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Tennessee to Make Gym Class Mandatory Five Days A Week

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CNN has the news that Tennessee is going to make gym mandatory five days per week for its public school students. They’re doing it, they say, to address the rampant obesity among even the youngest students.

I have a simpler solution. It’s called RECESS. How about schools reinstate THAT instead of creating yet another bureaucratic, red tape machine that, in this case, doesn’t really do students any more good than letting them play outside for 30 or 40 minutes a day?

And it wouldn’t hurt if schools stopped selling nutritionally horrid lunches, either. In my local elementary school, pizza is available every day. That means a kid who’s on a subsidized lunch plan or whose parents send her to school with lunch money every day can eat pizza five days a week. And nobody cares.

So first schools do away with recess entirely or reduce it to a meaninglessly short period of time, like ten minutes, then they pile up the lunch menu with calorie- and fat-laden foods, and then they wonder why the kids are gaining too much weight. Naturally, their solution is to make yet another “standard” that has to be tracked and reported for each child and that requires hiring additional teachers, rather than just letting the kids run around on the playground every day.

According to the article, in one school the morning gym activity is to jump rope for 30 minutes. I realize that jumping rope is good exercise. But 30 minutes for ten-year-olds? Unless the teacher lets the kids play jump rope together and have fun with it, you can basically put another notch in the usually-fun-activities-that-school-sucked-the-ever-loving-life-out-of bedpost.

The people in Tennessee seem perplexed that they have to make gym mandatory in order for schools to offer PE classes to their students. Well, duh. Schools are being measured by only one criterion — yearly performance on standardized tests. They have cut out damn near everything that doesn’t directly map to those tests. In Tennessee and across the US, the over-emphasis on standards and high stakes testing has shut down PE classes and recess and art and music and all sorts of other school activities because those things don’t show up as questions on a state mandated test.

From the article:

“In Franklin, they are consistently at the top of the state in standardized testing,” Winborn said. “We hoped other school systems would see the light and follow suit, but it appears the only way to have a daily physical education is to mandate it.”

Yes, it does appear that way, doesn’t it? Sorry if people don’t naturally see the correlation between increased PE classes and improved test scores. That’s because they’ve been having it pounded into their heads for years that students need more time on “the basics,” of which physical health and conditioning is not a part. It’s going to take more than a correlation in ONE school district between increased PE classes and higher test scores to make believers out of most people.

That said, kids need more wiggle time at school, so I’m in favor of any increased physical activity, even if it’s highly structured gym time.

More recess would be better, though.

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About Lori Mortimer

  • I think this is a good thing. This has been in effect in Illinois for as long as I can remember. I had five days of P.E. even in high school (although Health and Drivers Ed replaced it for a semester each during my four years). I agree with you that it doesn’t necessarily have to be so structured. I can’t imagine being 10 and jumping rope for 30 minutes. I’d rather play baseball, kickball, basketball, volleyball…something.