PHED professor proposes major

By Sean Leary

NIU students may soon be able to enroll in a major that will “train them for life.” NIU physical education professor Ed Thomas has proposed a major in “Restorative and Martial Arts,” which will positively transform students both physically and mentally.

The martial arts would involve karate, judo, and other disciplines. The restorative arts would emphasize “shaping the physical and mental aspects of the students to their highest level” through training similar to that of athletes, yet also involve instruction on the history of physical and mental wellness, Thomas said.

The major will most likely be taken in conjuction with another major, Thomas said. But where the student’s academic major would focus on shaping him for a given field, the restorative and martial arts major would shape him for his life outside that field. “Being schooled in this discipline, the student would have greater productivity, and would be able to present and carry himself with greater confidence,” Thomas said.

The major will involve a number of physical education classes already offered at NIU, and will also employ eight new classes, Thomas said. But it is not the classes offered that will make the difference. It is the attitude created through their conjunction, as well as the environment created for the major.

“Ideally we would have the majors live together in the same place, where diet and atmosphere could be closely monitored,” Thomas said. “In addition, the instructors would live there as well, to provide instruction outside the classroom,” he added.

The way this would be achieved is through a number of foreign instructors who themselves are higher education students, much like the teacher’s assistant system already implemented.

Another point of interest would be the use of this program to members of ROTC programs. “By tying this into the ROTC, this would benefit both civilians and the military,” Thomas said. “Many instructors fail to see the tie between the physical wellness of the country, and national defense,” Thomas said, “when in fact this is of great bearing on national security,” he added.

Thomas believes the time for this emphasis is right, as recent tests have shown a severe lack of fitness in children and teens. The reason for this, Thomas believes, is the overemphasis on sports and an underemphasis on exercise, flexibility and strength training in physical education systems. Thomas added that a greater emphasis upon flexibility training would “greatly decrease” the incidence of back problems, which remain one of the most common health problems in American society.

NIU would be the first school in the nation to offer this combined emphasis as a major. Thomas said he was very interested in whether NIU students would be interested in such a program.

“This could be an incredible opportunity for NIU students,” he said. “The program would have tremendous cultural implications on both a local and eventually a national level if it were done properly,” Thomas said.