Open letter to the P.E. department

At Harvard-Westlake (HW), students may only earn physical education (P.E.) credit by participating in a school involved activity or by taking P.E. Thus, the students who participate in a sport outside of school won’t get P.E. credit needed in order to graduate. While mandatory gym class can improve physical fitness, the negatives significantly outweigh the benefits. Because many students at HW already participate in sports that require rigorous physical activity, it is illogical for these students to take an additional P.E. class. Out of 58 responses from different 9th graders, only two believe that the P.E. department’s current structure is fair.

“Sports outside of school are generally more rigorous than P.E. and actually garner more exercise for the student than P.E. Therefore, P.E. just becomes redundant and needless, as well as subtracting from student’s free time,” Everett Tolbert-Schwartz ’22 said.

Many other students also agree with Tolbert-Schwartz about the current structure of receiving P.E. credit.

“P.E. does not help students participating sports outside of school, as most of the time, P.E. is much less physically taxing than their sport,” Jack Hartmeier ‘22, who rows for 16.5 hours per week, says.

However, many coaches believe differently and compare P.E. with academic classes. “Kids cannot earn credit for math, history or English through outside means,” says Robert Ruiz, P.E. department chair.

The difference between academics and P.E. is that academic classes are structured to teach students new concepts. Many students feel that P.E. is much less lenient than their own sports that they pursue outside of school. They, instead, find much more interest in pursuing in what they find enjoyable and challenging. While academic classes are structured to try to increase students’ interests in that field, P.E. almost feels like a burden to many students who could spend the time on other interests.

Not only are gym classes unnecessary, they also limit student’s free time. The majority of students do not get enough sleep in high school.

According to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the average amount of sleep that teenagers get is between 7 and 7.25 hours. However, they need between 9 and 9.5 hours (studies show that most teenagers need exactly 9.25 hours of sleep). According to the 58 survey responders, only 7 believe they sleep for an adequate number of hours. Student’s participation in extracurricular sports contributes to this problem.

“By forcing students who already get exercise to spend more of their time at school unable to do their homework, the school makes it harder for students to get sleep. The school also prevents students from taking more classes by enforcing P.E. on those who are bad at sports and cannot make sports teams,” an anonymous survey responder said.

Students who play extracurricular sports dedicate at least two hours after school to practice, games, and more. Unnecessary time spent in P.E. could easily be used by students to study and thus get more time sleep.

“I struggle to get eight hours of sleep a night, and if I could use the extra [time spent during P.E.] for homework, I could translate that time at night for sleep,” Hartmeier says.

Although Ruiz claims that HW students have multiple ways of getting P.E. credit, such as HWTV and drumline, these activities also waste time and do not improve physical fitness in any way. The alternative way to encourage students to do more sports and have more free time to do so is to count the hours students do out of school.

Many private schools, such as Marlborough and Loyola, have adopted a system that includes extracurricular sports into students’ P.E. credit. It is time that HW follow their lead. To reduce stress but also promote physical activity, HW should adopt a new system that includes extracurricular sports into people’s P.E. credit.

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