Most students at NCHS have two breaks during their school day: lunch and PE. These are the only two hours that students are not expected to sit quietly in a classroom, and are given the chance to get up and stretch their legs for a bit. For some, running laps and lifting weights is a good stress relief during their day. However, the mandatory four-year physical education [PE] requirement is causing students to fall behind on their credit necessities for college applications.
First and foremost, we come to school for academics, not for personal training. While fighting childhood obesity is a growing concern in the USA, many states still do not require four years of physical education. In fact, Illinois is the only state that still requires an hour of daily PE. Instead, students are given the opportunity to take a study hall or a fine arts class, which is required for many universities.
For students who take classes focusing more on business, foreign languages, and science, electives are completely taken with no room left in their schedules for a fine arts credit. The truth is, colleges do not care about performance in physical education. Most colleges do not even leave a space for PE credits on their applications. Many colleges, however, encourage or require one to two years of fine arts credits.
The problem here extends beyond poor scheduling. By leaving students less time for fine arts classes, we are reinforcing the message that the arts are less important. How can we preach the values of Save The Arts while we force students to run monotonous laps instead of taking art-focused classes?
Additionally, students would have the opportunity to take a study hall and keep up with their schoolwork if they opted not to take another elective.
Don’t misunderstand me; both fine arts and physical education classes are important. PE forces us to exercise when we may not otherwise, and teaches us healthy living habits that will extend later in life. But holding our hands all through these four years only sets us up to flounder once we are out on our own.
If PE were only required for three years, students would have the opportunity to take a fine arts or another elective of their choosing at least one year out of their high school career, even if the elective they choose is another year of physical education. Although the odds of the state requirement being changed are slim, it would ultimately be beneficial to students who feel that their schedule is simply too packed.