A moonshot, in a technology context, is an ambitious, exploratory and ground-breaking project undertaken without any expectation of near-term profitability or benefit and also, perhaps, without a full investigation of potential risks and benefits.
When I think of moonshot thinking, one name always comes to my mind, Elon Musk. He is a billionaire that continues to invest in companies that are impacting change in the world. He is the founder of Spacex, Tesla Motors, and co-founder of Solar City. He is working on developing reusable rockets for space missions, cars that don’t run on combustible fuels and working on lessening our dependence on fossil fuels. He is always exploring groundbreaking concepts and is working to stop the development of artificial intelligence. Musk has even questioned if we are already living in a computer generated world created by machines. His ambition keeps pushing science and technology past the current standard set by humanity.
If “50 million strong” campaign by SHAPE America is a moonshot idea for health and physical educators, then how will we achieve this moonshot goal? Shape America states “Approximately 50 million students are currently enrolled in America’s elementary and secondary schools . SHAPE America wants to ensure that by the time today’s youngest students graduate from high school in 2029, all of America’s children are empowered to lead healthy and active lives through effective health and physical education programs. What is our functional tool that will measure growth? What instrument are we going to use to gather data? Are they going to create developmental milestones for this campaign? Finally, what happens if we don’t have success by 2029?
The problem with Moonshot thinking is that ambitious projects and ideas need framework and funding. Our organization has funding to reach the goal but the money needs to have focus like a sniper rifle. We have adopted more of a shotgun approach to fixing physical education. Some believe that if we shoot enough rounds of ammunition we can say that we successfully hit the target of empowering students to live healthy active lifestyles. I believe for this moonshot project to succeed we need to act like bootleggers of moonshine.
The art of making moonshine has been around since the Revolutionary War and was founded in the Appalachian Mountains. Many that made moonshine weren’t happy about the government's taxation of alcohol. Many corn farmers that had unprofitable farming seasons turned to making moonshine to pay their farms expenses. When prohibition hit the 1920’s, moonshiners were making big profits and developed networks to distribute their goods to all the major cities. So can we take the 50 million strong campaign and develop a moonshine grassroots movement towards our goal in 2029? I believe for this goal to succeed we need to focus on three areas of improvement just like Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s The Profit. We need to focus on the people, product and process that will strengthen our brand to make our business successful and reach our moonshot goal.
The Appalachian moonshiners always had a partner when producing moonshine. One moonshiner would focus on making the moonshine with their copper still and the other moonshiner would be making sure they didn’t get caught by the local authorities. SHAPE America needs to partner with the bootleggers of physical education content on social media to give focus to the campaign. The innovators of physical education are on social media taking simple concepts and manipulating them to meet the educational needs of today’s learners. These educators are taking traditional education models and reinventing concepts with 21st century learning practices. We (#PHYSED) want to have a vested stake in the future of physical education but need a partner. Can SHAPE America be our partner in making physically literate learners in the United States? Can we get all the 200,000 educators working towards a single vision for physical education?
The finished product of moonshine has a 100 proof of alcohol content. To make sure the product has the proper alcohol content, many use fire to test the product's flammability since it has similarity to ethanol. We have the materials to make a propellant just not the right balance of chemicals to make a reaction to affect change. We have three key materials to focus on for the future. We need to focus on advocacy, program and professional development. If we focus with sniper rifle accuracy on our target we will hit our goal of 50 million strong.
The best moonshine came from people like Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton. He made a good product that people appreciated and wanted in the Appalachian Mountains. He had a passion for good likker (liquor) just like most physical educators who want their students to grow and succeed but they don’t have all the steps to make the process develop into a quality program. Our current process in place is a S.N.A.F.U. with SHAPE America. Most people know we have five standards, yet most only use the trifold grade level outcome scope and sequence with their current curriculum or only align with their state standards. Many also just adapt their sports units that they have been teaching for 20 years and call it a standards based program. We need a bootlegging professional development series to educate our professionals and to adapt our teaching styles to current models. If the change starts with “US” then all of us need to be working towards the same guidelines by 2019 to meet our goal in 2029.
