by Mandy Stussman ‘14
Forced gym activities make students resent excercise and their physical limitations.
Physical Education. A phrase that to some brings joy and excitement, but to others brings terror and embarrassment. For many students, P.E. is a fun addition to their day, an escape from their more difficult academic classes. But for others, gym class is something to absolutely dread. The humiliation some students face during gym is appalling; something no one should have to go through. Gym class should continue to be available to interested students, but it should not be a graduation requirement.
It is understandable that with the recent rise in childhood obesity, many would like to see an increase in the number of gym classes students are required to take. However, forcing gym onto unwilling students may just increase the problem of obesity. I’ve witnessed the way students who don’t want to be in gym class slack and have an attitude that shows how much they don’t care. This apathetic attitude follows them to sports and exercise outside of gym class. When people are forced to do something they don’t enjoy, often it just makes them hate it even more. Gym class can also lower students’ self confidence. A 2003 study by Eisenberg and Neumark-Sztaner showed that students who have been bullied in P.E. are more likely to feel disappointed with their bodies. Furthermore, the gym classes I’ve been in throughout my ten years of school have rarely left me out of breathe or made my heart beat noticeably faster, because most of the sports we do require little aerobic exercise. So what does taking gym really gain students?
For athletic students, gym is a breeze. It’s not something they have to worry about. However, for those who aren’t as athletic or are over-weight, gym can be torture. It is never fun to be the kid who can’t catch the ball or the one who can’t run fast enough. Though these students may act like they don’t care, the sagging of their shoulders tells otherwise. In a 2009 study by Vanessa Hurley, 23.7 percent of 234 students surveyed from eight different schools reported to be either verbally or physically bullied and abused in their gym classes. It’s sad to see how often teenagers will put others down or make them uncomfortable, and it’s apparent that gym just increases bullying. However subtle the eye-roll or groan is when a teammate misses the ball, it’s still deflating. Not only can gym be embarrassing while in the class, but students are required to change clothes everyday, or else lose major points. Changing in front of peers may bring students discomfort, especially to those who are self-conscious about their appearance.
If gym was not required, then only the students who enjoy gym would take the class. These students could really get into the games and play against others more on their level. This adjustment would create a healthy, competitive atmosphere. General P.E., instead of being mostly freshmen just getting their gym credit out of the way, could contain only those students who want to take a gym class that includes a mixture of sports.
MCPS actually requires more gym classes for graduation than the state of Maryland. The Maryland State Department of Education requires that high schoolers take at least half a year of gym, while MCPS requires a full year. Moreover, in her study, Hurley found that approximately 50 percent of the students did not continue taking gym class after completing their credits, indicating that many students take the minimum requirement.
Not taking gym would help free up uninterested students’ schedules. With colleges becoming more selective and getting more competitive each year, it’s important for many to take the hardest classes possible, so in place of gym students could take honors or AP courses, or satisfy the rigid art and tech requirements. Also, not requiring gym would allow students to focus on what interests them. There are so many interesting electives offered at Sherwood, and sometimes it’s difficult for students to fit these in their schedule along with all of their required classes.
Requiring students to take PE is unfair, and though it may sound good in theory, gym class can create a terror or hatred of exercise and lower students’ self-esteems. Gym is a great class for students who enjoy sports, but for those who don’t, forcing them to take gym is not the way to encourage them to exercise.
Stussman is currently a student in the Journalism class. The Warrior Online will begin to feature stories from Sherwood High School’s Journalism class as a reward for hard work and to foster a stronger connection to the world of journalism amongst younger writers.