PHOTO CREDIT: Alan Kotok via Wikimedia Commons
By Sophie Vu and Celeste Willey
Physical education (PE) is a required course at most schools. However, Summit Tahoma, a public charter school, does not offer PE as a class.
To keep up with students’ health and to combat rising obesity rates, many American schools make PE a priority. According to the website, Public School Review, “…Physical education classes help children develop fine and gross motor skills, learn cooperation and teamwork, reduce stress, and improve self-confidence and self-esteem.”
On the other hand, there have been some cases where people have argued that PE is not as effective as it could be. In a study conducted by Cornell University (mentioned in the article above), 37,000 high school students shared that they did not believe PE was effective.
Furthermore, some also consider the class a waste of time as well. In an MSNBC investigation, researchers discovered the average high school PE class kept students physically active for approximately 16 minutes of the 45 that the class takes place. This has led some districts to cut out the course altogether because “wasting all that time doing nothing in PE is something districts cannot afford” (Public School Review).
Why Doesn’t Tahoma Have PE?
In an interview with Tahoma Assistant Director Megan Toyama, the exact reasons why Tahoma does not have PE were revealed: “When Tahoma was founded, we made a decision to prioritize classes that are aligned with college admissions requirements.” PE is not a requirement to get into colleges, leading the founders of Tahoma to remove it from the course list, allowing them to focus their limited resources on more college-related classes.
Ms. Toyama thought that Tahoma could compensate students’ exercise with other opportunities like sports or physical activity-based classes. Tahoma sports teams include soccer, basketball, volleyball, cross country, track and field as well as Expeditions. Expeditions are fun two-week long classes that occur every two months. Different Expeditions like Local Wilderness give students a chance to be more active.
What do other schools’ PE classes look like?
In the Bay Area, one school that does have PE is Branham high school. However, Branham freshman Gyuri Kim shared that she thought her school’s current program was lacking: “Every class only gets some units randomly, and we don’t really learn much about why exercise is important or how to have a healthy lifestyle as an adult.”
Kim is not the only Branham student who feels that way. “Most students hate PE.” she said. “The only part of PE I enjoy is being able to talk to friends…[but] I don’t think PE should have as big of an emphasis because other classes are more beneficial and most people are more interested in other classes. Also, other classes are more helpful towards college.”
What do Tahoma students think?
As the saying goes, people always want what they don’t have. Tahoma freshman Jeryah Machado shared, “I think PE would benefit me as during the day I get tired of sitting on my butt… every day for 8 hours…I think that getting some activity in and learning some new sports is definitely a good thing.”
Other Tahoma students share Jeryah’s opinions as well. “I like that we don’t [have PE] but at the same time, it’s hard because we don’t have any exercise,” Tahoma sophomore Lupe Castaneda added. “I think it would be [beneficial] because not having any exercise can impact our health.”
However, Tahoma junior Franky Chardos does not mind the absence of PE at Tahoma. “Not having PE does not cause any significant downsides at Summit…It would not benefit me.” Chardos said he personally enjoyed PE but also understood the importance of core classes and felt satisfied with Summit’s decision to remove PE from the school.
If Tahoma had PE how would that work?
Core-class time is considered very valuable, and if PE was a class it would have to be outside of core-class time. “I suppose it would be incorporated into Expeditions.” Ms. Toyama said when asked how PE could be included in Tahoma’s schedule.
Chardos, however, believes that PE wouldn’t work in Expeditions. “PE is meant for consistent exercise to keep students in shape throughout the year, and placing the entire thing during a two-week block defeats that purpose.” PE serves as a class for students to maintain their physical health and activity. By only having PE every two months, this purpose is defeated.
Is Tahoma eventually going to have PE?
When asked about whether or not Tahoma will have PE in the future Ms. Toyama said, “I’m not sure if we will have PE, but I think we’ll continue to have more opportunities for students to learn about how to have a healthy lifestyle and be active.”
At the end of the day, it is important that students enjoy and make the most of their time at Tahoma. Machado, Castaneda and Chardos all agreed that they still considered Tahoma a great school even without a class like PE.
As Chardos said, “I think PE is important, but it is more important to teach students healthy habits, how to exercise and ensure that they all know how to stay in good shape, for their own health, and benefit.”
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