The pros and cons of mandating physical education classes are debated among parents, students and educators alike. PE classes can teach students healthy habits and build character. However, they can also take time away from academics and make some students feel self-conscious, different or left out.
According to the Shape of the Nation Report published on the National Association for Sport and Physical Education website, only six states require PE in all grades from kindergarten through 12th grade and only one in three students is active every day. Regular physical activity can help prevent serious medical issues like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Requiring PE classes exposes students to a variety of activities that can help them lead healthy lifestyles as adults and combat serious medical problems.
Sports and games in the context of physical education classes can offer character building opportunities for students. Teamwork, cooperation and sportsmanship are just a few of the life lessons that can be learned in a PE class. Students also have the chance to set goals, build confidence and socialize with their peers in a fun, safe setting. For students whose parents cannot afford organized sports outside of school hours, PE is a chance for them to experience playing on a team.
Academics Come First
Instruction time and budgets in schools are limited. According to the Center for Public Education, most states require between 175 and 180 days of classes per academic year. The NASPE reports that, due to reduced school budgets nationwide, PE is often targeted when reductions are needed, because it is not considered a core academic subject.
It's Not For Everyone
For some students, PE can be a very scary and intimidating class. They may feel inept because they are not as skilled as their peers or embarrassed about their bodies, especially if they are overweight. A study by the University of Florida cited bullying as a factor that kept overweight kids from exercising and in some cases, completely avoiding PE class or sports.
- National Association for Sport and Physical Education: Status of Physical Education in the USA
- Center for Public Education: Time in school -- How does the U.S. compare?
- NASPE Resource Brief: Physical Education Programs Being Cut!
- University of Florida News: Bullying keeps overweight kids off the field
- Photo Credit Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images