British Teachers to Offer Walking Lessons

British Teachers to Offer Walking Lessons
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Have you ever been in a situation where you said, "Boy, I wish I knew how to walk better?" Complex tasks like carrying a bag, walking over rough terrain, going out for a Sunday stroll, or -- *gasp* -- walking and chewing gum at the same time?

You've cursed your embarrassing lack of knowledge of this basic skill. You've stumbled and dragged yourself to your therapist's office, and filled his ears with stories about how your parents only taught you the basic walking technique. You broke down and sobbed when you realized they never taught you how to walk on different terrains and situations.

You've prayed that this new generation of students aren't cursed with your same shortcomings, forced to shuffle and shamble through life, while the smart kids -- the lucky kids -- walk, mosey, and meander their way down Easy Street.

If you're one of those unlucky few, take heart. There's a new voice to speak for the non-perambulators of the world. An educational beacon to show schoolchildren the way to proper walking. The British educational system is about to be changed as we know it by one man: Martin Johnson, acting deputy general secretary of England's Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

According to a March 2007 article, in England's Daily Mail newspaper, Johnson said he wanted to do away with the national curriculum, and teach important life skills, like how to walk. He said children could learn a lot from walking, because they need different techniques for different situations, whether they are – I'm not making this up – going for a Sunday stroll, exploring cliffs, or trying to catch a train.

I'm no education expert, but I always thought walking was walking. But Johnson disagrees.

"Since in a green world people will be walking more than Western societies are currently doing, it would be as well that we spent an hour or so of compulsory education in teaching young people how to walk efficiently, and the joy of walking," Johnson told the Daily Mail. With a straight face, no less.

Shows what I know. Here I thought the old "left foot, right foot, repeat as needed" would pretty much cover any situation in which I might find myself. But apparently I've been doing it all wrong.

(Which means my newly developed style of swinging my arms windmill-style and giving a short hop on every fifth step probably wouldn't meet Johnson's definition of efficient either.)

According to the Daily Mail, Johnson calls Britain's national curriculum "totalitarian," because it favors academic education over other types of knowledge. He thinks physical and manual skills should carry more weight, and that the curriculum should no longer prescribe facts, figures, or specific subjects.

"For the state to suggest that some knowledge should be privileged over other knowledge is a bit totalitarian in a 21st century environment," Johnson said. In other words, he thinks the old standards like reading, math, and history should be replaced by walking, running, and eating with a fork.

A few years ago, I wrote about some American schools that were eliminating certain tests, rather than work harder and teach better, because students were failing them. But those guys look like geniuses compared to Johnson, who is proposing to do away with entire chunks of a standard education, so the teachers can measure whether students walk correctly. I just can't see how that will help later in life.

Interviewer: So, Mr. Gillespie, why do you want to become a nuclear engineer?

Gillespie: Because I was the best walking-to-catch-a-train student in my school.

It gets worse. A few days later, after everyone in the free world made fun of Johnson, the ATL said they stood by his remarks and moronic ideas.

A spokeswoman for the ATL told the Daily Mail, "It was an aside. He was thinking on his feet trying to find an example of a physical skill which children need."

THAT is thinking on his feet? Teaching children different walking techniques is the best he could come up with at the spur of the moment? I wonder what brilliant life skills he could have thought of if he'd had more time. Eating Noodles? Turning Book Pages? Going to the Big Boy Potty?

The mind staggers at the sheer lunacy of it all. But thanks to the education revolution, British children will stagger no more. And who knows, maybe one day, they'll even offer private lessons to those of us who have been walking wrong all these years.

I would call to find out, but no one taught me to dial the phone.