Stinking students

Many high schools no longer require students to shower after P.E. class, says the Christian Science Monitor. And many students would rather smell than strip and shower in front of their classmates.

We used to have P.E. every day. Girls complained about ruining their hair in the shower, but we had no choice. I do remember we had to bring our gym suits home once a week to wash them. I tended to forget to put it in the wash, so I’d iron it Monday morning before leaving for school. Gym teacher were impressed at the weekly inspection. I think too much locker room time destroys the sense of smell.

About Joanne


  1. How about banning P.E.? Talk about a waste of time and money.

  2. TMI

  3. PE could be a vital part of school, keeping kids healthy so they could better concentrate on their studies. Or, in the schools I went to, it can be a program of systematic humiliation of the physically weaker.

  4. Yeah…that’s right: Let’s get rid of PE and let the food nannys have a complete “field day” (pun intended) with our over-weight kids…. PE should be mandatory and aggressively delivered.

  5. That’s a bit contradictory: You complain about food nannies, but don’t see the problem with putting a public school in charge of how much exercise kids get?

  6. Are high schools still building “gang” showers? Considering every gym and health club in the country has prvate showers, I fail to see why high schools are still tyring to punish kids who want to be clean. Me, I never took a shower–not with our stereotypical lesbian PE teacher peering at us.

  7. I wish there was gym at work. Sitting still for more than four hours make me want to kill someone.

  8. I’m also surprised that schools still have gang showers. My health club has private shower stalls with curtains.

    But I remember too well the days in school of showering en masse with my female classmates. The nudity didn’t really bother me. It was the fact that soap and shampoo were not provided, so we had to come up with some way to transport and store our own if we wanted it. Towels were also our responsibility. Cold water was the norm since waiting for it to warm up took up valuable time, as we were only given 10 minutes from bell to bell. I was always late to class after PE.

    Being naked in front of my peers was the least of the annoyances.

  9. My son couldn’t take a shower in junior high–the boilers to heat the water had broken and were never repaired. In high school PE was required for only two of the four years. I went to the same schools and it was five days a week every year and showers were mandatory most of the time (and the water was hot).

  10. jeff wright says:

    I was usually on sports teams—practicing late day—and didn’t have regular PE classes. Always had gang showers—turned out to be good training for the Army—and the water, as I recall, was always hot.

    I’ve subbed as a PE teacher a few times in the past couple of years here in San Jose. No showers. But, then, most kids don’t work hard enough to really work up a sweat. And boy, are a lot of them overweight and out of shape. Start with simple calisthenics and then do a run of about a quarter-mile, followed by a half-hearted basketball or soccer game. Most stand around, a few really get into it.

    Nothing like seeing a bunch of 12 and 13-year-olds flopping around like beached whales, gasping for breath. The kids who are in shape run rings around them. You’d think getting their asses kicked would perhaps drive some of them into getting in shape. Nope. No shame. No anger. Just placid acceptance. Also, not much mocking from the in-shape kids. Times have changed.

    I sometimes wonder why we hang on to PE. 3-4 hours per week isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference with these kids. The ones who are in shape aren’t getting it at school and the ones who aren’t don’t benefit from the PE class.

  11. An hour of running around doesn’t make you stink if you take a daily shower at home. I don’t remember many in my high school taking showers. I don’t remember any of the teachers or the students caring very much.

    I agree with the sentiments of abolishing PE. As a slower growing kid, I was always getting pummeled by much bigger people, even though as an adult I was among the best runners and physical performers in the Marine Corps.

    I have little sympathy for fat children, but I do wish we didn’t have public schools so that parents could have more control over how schools are run. Those that want fat children can send their fat children to schools without PE. Those who like their children to exercise can have more influence on the school to prevent bullies from terrorizing their classmates.

    It amazes me that some people are still bullies, as shown here, who think humiliating students is good.

  12. Anonymous says:

    > It amazes me that some people are still bullies, as shown here, who think humiliating students is good.

    Hold on. I think you’re pointing that one at me. No. I was just addressing the way things were—as you did. Nowhere in my post did I suggest that bullying was in any way desirable. Human nature being what it is, I was observing that times have changed.

    And by the way, getting one’s ass kicked in sports is not being bullied. It’s getting beat—usually a pretty good motivator for human beings to want to get better. Or is competition now on the proscribed list?

  13. jeff wright says:

    The above post is mine.

  14. I would increase the amount of PE time. But I think I should put in a plea for disposable gym suits (a new suit every couple of days!). I had the same little problem that you did……I think my mother finally burned my gym suit when I graduated.

  15. I never had to take a shower in PE in junior high or high school, I think I regret it now. A) I never exercised as much as I should have because I didn’t want to get dirty. B) I still got smelly, and this may have affected my social status. C) It felt weird to join the Army and shower in the “gang” showers (as others have labeled them).

  16. Jeff, it’s only an incentive to get better if there is some chance of getting better enough to win now and then. I was very clumsy, weak, and tiny (about the height of kids a grade behind, and extremely lightweight) through school. I did keep growing several years longer than most kids, so I got to almost medium height (5’9) about 21. The clumsiness was likely psychological (at least, I grew out of it in my 20’s somehow, and I can catch fles in mid-air now), but gym teachers weren’t trained in how to handle that. I might have been good at dodge-ball if I could have learned to throw straight (disappearing when you turn sideways is an advantage there), but as it was the best I could do was to draw fire and see that my teammates who could throw got the rebound. I might just possibly have been decent at short to medium distance running (no bully ever caught me if I got a couple foot headstart), but the coaches weren’t interested in training me – I could have been good, but not likely good enough to collect points in track competition between the schools.

