The new, nicer PE

Although she comes from a dodgeball-loving family, Rachel Levy thinks it’s time to reinvent PE, she writes on All Things Education.

The new, nicer PE bans dodgeball, exercise as punishment and rewarding the most athletic students.

In are personal fitness plans, target heart-rate zones, and sports that play to different strengths and introduce students to activities that they can pursue across a lifetime. “Physically literate” and “lifelong movers” are buzzwords of the New PE.

Even for her athletic sons, who are starting middle school, the new approach makes sense, writes Levy. But will PE be pushed out by academics?

I hated dodgeball. I threatened to drop out of high school if required to walk on a balance beam. (My counselor, a former PE teacher, negotiated a compromise.)  I won the National Teachers of English contest (state of Illinois) with a biographical essay on my loathing for field hockey titled Confessions of a Physically Educated Woman.

Now I exercise every day for 45 to 90 minutes, combining weight training, walking, swimming and a weekly Zumba class. Why? Because I want to control my diabetes and stave off general decay.

About Joanne


  1. >>The more popular test now is a goal-based, back-and-forth shuttle run across the gym, and the kids who are the most fit tend to run more times — and be the last to finish.

    Maybe on test days.. The most fit wouldn’t keep this up the whole period for the whole unit if they have a varsity sports practice coming up after school, or they had just finished a run before school.

    I think its time for varsity athletes to get their exemption from the recreational gym class. Around here, the students don’t have to participate in a unit, they can choose to walk/jog/run a mile on the track instead. So anyone that wants to chat and is fit runs their mile and spends the rest of the period loafing.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      In what strange place do you live where athletes (varsity or otherwise) don’t get their sports counted as PE credits?

      That’s an awful policy.

    • Crimson Wife says:

      It burned me up that my high school allowed varsity athletes to get out of gym class but not students who competed in individual sports. I was a figure skater but was terrible at any sport involving handling a ball. I petitioned to get the PE exemption but was denied on the basis that it wasn’t a varsity sport.

  2. Stacy in NJ says:
    • Yes. I eat a low – carb diet. My blood sugar is so low since I lost weight that I may be able to get off one of my meds.

      • Stacy in NJ says:


      • Roger Sweeny says:

        Sorry to hear you have diabetes. My father had it and I’m desperately trying to keep from getting it. If you can go off one of your meds, woo hoo!

        • In my family, if you’re not diabetic, you’re adopted. Both parents, my brother and sister are/were Type 2. Maintaining a healthy weight helps though. I’m at zero additional risk for side effects — amputation, blindness, kidney failure — because I keep my blood sugar under control.

          My husband lost 62 pounds in the last six months on a low-carb, high-protein diet — with no added exercise. I lost 22 pounds through eating less and exercising more.

      • Joanne,

        Glad to hear you lost the weight with a low-carb diet. I managed to dump 80 pounds from September 2012 to December 2013 with a ton of walking, pushups, and weight-lifting (yes, I had to modify how I ate as well).

        I had to take metformin (blood sugar control) and meds for my blood pressure, but since i went from 245 and a 44 waist to 165 and a 31/32 (for you ladies on here, that’s about a size 22 to a size 10), I no longer take the stuff.

        I also don’t diet, but eat in moderation (though for lunch today I did have a pint of chocolate chunk ice cream) 🙂

  3. PE was just a way for failed college athletes to continue their bullying of the weaker and unathletic while scoping out the targets for their statutory rape hobby.

    What does it say about “education” where there is serious discussion about not requiring kids learn Algebra, but never ever should anyone speak against the organized humiliation of the awkward.

    There is a risk, a new, nicer PE may wipeout yet another common theme of those writing stories, television and movies about childhood…the trauma of gym class. It could be said our literature will be lessened by it.

    • GEORGE LARSON says:

      That was not my experience in high school. I graduated in 69. I was a band geek, a “bright” kid and definitely not athletic I had hostile teachers and students to deal with, but not the PE instructors/coaches.

    • Crimson Wife says:

      It wasn’t even that the person was necessarily unathletic but just bad at the sports played in PE. I was a competitive figure skater and the only gym unit I could stand was track in the spring. Hated any sport involving handling a ball with a passion, and unfortunately that was most of them.

  4. Unfortunately, in driving by my old high school here, the number of kids who are overweight or obese is shocking these days. Though when I was a kid, our parents wouldn’t let us sit in front of the TV all day long (long before internet and cell phones here folks), so we went out and played football, basketball, rode our bikes, swam, or what ever suited our need for exercise.

    Of course, our parents used to complain about the ginormous amounts of food we would eat, but then we were exercising a lot.

    We had P.E. required in 9th and 10th grade, and if you were in a team sport, or school sanctioned sport, you got a waiver from P.E., but these days I’d imagine almost anything goes.

  5. Ann in L.A. says:

    My favorite story about PE told of a school that had kids make up their own games and set their own rules. Once they had a game organized, they would show it to the other kids in their grade. If the grade liked it, they’d show it to the rest of the school. Some games would catch on, others wouldn’t.


    I know of a middle school here in L.A. with a small campus and very limited facilities. They do cross-fit style PE a couple days a week and games the other days.

  6. Michael E. Lopez says:

    There’s a tendency among a certain class of educated people to regard P.E. as a sort of tribulation, something seemingly useless that is put upon them in a cruel fashion.

    There’s probably some truth to that, because school is in many ways akin to prison in this country. That’s not to say that PE is balance neither good for you nor good policy … just that it may be experienced as awful, tedious, arbitrary, useless, or all of the above.

    But we should try to remember that that is EXACTLY how a great many students feel about algebra, or reading books, or learning history. We the educated instinctively recognize the benefit of such things, and oft hear such whining as ignorant, uninformed, immature, etc.

    But the mirror isn’t so far away.

    (For the record, I was generally a fan of PE, particularly insofar as it provided a chance to find out what I was and wasn’t good at. I did resent, though, how we were “graded” on our ability to do a layup, when some of us were doing it for the very first time in our lives and others had been doing it since they were 7. Still, to continue on the theme I started above, that’s probably how a lot of kids felt about being in a reading class with me.)

  7. I always thought P.E. was an easy “A”, since all you had to do was show up, dress out, and participate…:)