There has long been a consensus of sorts among schoolchildren: gym fucking sucks. Unless you are very good at sports or perhaps a young masochist, gym is just another opportunity to feel shitty, when you are a tween and already feel shitty all the time. And now, data agrees!
The Atlantic reported this week on a working paper out of Texas that dug into the state’s new Fitness Now initiative requiring students to go to gym class every single day. If someone had tried to make me do this in middle school, I would 100 percent have faked Ebola for the entire semester. It appears many current students felt similarly, since the working paper found the daily P.E. requirement correlated with an uptick in truancy and disciplinary actions. Essentially, kids hated gym class so much they’d rather skip school altogether, in part because gym class is a breeding ground for bullies:
As for why this particular P.E. program was counterproductive, Analisa Packham, an economics professor at Miami University in Ohio who co-authored the study, points to bullying as one potential reason. Students are more likely to be bullied in middle school than at any other point in their academic careers, and P.E. presents a particularly ripe opportunity for abuse, whether because the class forces them to use a locker room, where adult supervision is limited, or because it facilitates the teasing of overweight or unathletic kids.
The Atlantic points out that P.E. has been contentious for some time, in part because schools tend to cut funding for gym class to make room for academic programs. The funding that still exists focuses on boring shit like dribbling a basketball, which, in my repressed memories, is very unpleasant when you are not actually good at dribbling a basketball.
There’s more interesting stuff in the piece—that a lot of the physical activity in P.E. curriculums is inadequate anyway, for instance; that students do better academically when they’re given multiple opportunities during the day to be active, like going on short runs in the morning or getting to have recess; and that students like gym better when P.E. instructors don’t spend all their time making them feel bad for having difficulty doing strenuous physical activity.
But the real takeaway here is: gym sucks. Don’t make kids do it. Let them go outside and gossip about one another for two hours instead.