Let’s save our school hours for academics


Swinging battered backpacks over one shoulder, gulping orange juice with bleary eyes, and hiking up to Magnolia Ave, we make our way to school every morning. The list of our reasons for this constant attendance trails on: we want to grow as people, we want a social setting, we are legally mandated by both the California and federal governments. But the one reason that stands out is the simplest; we attend school to learn.
Yet, in selecting my schedule for this year, as I eagerly perused the course catalog, researching the complex and creative curriculums available to prospective juniors, it pained me to check one proverbial box. Physical Education.
I cannot fathom the fact that in an environment meant for education, I am forced to slot in a non-academic class. That is not to say that I scorn those who enjoy athletics. I love Team Handball as much as the next Piedmonter, I just wish that it was not a mandated part of my schedule.img_4019
One way to lessen the burden of the physical education requirement is the system loophole, the ability to fulfill the course with a sport. The administration’s effort on this matter is commendable, as a dual use for athletic extracurriculars solves the P.E. dilemma for those who play for school teams. However, students who are forced to barely coast by on the JV team in order to opt out of taking the P.E. class lose opportunities to pursue other extracurriculars such as debate, mathletes, choir, or acting.
Many courses are required to graduate, so at first nothing separates the right to require English from the right to require physical education. Both courses could be said to build healthy habits in students, encouraging strong academic and lifestyle choices. The difference lies in the emphasis placed on P.E., an emphasis of equivalent strength to the focus on base skills in education such as English, mathematics, sciences, and history. I contend that physical education falls into a secondary skill category, along with arts and foreign languages, skills that hold value, but cannot be considered a true founding element of our educational system. At Piedmont, the administration requires one semester of computers and social psychology, requires no foreign language at all, yet requires 2 years of P.E., placing physical education at the same level of import as maths and sciences.
The Piedmont Unified School District Board of Education states in their policy that academic standards are based on “skills that students will need in order to be successful in higher education and the workplace.” Physical education is not devoid of life lessons, as team sports encourage coordination, teamwork, and some knowledge of the muscular and skeletal systems. It also benefits students through an exercise prompted improvement in mental health linked to neurotransmitters, according to the American Psychological Association. Seventy percent of schools feel that physical education bolsters positive behavior among their students, according to the 2014 Youth Sport Trust National PE, School Sport and Physical Activity Survey.
While physical education may prove beneficial to the student body, I believe that the benefits are the icing on the cake, so to speak. In the scope of all skills, there are many other courses that would better serve our students and the school board policy as stated, and although mental health benefits are notable, endorphins and neurotransmitters are not the same as mental stimulation and academic growth. I implore the administration and board of education to rethink the PHS graduation requirements to classify P.E. as an elective instead of a required course.
I come to school every day to learn. Although I understand the benefits of physical education, I think that a required course should hold academic value, especially in high school classes, when the choices we make or are mandated to make have a tangible effect on our future. As much as I value teamwork, I cannot condone the fact that I had to replace Honors Statistics with Upper Division Physical Education on my course selection form. When it comes to my education, I’d rather be running my mouth than just plain running.