    One thing I’ll emphasize: exercise did not build muscles on me. (I grew up on a farm – exercise in the occasional gym class was nothing compared to the regular chores.) My weight seemed to be metabolically fixed very low (65 pounds in 6th grade, 120 pounds from 18 to 30). Eating more just gave me an upset stomach – extra food didn’t digest. A lot of exercise could turn the last 16th inch of fat into muscle, but the overall effect was that then I’d have no reserves at all, so any effort would leave me exhausted. I don’t know what was going on then – one doctor in the Air Force put me through massive testing and never figured it out. At thirty my metabolism shifted, my waist line grew rapidly, and with a little work on the Nautilus machines I soon outgrew the shoulders on my shirts too. At 50 I’m still fighting the waistline, but most of the heat for the house this winter comes from wood I split, stacked, and carried in…

    It sounds like now the kids just accept that there are jocks and geeks, and the geeks aren’t going to do anything physical. I doubt most of them are extreme cases like me, and they would generally benefit from being pushed into some sort of exercise. But none of the guys that ran my gym classes would know how to accomplish this. Trying to get fat geeks into competition won’t do it – they know they aren’t going to win in physical competition, and so they stick to the computer screens where they can win. And humiliating them (which the old time gym teachers knew quite well), well it just humiliates them. They figure they’ll get their revenge later, when they can hire the former jocks to wash their Beamers.

  17. Here’s a thought. If the high schools removed all of the junk machines (candy, coke, you name it….) and got back to some more nutritional meals, I doubt we would have to worry as much about P.E. My daughter dropped two pants sizes after being homeschooled for one month. She can get her exercise walking the dog and they’ll both be happier…

    Mom in GA

  18. I wouldn’t have minded PE if I had been allowed to take exercise classes instead of being forced to play games I thought were a) boring and stupid, b) I wasn’t good at anyway, and c) were often pitiful dumbed-down versions of boys’ games anyway — things like “tag football” (no tackling or anything gross like that, you wore a vest and had to grab a “tag” from them instead). Playing a game I wasn’t good at meant, for me, standing on the sidelines in the hot sun for forty-five minutes every weekday. Then in high school I thought I had my chance: we were given the choice between exercise and gymnastics. What I didn’t know was that the teacher could veto your choice. Since I was skinny she decided I’d be better at gymnastics. Well, I was also flabby (standing around in hot sun does not build very many muscles), and had a dreadful sense of balance as well as fear of heights. As usual, I scraped through PE with a barely-passing grade.

  19. jeff wright says:

    Mark, it seems as if you were one of the classic late-developers physically, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. However, a lot of world-class cross-country and track folks came from those kind of roots. I think you were ill-served by your gym teachers (unfortunately, sometimes a thuggish lot), whose charter is to develop ALL kids to their best potential.

    I want to correct you on one thing. When I discussed fat and out-of-shape kids, I wasn’t referring to “geeks,” those with good minds who might go to MIT and later have the jocks washing their BMWs. There aren’t just jocks and geeks these days. There are jocks and geeks and then there are TV-addicted, french fry-eating, dirty, rude, obnoxious slobs who are lucky to get Cs and Ds in school and who can’t spell “university,” much less think of going to one. Way too many of them. They’ll be washing the BMWs, too. That’s who I was talking about.

  20. Mandatory post-PE showers are nonsense. There are too many factors against. First are facilities and equipment. Then there is time (more time for showers means less time for exercise). Then there are personal issues. I never smelled much after PE in high school, but others would stink before they got to school.

    And the big reason showers are optional is that no teacher in his or her right mind would insist that students undress under supervision. And they wouldn’t want to do so without supervision either, as that would lead to another series of issues.

    And I hope I don’t need to mention digital cameras the size of wirstwatches (and no, banning them won’t work once humiliation and/or big money collide). Or sexually-oppressive atmospheres (big lawsuit money if the schools don’t enforce their own rules). Or a number of other factors that make “voluntary” the magic word that avoids far more administrative problems than any other policy would.

  21. Mom in GA — I’ve been criticized for the same opinion — we need to get the junk food out of the cafeteria. I’ve seen kids eat a donut for breakfast, chips and 16 oz. soda for snack, pizza for lunch, and a candy bar or cookies and another 16 oz. soda later in the afternoon. It’s disgusting.

  22. Some of the gym clothing we used was ‘disposable’.

    We wore these thin, cheap swim trunks under our sports shorts. Nobody washed them — after one use, we ripped them off and tossed them. Much more pleasant to use a new pair each time.

    We also ripped and tossed T-shirts if they were too sweaty to want to wear again.

    Many of us used cheap sweatsocks. We’d buy a pack of a dozen pairs, put on a new pair, and at the end of the class we chucked them in the bin.

  23. Do Teenagers still Shower in Schools Now? I Think it is a Thing of The Past but Someone I Know Told me some Schools Do.