Is two years of P.E. really too much to ask?

Every year, students and athletes alike dread the two-year physical education requirement. The two-mile runs, the fitness testing and the sweaty clothes guarantee countless complaints from students. But is this requirement really as awful as students think it is?
Despite the negative stigma surrounding P.E., the school requirement has improved quite dramatically over the past 20 years. In the early 2000s, Aragon’s school day only consisted of six periods, while students were required to take three years of P.E. There was also an athletic period where student-athletes could schedule their P.E. classes to be sixth period, but instead of going to P.E., they could practice with their team. These athletes could only bypass P.E. during their sport’s season.
However, according to Vice Principal Ron Berggren, the district board believed that students were taking advantage of the athletic period, and simply were not getting enough exercise.
“It’s one thing if you’re in a sport like basketball or football or track where you’re running all the time as opposed to a sport like badminton where you’re not running as much,” says Berggren. “There wasn’t equity in all of the sports.”
The San Mateo Union High School District Board came to a compromise and elimin1ated the athletic period while reducing the three-year requirement to a two-year requirement. The school day also added a seventh period to allow students to have a wider course selection range.
Aragon has tried to optimize the P.E. requirements for students to best promote physical health and allow for course selection freedom. Although students would love to bypass P.E. throughout all of high school, by state law, public schools are required to have 400 minutes of physical education per 10 school days, which is equivalent to 120 hours per school year.
Aragon encourages students to complete their physical education courses in their first two years on campus to free up course selection space for their junior and senior years.
Additionally, all students are required to take the two years of physical education regardless of whether or not they play a sport. However, eligible sophomores can replace P.E. with study hall on block days, although replacements can only be used during the season of their sport.
The primary focus of the physical education course is to promote routine exercise and physical health.
According to the California Department of Education (CDE), “Students who become skilled and knowledgeable in P.E. are more likely to become healthy adults who are motivated to remain healthy and physically active throughout their lives.” Through intensive P.E. programs like Aragon’s, students can learn ways to keep their bodies physically fit and healthy — something that may not necessarily be taught through sports alone. P.E. gives information to students about their physical well-being through fitness testing. Tests such as the mile run, pushups, and pullups are used to inform students on their health.
Although some students may not see a purpose in having to take P.E. for two years, the course actually has significant positive effects. According to the California Department of Education, inactivity is the leading cause of preventable death, counting over 300,000 annual deaths. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that heart disease accounts for over 600,000 deaths a year which is over 20,000 more than cancer and nearly 500,000 more than accidents. However, heart disease is easily preventable, as, according to Mayo Clinic, the main causes for heart disease include unhealthy diets, lack of exercise, and being overweight, all of which can be prevented by P.E. Therefore, the P.E. course attempts to teach and give students access to exercise practices that will benefit them for their whole lives.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services adds that, “Well-designed physical education curricula will promote a lifelong physically active lifestyle that can enhance longevity and quality of life, reduce cardiovascular disease, cancer, and contribute to mental and social well-being.”
According to the CDE Physical Education Standards, “Students develop proficient movement skills in each area of physical education; they expand their capabilities for independent learning.”
There’s no denying that taking physical education for two years may be inconvenient, unpopular, and simply tiring. But the district has made nearly every move to minimize the requirement while still promoting a healthier and happier lifestyle for all students.

Posted by William Tong

As a sophomore and on his second year on the Outlook, Will enjoys various activities including basketball, browsing YouTube videos, and completing AP Biology study guides. He has developed a passion for science, especially biology. At home, Will has a dog named Shiloh who probably loves food more than he loves Will.

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