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Mikel Kelly was an utterly average gym class student who wanted nothing more than to be a basketball player. Because that never happened, he wound up spending 41 years in the newspaper business, from which he retired and now occasionally sends in these items.

I'm pretty sure we could debate for many hours about what exactly is wrong with this country, how long it's been that way, how it all came about, what to do about it and so on.

Well, I just recently stumbled on what I consider a key to this puzzle.

Gym teachers.

That's right, you heard me. I firmly believe that the cause of many of our problems is the quality of physical education many of us received. Of all the countless subjects we were taught in high school — some by brilliant, highly skilled educators and some by complete know-nothing, incompetent boobs — the most ridiculous was physical education.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those P.E. haters who's waited more than half a century to sound off about this. I actually liked gym. It was my second favorite subject in school, surpassed only by lunch (because, as those who really know me can testify, I never in my life missed — or did not find some redeeming value in — a meal).

No, I was reminded the other day by the other person who lives at our house (TOPWLAOH) how frustrating it could be when you were uncoordinated or maybe not physically blessed, and how no matter what you did, you attracted the wrath of that tyrannical person in shorts and sneakers who never went anywhere without a whistle.

In the case of TOPWLAOH, it was sometimes ONLY that C in P.E. that kept her from making the honor roll (which she did occasionally achieve anyway) — unlike yours truly, who never ever came close to that kind of academic accomplishment.

But even though I liked gym class (because I loved sports and games), I wasn't necessarily good at it. When it was time to climb that rope, I couldn't get more than six or seven inches off the ground before my little noodle arms gave out and sent me flying to Earth. And I couldn't outrun a turtle, thanks to my larger-than-normal butt.

No, my real beef with P.E. teachers was that they never took into account how hard a person worked to perform the assigned maneuvers in their class. Some of us were fat little dips who sweated blood just waddling 100 yards — and others were these gazelle-like super-humans who could shoot around the track without even getting slightly damp skin.

The gazelle people, according to the entire physical education establishment, all deserved A-pluses, while the rest of us were doomed to get Cs or Ds, depending on individual attitudes.

And that, I submit, is completely stupid and wrong. What about the fat kid who actually tried? Should he really be graded lower than the skinny kid who didn't even have to try? No, he should have gotten a BETTER grade, thank you very much. But, guess what? It didn't work that way.

Personally, I suspect it was this backward system that has brought us to the weird place we are now — you know, where we, as a society, decide to elect leaders with no experience and no knowledge, thinking that this might, somehow, solve our problems.

Now, at my own high school (which, by the way, is the same one attended by TOPWLAOH), the boys did not have the same inferior quality of P.E. teacher as the girls did. Ours were men who coached the sports teams and also taught history, biology, English, etc. They were real educators interested in students, and in general, I believe they did a pretty good job.

The girls' gym teacher, on the other hand, was a professional, full-time physical education teacher who never, ever wore actual, grownup-woman clothes — which, you might think, would result in a higher caliber of P.E. instruction. But she was the one who told my wife that, given another year or two, she might eventually develop some coordination.

Let me state, first of all, that to this day I hate this particular woman — primarily because she was unkind to the person I love the most in this world, but also because she exercised such reckless (and idiotic) cruelty toward any young person, any time.

All I can say is, we're all extremely fortunate that so many of these P.E.-failing students went on to form so many of our most successful dot-com and other high-tech enterprises and eventually rose to such heights that they probably no longer even remember the shrill shriek of the gym teacher's whistle.

Mikel Kelly was an utterly average gym class student who wanted nothing more than to be a basketball player. Because that never happened, he wound up spending 41 years in the newspaper business, from which he retired and now occasionally sends in these items.

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