One of my middle-school gym teachers used to swat kids on the behind with a huge wooden paddle if they got out of line. To their relief, he didn't make them say, "Thank you sir, may I have another?"
This same teacher also displayed a unique talent for breaking up fights. When two semi-tough characters started roughhousing for fun, he stepped in and socked one of them dead in the face.
"Those who clown around get clowned with!" he bellowed.
Neither of these incidents made it into the files of child protective authorities. But I was blessed with foresight, and cursed with the temerity to exhibit it.
Two and a half decades ago, in another middle-school gym class, another teacher told us why he put us through multiple exercises to warm up.
"What does that protect us from?" he asked.
I raised my hand.
"Lawsuits?" I replied, to the guffaws of my peers.
The teacher corrected, "It protects us from cream puffs." He mocked the voice of a helicopter parent: "Oh, I don't want Johnny to play so rough! That parent is raising a real cream puff."
Kindly forgive me, sir. I didn't know cream puffs were a plague upon the land, to be eliminated like the Hittites and Jebusites. For days, I endured the mocking of others who yelled to me: "Any lawsuits lately?"
They wouldn't laugh at my answer now, not with schools facing lawsuits over curriculum, prayers, and father-daughter dances. Gym class seems to escape the legal crosshairs, but gym students don't get a paddle or a punch anymore from the teacher. Those cream puffs? They could come with legal representation.
I personally believe every school in the country should keep a lawyer on retainer who does nothing but defend against and dispose of the nuisance suits. Preferably, each school will find the ugliest-looking litigator possible. Psychological warfare saves both fees and courtroom time, in addition to allowing the attorney to find a legal way to tell a over-litigious parent to go get bent.
I wish my school gym classes were more like workout classes, led by somebody like Billy Blanks or even Richard Simmons, helping kids slim down and burn fat. Don't tell me that's for girls. We've got too many chubby children. Forget dodgeball. Let's tailor a version of that "Insanity" workout for eighth-graders and get them buff in 30 days. Not only will we curb the unproven cream-puff dilemma, we'll help the young lads pick up girls.