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Editorial: N.M. lawmaker should stretch his mind on P.E.

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If only the biggest problem facing New Mexico’s K-12 public schools was stretching for P.E. class acting as a potential gateway to Eastern religions.

Unfortunately, about half of New Mexico’s students can’t read or do math at grade level. And almost 15 percent of kindergarteners and 21.4 percent of third-graders are obese. Those weighty statistics from the state departments of Education and Health should be front and center for the Legislative Education Study Committee.

Yet recently a presentation on “stretching or mat work” to combat childhood obesity devolved into a debate on whether such exercise was in fact an introduction to Buddhism and Hinduism, and if parents had been notified and given the “option to opt out.”

Presenter Ann Paulls-Neal, an Albuquerque elementary gym teacher, specified to the LESC that she does not even use the term yoga because she doesn’t want to give the impression religion is involved. Yet committee member Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, was unable to clear his mind of his preconceived notions of the exercise and proceeded to take the meeting down a convoluted path that had P.E. instructors forcing students to observe non-Christian religious practices.

And getting there is more difficult than getting into dancing Shiva (a very advanced pose).

New Mexico’s students need real help in the classroom, and real help getting active and healthy. Stretching and mat work is something all children can and should do to improve their flexibility, cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, core strength and ability to do more strenuous activities.

Baldonado and LESC should work toward a healthier K-12 student population and stop visualizing problems that don’t exist.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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