Scientifically Blonde | Not your elementary school gym class
The well-rounded curriculum must include physical education classes
March 17, 2011, 4:56 am · Updated March 17, 2011, 12:00 am·
I have no idea why — although it probably had something to do with me being a stubborn, lazy child — but in elementary school I just hated gym class. I would fake obscure illness and injuries, intentionally forget my gym clothes or volunteer for just about any awful task in order to get out of an hour of running around.
Now, I would kill for a weekly hour set aside for playing games with friends. My eight-year-old self would never believe I’d ever be saying this, but I want gym class back.
Over recent years, a bunch of universities have been fizzling out or eliminating physical education from their curricula. Today, Penn is among the majority of colleges that don’t offer physical education courses.
And I’m sure that there’s a ton of you out there who wholeheartedly support Penn’s decision to leave physical health and education out of the curriculum. For one, physical education might seem like — and pardon my French — a little bit of a bullshit requirement for an rigorous Ivy League school. For another, I’m sure that many of you still hate physical education just about as much as I used to.
But it seems to me that Penn is depreciating the important area of physical education. I not only think that Penn should offer physical education classes, but I’m also going so far as to say that physical education should be mandatory — just like our other college requirements.
There are many obvious benefits of increasing physical activity and education (think along the lines of combating obesity and helping students cope with the crippling stress of Penn). But my argument here focuses more on the principle of it all.
Here’s the thing — Penn already makes us take these required courses that we don’t particularly want to take on the principle that it will make us “develop some general skills or approaches to knowledge” that will help us “to engage … in a variety of fields,” according to the website of the College of Arts and Sciences. Well then, on that principle, I don’t think that it’s at all valid to leave out physical health education from the diverse curriculum.
Is it that the field of physical education isn’t prestigious enough to be among the same ranks of study as, let’s say, History and Traditions? I know that physical education (which reads to many as “gym class”) may seem like a total waste of time to students dedicated to their already overfilled academic schedules, but if we really are striving for a liberal arts education, then we’re lapsing over a critical area of knowledge.
But then again, I’ve got to mention that when it comes down to it I’m a practical person. Although I’m put off by the lack of attention that Penn officially gives to physical health education, implementing another mandatory requirement runs the risk of being an inefficient waste of time.
College senior Kaitlin Campbell was surprised to hear that any colleges offer gym class-like courses for credit (our buddies at Cornell University are required to take two mandatory semesters of physical education). She said that she supported the idea of increasing physical activity and education through the school, and as an athlete, she has first hand experience of the benefit of structured physical activity. She suggested “starting off with optional Phys. Ed. electives, and make it a requirement if it works out.”
Not a bad idea.
Why not introduce some physical education elective courses for credit for those who want to take them? Yes, it will improve physical health, but more importantly, adequate knowledge of physical health is key to the well-rounded skills and knowledge base that Penn is trying to instill.
Sally Engelhart is a College junior from Toronto. Her e-mail address is engelhart@theDP.com. Scientifically Blonde appears every other Thursday.