Should Gym be Required?

By Arianna Tabankin

One rule I find to be absurd is the requirement of physical education. This is not a small rule of little importance, it is a state enforced law. In my opinion, I feel it is ridiculous to force children to participate in gym. At Byram Hills, we have gym for one period every other day, and although some consider it an outlet for the hardships of school, I personally find it to be stress-inducing at times. While I do not think the gym period should be completely abolished in schools, I think a student’s choice should be administered. 

There is a necessary health aspect to physical education, and here are a lot of important ideas and information taught in gym class that benefit kids tremendously – these include nutrition, exercise, healthy lifestyles, etc. Still, most of these concepts can be taught in a classroom setting, or even health class (which is another requirement, thus two birds very well could be killed with one stone). These ideas do not have to be taught specifically in gym, or at least, conducting physical activity should not be thrown into the same class. 

This gets me to my next point. It is one thing to teach important lifestyle lessons in gym, but it is another to play games and sports. As a freshman girl, playing floor hockey, volleyball, baseball, etc, with senior boys may be one of the most terrifying experiences of highschool. It is widely known that people are going to vary in athletic ability, and hen you are forced to participate in these activities, but do not actually want to, it can be scary, uncomfortable, and even humiliating. You might even get backlash from your teachers or peers if you are unable to play well. To continue, there is nowhere to hide in gym class. If you are not participating well, a teacher will call you out and possibly separate you from your friends – your only lifeline in there. Some upperclassman boys even find it fun to target the freshman girls in games like dodgeball. These girls have no outlet to turn to because they are required, by their teachers, the school, and the state, to be there. It can really be a traumatizing experience. Imagine having to do a fitness test in a room filled with your peers; anyone would be able to see how fast you run, how flexible you are, how many push ups you can do, etc. No adults or people in charge of the “rules” of PE ever put any of this into consideration, and that is really harmful. 

I do understand that for a lot of people, gym is a fun class that gives them a break from their other stressful periods. I am not suggesting the eradication of physical education, but rather giving students more of a say in the matter. If you do not like the sport that is the current unit of gym, you should be given another option. What about the fact that having an extra period in the day to get some work done could be extremely beneficial to some? That may alleviate one’s stress more than any game of flag football. 

Overall, assuming all students have the same capabilities in physical education is wildly unreasonable and possibly damaging. I understand there are useful concepts being taught, but these can happen in health class or in a classroom setting – not in the gymnasium with four classes of students varying in age watching you. If gym’s purpose is to allow students to get rid of some of their worries, getting in another hour of homework at school is one less they have to do at home; how is this not as beneficial as gym itself? While gym class can definitely be “fun,” it should come as a choice, for only some are strong enough to endure it.