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The Problem with the PE Requirement


 Wilson is the best DC public high school in my mind. That being said, there are, as with all schools, a number of policies that should be changed. This should come as no surprise. One that rarely gets mentioned, despite its simplicity, is the gym requirement.

I see two things wrong with the current policy, which mandates that students complete two half-year gym courses in order to graduate. The first thing wrong with this policy is the two-semester requirement itself. Compared to other mandatory electives, which are only required to be taken in one semester-long class, the P.E. requirement seems excessive. This is because of the DCPS Local Wellness Policy, which, in an effort to reduce obesity and increase health education, has made this a rule for all DC public schools.

I’m not saying that this is not a good thing — it definitely has a very positive effect on kids in elementary and middle schools — but I think that its impact on high schoolers is far less noticeable. For most high school kids that take gym, trying to get a good workout is not the main goal for many reasons. For me, it’s that I don’t want to be all sweaty and uncomfortable throughout the rest of the day in all of my classes. Many kids share my thinking, so they phone it in and really don’t gain much from the class. Especially for the kids who have determined that athletics are not for them (which is fine, since high school is all about finding yourself), the class is almost a waste; they could be doing something they actually enjoy rather than walking laps around the track and sitting on the bleachers during a game because they don’t want to play. I’m not trying to say that gym class at Wilson should be removed completely; I definitely see its value. I just think that its goal of making kids more active should not be the main focus, and there should not be such a lengthy requirement.

 The second problem I see with the requirement is much more specific, and one that hits close to home for me. I am a firm believer that similarly to how musicians get to achieve their music class credit by being in, say, Jazz Band, which technically is and counts as a class (although some consider it to be an extracurricular), athletes should have the option of opting out of gym class if they play on a Wilson sports team. The amount of physical activity in a single practice for any sports team at Wilson far exceeds what one would be doing during gym class. I doesn’t makes sense for athletes who are well familiar with physical activity to have to take a class where they are taught the basics of sports and spend time running laps around the track (something they might already do at a practice), when they could fill the slot in their schedule with something else they enjoy doing or another class they’re required to take.

 I understand that implementing a new rule for the gym requirement could be controversial and might not be the best thing to do. But I have a hunch that all or almost all athletes and many students in general would agree with certain things said above, which is why its important that its brought to attention. A lot of kids enjoy gym class, and there is definitely value in the course, such as learning about exercise and developing skills and teamwork (again, all things that are already achieved by being on a sports team), I just feel the flaws of the system should be considered and addressed.


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