I often say that the world we live in now is about 180 degrees opposite to the one our ancestors evolved into. While our hunter-gatherer ancestors were roaming freely throughout the ancient world relying on their ability to move to stay alive, we’ve constructed an environment for ourselves where movement is the exception, not the norm.
Case in point: Two of the greatest accomplishments in my life were learning how to walk, and learning how to talk. I’m not trying to be silly here, those skills are not easy to learn as any parent of young children will tell you, plus they are some of the most fundamental skills we as humans will ever acquire. Think about your life if you weren’t able to walk or talk! But as soon as I got to school I was basically told the equivalent of sit down, and shut up.
When you learn about the history of the modern day classroom you stumble upon the fact that school was originally intended to create proficient factory workers during the industrial revolution. Think about it, the school was absolutely created to mimic the factory setting: ringing bells to start and end the school day as well as the lunch break in the same way bells ring or horns blow on many jobs sites, sitting in neat single-file rows just like the single-file rows of the assembly line, compartmentalizing learning subjects so they are clearly distinct from one another in the same way labor is divided in factories to increase efficiency, and passively taking in instructions and carrying out repetitive homework based on those instructions in the same way a laborer listens to the foreman and does exactly what they’re told over, and over, and over, and… Now if you think I’ve gone off the deep end with this kind of thinking, let me assure you it is backed up brilliantly by best selling author and marketing guru Seth Godin in his TED Talk Stop Stealing Dreams as well as in his blog. You can see his TED Talk below.
In all fairness, things are starting to change. There are lots of new ideas springing up around education. New terms are making their way into the public consciousness such as “flipping the classroom” like in the case of Khan Academy where students listen to the lectures at home and then do their homework in class, or “unschooling” where students are actually taken out of the school system and encouraged to pursue self-directed, adult-facilitated life learning. And seeing as how I come from the fitness industry, this idea gets me very excited, classrooms where children literally never sit still while they’re learning! This article by The Guardian entitled The Schools Where They Never Say ‘Sit Still’ highlights some of the new programs that are being instituted at various schools where the classroom is both a place of learning and a place of physical activity. And bravo to these schools for doing this! It takes guts to step away from the comfort of how things have always been done and try something different. But as long as that different thing embraces our evolutionary heritage, then it’s a step in the right direction.
Besides being a regular contributor to the Function Health Club blog, Jeff Doyle is also the co-owner of Function Health Club as well as a Personal Trainer, BCRPA Trainer of Fitness Leaders, Agatsu Kettlebell Instructor and Older Adult Wellness Practitioner. He also has a Bachelor of Human Kinetics. You can contact Jeff directly at firstname.lastname@example.org