MHS P.E. Program Must Be Improved

The White House blog proudly proclaims that First Lady Michelle Obama has taken on the challenge of combating the childhood obesity crisis in America. She has good timing. Right now, about two-thirds of adults and about one-third of children in the U.S. are overweight. On Feb. 10, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the government currently “spends $150 billion every year treating obesity-related diseases, most of which are preventable.”

Solving obesity problems and reducing the amount of money spent on treating preventable, obesity-related diseases is more important now than ever. One easy way to do this would be to improve physical education programs in American schools, because these programs are not nearly as effective as they could be.

If one doubts the ineffectiveness of the physical education system, one need look no further than the P.E. program at Miramonte to be convinced otherwise. Although obesity is not a problem at Miramonte, Miramonte’s physical education program is based upon many of the same standards as are most other schools’ P.E. programs nationwide. Improving the P.E. program here at Miramonte would be a good first step in this community towards combating the national epidemic.

Most students at Miramonte agree that the P.E. program here could be improved. When asked how he would rank the P.E. program, one anonymous junior sarcastically said, “on a scale of one to 10, a negative six.”

The primary reason for the program’s ineffectiveness is the attitude with which students approach P.E.

“Generally, people think [P.E.] is a waste of time,” said the same junior boy. “It definitely took away from the time I could have spent doing schoolwork.”

“I think people don’t go to P.E. to get exercise,” said junior Talia Citron. “It’s a time people use to take a break.”

“It’s known as a joke,” junior Haley Cassriel said of the program.

The bottom line is that it is silly to force a group of unenthusiastic students to play highly athletic, complicated sports like football or soccer. For those who do not know the rules of these games, or are just not very good at them, it is frustrating to play with those who do. The reverse is also true; those who play these sports outside of school would rather not play with students who do not. Thus, the overall dynamic of P.E., which could potentially be fun, is stressful and frustrating. Because of this, many students choose not to participate.

Many of the sports played in P.E. are counterproductive to certain sports and other athletic activities students participate in extracurricularly. For instance, running, a common activity in P.E. classes, is unhealthy for dancers.

Professional choreographer and contemporary dance teacher Lynn Brilhante explained that while dancing lengthens and stretches certain muscles, running causes those same muscles to clench and tighten up.

“Running isn’t great because it’s high impact on the hips, knees, and ankles,” she added. “Even though we jump, it’s not [putting] constant pressure on the joints.”

Junior Rain Sullivan explained that swimming is bad for gymnasts.

“If we have a competition, then my coach does not want us to be swimming or floating in the water for 24 hours [prior],” said Sullivan.

“The weight of your body is different in water and it weakens your core muscles [and affects] your center of balance.”

Not only are running and swimming incompatible with other sports and activities, they can also negatively impact students’ GPAs. Running tenses muscles in the shoulders and can give people headaches. If a student has just run the mile, this side-effect of running could be devastating to the grade they will earn on a test or essay they have to take the next period.

A common phrase repeated by P.E. teachers during swimming units is “You have to get your hair wet for credit!” To those of us with long hair, this is extremely unfair. Girls (and guys) with long hair should not be dismissed as vain, as we almost always are, for not wanting to get our hair wet—having wet hair for other classes is uncomfortable and inconvenient. Looks aside, it is disruptive to the academic classes students might have after P.E. if half the class is shivering and wringing out their hair, creating a giant puddle on the tile floor. Answers on tests have undoubtedly been smudged beyond recognition by a water drop from the pony tail of the test taker.

The only way to fix this situation would be to separate the P.E. program into several different classes, each one focused on a specific set of related sports and activities, and make taking two years of these sports electives a graduating requirement.

For example, there could be a “Water Sports” class for students who enjoy swimming, a “Dance and Yoga” class, a class for hand-eye coordination sports such as tennis and volleyball, a class focused on running, and a class focused on sports such as basketball and football.

If students were able to choose the sports they play in P.E., more students would participate, which would result in a huge increase in student enthusiasm, which, in turn, would result in an exponential increase in the effectiveness of these classes. This would also allow students to practice for their extracurricular sports during school and would result, overall, in happier, healthier students.