teach things in our society – every subject is relegated to this idea that it exists in a box. Now it’s time to teach Math, then it’s time to teach History, and now it’s Lit time! As if these general subjects just exist in this time frame of 3rd period, 10:00-10:40AM. As if history, in and of itself, is some sort of preordained dot on the timeline that has to be committed to memory. As if the concepts of Math have no relation at all to anything that has to do with the box subject of History. Which leads to another rant about history… this wonky idea that history ‘happens’ in some sort of linear fashion. History is not a dot on a line; it is a continuous and ever expanding circle with millions of dots all over the place. History is ALL THE TIME. Everything is history – not just 1492, not just 1066, not just 1199. Those are just dates – they mean nothing if there is not a context of the world around them being discussed; it is meaningless if we don’t understand the time and place. It is useless if it’s just something rote committed to memory for the next few days or until ‘the test’. I understand that there’s a practicality to having subjects taught as specific subjects, but what annoys me is that there is very little connecting between the subjects. None of these things exist in a void.
In one of my university humanities classes, there was the typical whine from one of the students… why must I take classes in humanities if I’m an engineering major? Well, I don’t know…Archimedes?
This steams me up every time. I’m a firm believer that one can learn something from any kind of class – or any kind of situation. Just because I’m studying X, doesn’t mean I should be closed off from Y & Z because chances are there’s a connection between X, Y, and Z. To reiterate, nothing really exists on its own – so why do we teach things as if they are in a box?? Fractions had much more meaning to me when I learned to bake rather than just writing the answers on a worksheet of random problems. But conceptually, those two things were never introduced together in my math class. Why? Because baking was a home ec class – not a math class.
So to bring it back round to the original exercise vs being active topic, I think that this idea that ‘we have to go exercise’ as if it’s something completely separate from our normal every day activities, derives from our exposure to the ‘subject in a box’ methodology of teaching. It keeps us from realizing that we can be active in a variety of ways throughout the day instead of just in a specific place, at a specific time with specific things. And to be clear, I am not against going for a run, taking a planned bike ride, going to the gym – but these are not the only times one can be active. That’s really what I’m trying to get at. I think.
Rant over… in a box.