Requiring more P.E. time for D.C. students is a bad idea from good people, writes Jay Mathews on Class Struggle.
D.C. council member Mary M. Cheh and Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray worry that “18 percent of D.C. high school students are obese, 70 percent fail to meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended levels of physical activity and 84 percent do not attend physical education classes daily.” Their Healthy Schools Act would require schools to buy “fresh produce from local growners,” which is bound to raise costs, and require 150 minutes of PE per week for K-5 students and 225 minutes for middle schoolers.
. . . the D.C. schools need to do a better job using the limited time they have, about six and a half hours a day, to address students’ weaknesses in reading, writing, math, science and social studies.
If Cheh were saying we should add an hour to the school day of every child, and use half of that new time for more exercise, I would cheer. Many of the city’s most successful public schools are charters that have used their independence from district rules to give children eight or nine hours of learning each day.
The proposed law requires all schools, including charters, to devote more time to P.E. (and more money to lunch), regardless of whether the principal thinks that’s the best use of time and money.
When I was a high school student in Illinois, daily P.E. was required for all four years. The P.E. teachers had lobbied the state Legislature for the mandate. Only three years of English was required for graduation. I won state honors in the National Council of Teachers of English contest for a personal essay, “Confessions of a Physically Educated Woman,” on my loathing for field hockey. Which was required.