According to www.mass.gov, 1 in 4 students attending middle school or high school in Massachusetts are overweight or obese.
In an attempt to counteract this alarming statistic, Chapter 71 section 3 of the general laws of Massachusetts states, “physical education shall be taught as a required subject in all grades for all students in the public schools for the purpose of promoting the physical well-being of such students.”
As a result of this law, students at the high school must participate in a semester of P.E. class each year to meet the graduation requirements. While mandatory gym class does improve students’ physical fitness, the negatives of this requirement significantly outweigh the benefits. Because many students at public high schools already participate in sports that require rigorous physical activity, it is illogical that they must also take a P.E. class.
Although I agree that elementary and middle school students should be required to take P.E, as these students do not undergo the amount of physical activity that comes with high school sports, the Massachusetts law regarding physical education at the high school level should change. Students at public high schools who participate in two or more sports should not be required to take a P.E. class.
Some may agree with the current Massachusetts state law because they believe gym classes promote “the physical well-being of such students.” But participating in school sports also promotes physical well-being. In most cases, sports require far more activity than gym classes. For example, at the high school, playing basketball or football requires more physical activity than taking a gym class such as Adventure.
Not only are required gym classes unnecessary, but they also restrict the amount of free time athletes have in their schedule. A majority of students do not get an adequate amount of sleep at the high school.
According to the American Psychological Association, only two-thirds of seventeen year olds sleep the necessary eight to ten hours every night. Student participation in extracurriculars contributes to this problem.
Students who play sports at the high school usually commit at least two hours of their afternoon to sports, whether that be a practice or a game. This means they have less time to complete homework, and thus, less time to sleep.
These athletes may also have a P.E. class during their first block, preventing them from catching up on sleep. First block also represents extra time to complete homework assignments, allowing students to go to bed earlier. If administrators at public high schools really hope to diminish the stress levels of students, they should look into a strategy that maximizes the amount of time students have to complete school work.
Gym classes also deny athletes a chance to explore areas that interest them. For example, if a student takes six majors, they typically have one free color block in their schedule. Many students would love to fill this free time taking an elective in an area that interests them. Instead, they must take a gym class. If students already receive the necessary amount of physical activity, why should they be prevented from taking classes that interest them?
In addition, gym classes also prevent students from taking electives that only meet in the morning such as 1:00 and 2:00 Jazz Band, Brooks Brothers, Song Sisters, or Sinfonia. It is unreasonable that athletes cannot participate in these electives because they need to take a gym class aiming to give them the same physical activity they get playing sports.
Private schools such as Milton Academy already have a system like the one suggested in effect. At Milton, students can either participate in a sport or gym class for each sports season. That way, students who play sports do not also have to take a P.E. class.
According to their website www.milton.edu, freshmen and sophomores must participate in a sport or a gym class in each of the three seasons, and juniors and seniors must only participate in a sport or gym class in two of these seasons.
Private schools across Massachusetts have implemented this system and it is time for public schools to follow their lead. To reduce stress levels and give students more freedom while still promoting physical fitness, public high schools across Massachusetts should alter the gym requirements forcing all students to take a P.E. class.