Whatever Happened to Gym Class?.
PE Under Siege
All over the country, teachers like Latham are introducing
innovations which are virtually reinventing physical education, while many
school administrators and public officials have all but declared war on PE.
Fitness classes are disappearing from the nation's public schools at an
alarming rate, done in by ever-tightening budgets and time constraints.
Only about half of students in grades K-12 have physical
education classes every day, and only 29% of high school students do. And one
in four kids have no PE during their school day at all, according to figures
from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), the
nation's largest professional organization for physical education teachers. In
a report released last year, NASPE found that the vast majority of high school
students have physical education for only one year between 9th and 12th
"There are just so many more academic demands on high
school students than there used to be," NASPE executive director Judy
Young, PhD, tells WebMD. "Many kids are trying to get in computer science,
extra math, foreign language classes, any number of things, and there are still
only six hours in a school day."
Young says it is no accident that kids in the U.S. are getting
fatter as physical education classes are being cut. The CDC has declared
obesity an epidemic among children, and obesity-related diseases once seen
almost exclusively in adults, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, are
increasingly being diagnosed in adolescents.
Last fall, the Atlanta School Board did away with physical
education requirements for its schools in order to implement state-mandated
academic reforms. A school-board member was quoted as saying the action was
taken because kids in school need to be doing more serious things than
"That is ridiculous to me, but, unfortunately there are a
lot of people sitting on school boards who just don't get it," says Anne
Flannery of the physical education advocacy group P.E.4Life. "These days,
anything that isn't tested isn't valued, and schools are feeling the pressure
to do away with programs that can't be measured on a standardized test. But
there is a growing body of research that shows physical exercise to be sort of
a Miracle-Gro for the brain. Movement fosters brain development and growth, and
physical activity prepares children to learn."