Physical education should not be a high school requirement


Samantha Parr

Some students play basketball in PE, while others sit by and watch, showing both sides of the enthusiasm spectrum

Many students detest physical education (PE) class, as it breeds athletic and social supremacism. For others, it gives them a great opportunity to blow off some steam after a long day of remaining relatively stationary. Regardless, high school students should not be required to participate in PE as it does not benefit their health as its proponents intended.

The purpose of PE is to encourage children to move around and to apply their knowledge to develop a healthier lifestyle. PE is also designed to work against obesity, as over 340 million children and teenagers (ages 5-19) were deemed overweight or obese in 2016 by the World Health Organization’s standards. Although this national issue continues to worsen, PE may not be the best solution. 

A 2015 study on Texas’ Fitness Now program found physical education to be ineffective and having no effect on children’s’ body mass index (BMI). In gym class, children are typically only active 3 days a week for forty-five minutes each day. This will not significantly lower BMI, especially if some students choose to participate minimally.

Instead of focusing on superficial numbers, like BMI and how long it takes to run a lap, PE should teach children ways to incorporate health into their own lives. This will prepare them for their future more than a game of dodgeball will.

PE also makes those who do not play sports feel self-conscious and uninterested. Students give up if they need to run a lap around the track in an amount of time that they know they cannot achieve. It creates a sense of hierarchy that creates the impression that athletic children are superior to the unathletic. 

Children who play sports often dominate the scrimmages and activities, leaving the rest of the children feeling uneasy. They often rarely pass the ball to the “awkward” or “shy” kids, which deprives these students of productive activity and results in a negative environment.

It is because of this negative environment that PE programs across the nation have poor attendance. According to a 2016 study by the National Physical Activity Plan, around one half of all US high school students do not attend PE classes daily. In schools that require PE for all four years of high school, attendance decreases more and more every year from students ditching.

For children in kindergarten through middle school, on the other hand, physical education is necessary. Children must become familiar with movement at a young age so that they stay active throughout their lives. However, in high school, students are old enough to make their own decisions.

High school athletes that have participated in sports and have received physical education through middle school do not need to toss a frisbee for an hour. If they were able to just attend their sports or dance practice instead of taking PE, it would have a greater benefit on their athleticism. If students do not play a sport in high school, they clearly are not interested in sports and will likely not participate in PE class.

High school students deserve the freedom to choose whether or not they wish to participate in PE. Physical education creates an unhealthy environment for many students, and should not be required.