Processes that need to be in place by 2019:
If we adopt some moonshine techniques with our moonshot concept, we could possibly reach our goal with the proper leadership and guidance of SHAPE America or we could see the death of our profession by 2029. Which directions will we choose as a profession in the next two years?
“SHAPE America’s Commitment: 50 million strong by 2029”
Currently, approximately 50 million students are enrolled in America’s elementary and secondary schools. SHAPE America is leading the effort to ensure that by the time today’s youngest students graduate from high school in 2029, all of America’s young people will be empowered to lead healthy and active lives through effective health and physical education programs.
I am a pragmatic person working in the field of education. I grew up with both of my parents working in public education and I followed in their footsteps hoping to make an impact in the classroom. I have both blue collar and white collar friends from my childhood. I have worked in the outdoor industry for most of my adult life while teaching and know every small detail between bikes, boards, and hiking gear. I love being outside and on the water. I have two children that will be in school during the 50 million strong campaign time period and I don’t believe that it will succeed.
Over the past two months I have watched two outdoor industry businesses close their doors due lack of sales and poor profits. The first business to close was the bike shop that I worked at in a small town. They had a great business model and great brands that supported the shop through the good years but as e-commerce grew they couldn’t compete with cheaper prices on the internet and now the lack of people’s interest in bicycling. I worked at the bike shop during the Lance Armstrong era and continue to follow the trends in the industry today. The bike industry is having a similar image issue as is SHAPE America. SHAPE America wants to be the voice of physical education and advocacy in the United States but can’t function with their current business model from the 90’s. They have seen membership numbers decline for the past decade and continue to not meet the needs of the progressive educator. SHAPE America’s villain is social media just like my small bike shop. While SHAPE America wants to be the expert in our field, the average physical educator is being a shopper on Amazon reading reviews of products and making their own decisions based on other educators views. This has led to the popular growth of the PhysEd Twitter and Voxer communities that allow educators to be in the driverseat of setting the trends and making curricular choices. SHAPE America needs to find ways to reduce costs of membership and get educators the goods and services that are required to meet to the goal of 50 million strong. Each year I question why spend the money for membership to both SHAPE America and MAHPERD. In the past when funds have been tight, having a SHAPE membership didn’t make sense financially. I believe this same fight occurs with many educators around the country. When paying your dues it should feel like performing yearly maintenance for your amazing bike not a questionable experience at Rob’s rip off bike shop. These are things that should be part of my membership with SHAPE America.
Service that should be given to all members:
The second company that is in the process of closing its doors is Eastern Mountain Sports. I grew up getting supplies for camping trips and kayaking adventures from them since the late 90’s. These regional outdoor companies helped many of us grow our love for physical activity and exercise in our local parks and waterways. They supported the conservation groups and could help you find the right piece of technical gear for your trip. Over the past few years EMS was purchased by different venture capital groups that didn’t have a clear vision for the brand. The brand was making quality products, developing amazing designs but had financial issues because of poor decision making by their parent company. By the end of the school year most Eastern Mountain Sports locations will be closed. Could this be the same direction of SHAPE America by 2029? SHAPE America is at a point where they must change and adapt or risk being extinct in the next ten years. Who will protect the profession? Will physical education still be in schools by 2050? The next CEO of SHAPE America needs to be ready to make difficult decisions that will transform the organization and our field or they will lay the groundwork for our demise.
Key points that need to be addressed:
SHAPE America’s 50 million strong campaign will not affect change without adapting to the needs of educators. I believe that we can change the future of our profession if we get our act together before 2019. This gives us 10 more years to move towards our goal with the proper tools and developmental milestones needed to reach 50 million students. I challenge the group of educators at Speak Out Day to have candid conversations with SHAPE board members and all stakeholders that have an impact on our future. Please share with state organizations and let's find ways to support each other and develop this concept together. Hopefully, 2029 will not be the death of Physical Education in America.