Head-to-Head: Physical education should be optional for all students

Feb. 16, 2024

By Esteban Ramirez
Staff Writer

Physical education class is required by New Jersey law, but that has not stopped students from putting in little effort, sitting out of activities or skipping the class.

A survey conducted by Iowa State University asked respondents to recount their time in gym class, and those who did not enjoy it said they dislike exercising and were not planning to exercise in the upcoming days. Some felt embarrassed when being chosen last for teams, and some were bullied and insulted by their peers.    

Students should not have to endure these negative experiences that could deter them from embracing exercise in the future.

Students unwilling to participate in P.E. should be allowed to opt out.

Even athletes would benefit if gym class were no longer required. Since high school sports teams generally practice for several hours at least five days a week, there is no need for them to have further physical activity. In fact, participating in gym class could cause an athlete to risk sustaining an injury that might hinder their ability to take part in their sport. 

Furthermore, mandatory P.E. can be dangerous. According to a study released by the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, over 60,000 students in the United States get hurt each year during gym class

Students unwilling to participate in P.E. should be allowed to opt out. They could use that time to have a study hall to work on other assignments or take another course. This alternative course could even be a full year health class that could teach students about healthy habits and address the importance of having an active lifestyle outside of school. 

Physical activity has proven to be beneficial for students’ concentration and motivation. It also prevents obesity and health risks like breathing issues and heart problems. However, making it a mandatory class is problematic.

No student should be forced to take a class they dislike for the entirety of their K-12 education. If the New Jersey Department of Education made P.E. optional, it would empower students with more freedom in their schedules and enhance their overall academic experiences.

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