by Jonah Sachs ’20
As part of the set of the overall graduation requirements for Maryland public schools, every high school student is required to take at least one year of a physical education class, whether it’s weight training, net sports, or general PE. So many people are used to this mandate, but for those who simply do not have the desire or space in their schedules to pursue non-academic classes such as physical education, the question is why school sports can’t fulfill this requirement. If a student is going to dedicate hours upon hours of their week to their respective sports, why can’t they take advantage of this precious time slot in their overall course schedules for something that may further them in their future college education?
I, much like a large assortment of my peers, chose the path of waiting to fulfill my PE credit until senior year. Now that that time is approaching, I see students–all of which are in the same situation as I am–struggling to fit in that extra AP or other desired class that they want to take. Regardless of whether they took gym as an underclassman or an upperclassman, time was dedicated to a class that, for some, should not be mandatory. Whether they want another history class to explore options for their major or another engineering period to finish out the career pathway, many Sherwood students have to make tough choices when they shouldn’t have to.
Despite excelling in varsity track and field three years running or participating on the ice hockey club team for two full seasons, these students must sacrifice a period per day on extra physical fitness.
MCPS states that this PE requirement is to push students to “[engage] successfully in a lifelong healthy and active lifestyle,” but if students are already living actively–all of them of their own volition–why can’t it be fulfillment enough? There is no straight answer to this question in MCPS resources, but rather derivative responses about the health and wellbeing of today’s youth. Students playing varsity, JV, and other school-approved athletics–which upon offering proof of extensive practice time, would be signed and consented by administrators–should be considered as a substitute for the ever popular “general PE” class that many gym students are required to take.
A concern about limiting the requirement to strictly non-athletic and gym-enthusiastic students is the potential for staffing cuts for PE teachers. Although less students would be required to take gym, it wouldn’t be dropped completely, but rather for student-athletes who don’t want gym in their schedules alone. PE teachers would still be needed to teach those who want to continue taking it. Additionally, many PE teachers are also coaches and health teachers to many of these athletes, meaning there would be no less need for them in the school system.
As more students become more active in school sports as they develop into young adults and resources become more readily available to provide for these athletics, students should be able to opt out of physical education if it means utilizing their class time more effectively. If students had the opportunity to decide how they want to spend their time during every school day, many more students might be slightly more prepared for the daunting career paths in college and beyond.