Current high school students are becoming fatter, slower, and less
motivated than past students. Many of these young people would prefer to be sitting passively in front of the television rather than to do something physically active. Most high school students believe they do not have sufficient time, opportunity or guidance to participate in physical activities. The ideal place in which students would be able to find adequate time, opportunity and guidance are in the high schools themselves. Politicians and educators responsible for the mandatory physical education program at the junior high school levels (grades
eight to ten) should be applauded for this, but frowned upon for not enforcing it on senior high school students (grades 11 and 12). Physical Education is defined as "the process of education that develops the human body, specifically fitness and movement skills" (Baker, 1990, p. 14). This teaches students valuable skills that would be applicable to life, present and future. Students also learn how to work and interact with others to pursue goals in a way which academic subjects, such as mathematics and science, may not provide. Physical Education should be a requirement for all British Columbia high school students because it provides physical skills necessary for effective social functioning, offers educational value and teaches healthy habits reducing health risks.
Opposition of mandatory Physical Education in high schools believe that if a student has not developed a desire for voluntary physical exercise by the time he or she reaches high school , he or she may not ever (Eberhardt). It is true that individuals should not be forced into something they don't want to participate in, but if these students don't get any exercise outside of school, where will they receive an appropriate amount of fitness? Paul Eberhardt, athletic director, intramural director and head coach of the McNair Marlins basketball team in Richmond, B.C., believes "that students don't care about participating in P.E. anymore and we have to educate students on the benefits of Physical Education". In the 1994-1995 school year there were 1,133 students enrolled at McNair High School but there were only four P.E. classes available, which meant approximately 120 students attended in these classes. The remaining 1013 grade eleven and twelve students had no Physical Education at all. This is an astonishing figure. "Many students participate in sports and recreation activities outside of school, but most of them get hardly any exercise at all. There needs to be a place where students can get some sort of exercise and physical activity" (Eberhardt). School is the ideal place to implement such physical activities because most have the proper facilities and equipment necessary to accommodate the students and the activities involved. If P.E. is not made a mandatory subject then many students will not gain the benefits a decent program can provide.
The same opponents who are opposed to Physical Education being compulsory in high schools believe that a well-equipped and well-organized intramural program made available to students it would replace the need to have P.E. in schools. The problem with the lack of students participating is, again, apparent. McNair's athletic department offered basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, and floor hockey, but all, with the exception of basketball, had to be cancelled because of the lack of participants. Eventually basketball also had to be cancelled as players stopped attending during the season. The question that arises then is, were these sports offered as full-credit courses? The answer is no. It would seem that the government would rather invest their funds on other areas and emphasize the importance of academic subjects. Academics are vital but so is physical education, a healthy body contributes to a healthy mind.
Physical Education must become mandatory!
P.E. provides physical activity skills that are necessary for social function. It teaches valuable skills such as communication and interaction with peers. If these skills are not learned at a young age then it is the responsibility of high schools to teach how to develop and apply these skills. Communication skills are essential in many aspects of life because it may be the determining factor in a job interview or just in casual conversation with a friend. "If students are not taught social skills they often become self- conscious and shy in social s" (Hartmann, 1982, p.22). If play skills are not developed early then they will are usually not developed at all. This could be a factor which effects social behavior of teenagers and could contribute to delinquency, social and family problems. Students with these problems usually lack social skills which serve as being part of group s. Symptoms of this may be visible nervousness and general lack of confidence during conversations with others. More importantly, physical activity allows students the opportunity to relieve stress and enjoy themselves.
Physical education provides a combination of physical, intellectual and social challenges that other subjects such as physics may not provide. Although the physical aspect is the most dominant, it is not necessarily the most important. Sports such as basketball, volleyball and hockey help in developing and refining gross motor skills and improve coordination. Muscular strength and endurance are also enhanced, while flexibility is also improved through the participation of sports. As you may already know, sport is not just composed of physical skills, but also knowledge of the game and mental sharpness. A well- rounded player possesses the ability to make quick, intelligent decisions during a game; this could be the difference between an average and good player although their physical skills may be equal. What is unique about physical education is that the interaction among students and instructors is generally higher than other subjects while the atmosphere is usually more lively. This higher interaction rate can lead to friendships and acquaintances that would not have been possible in other classes; this is a part of social development. A student can learn best in an environment that is enjoyable, yet educationally productive.
The benefits of Physical Education on the health of young people are substantial. The knowledge gained and healthy lifestyles adopted from a good program is an important part in preventing hypokinetic diseases and improving the quality of life. A lack of sufficient physical activity results in poor physical fitness that could develop into conditions such as heart disease, lower back pain, diabetes and obesity. The main objective of P.E. is to achieve physical wellness and prevent these hypokinetic diseases. "Wellness" is a measure of physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual health. In order to achieve "˜wellness', students must combine their academic studies with a physical regimen that meets their needs. Not only will students feel healthier; they will look healthier as a result of proper diet and exercise. Exercise is the main factor in the growth of muscles and reduction of fat in the human body. There are currently many overweight or over fat adults whom are unmotivated or are unable to lose weight. It is the job of educators and political leaders in British Columbia to make physical fitness a priority at an early age to educate young people the importance of wellness. The ideal place to educate them would be in high school; otherwise they may have little health knowledge as adults. According to statistics in the Concept of Physical Fitness textbook (1994), 53.5% of deaths that occur in the United States are related to lifestyle habits including smoking and alcohol consumption. These lifestyle-related deaths can be reduced through exercise and a healthier lifestyle. Not all deaths can be prevented, but if a P.E. program is implemented in an individual's earlier stages of life, this person will not only live longer but also live a higher quality of life during those years.
A major reason that Physical Education has not been made mandatory is the financial expense. The Education Ministry has discovered that by making this course an elective course, fewer students would enroll into this course. By doing this, The Education Ministry cuts costs by eliminating the number of teachers needed and equipment required to run an effective P.E. program. Our model school, McNair, only had two full time teachers to teach physical education (Eberhardt). McNair did not have to spend as much money on purchasing equipment than a grade eight to twelve high school is required to. Our federal
Government would rather spend money on investing in new helicopters than investing in the health and production of young adults in the future. Paul Eberhardt has also heard of the case in which business related and vocational courses are more practical. "Sure, these classes probably are more practical, but we cannot forget the needs of the student. Most of them won't receive physical exercise anywhere else" (Eberhardt). Students can take business courses in college or other institutions at any point in their lifetime, but Physical Education must be introduced early and remain part of a lifestyle well into adulthood.
The objective of the education system should be to teach skills which can be used in the present and future. Students should not be deprived of something that will improve their health and strength. Educators and politicians must legislate for a mandatory Physical Education program at the grade eleven and twelve levels. It improves skills necessary for social functioning and general self-confidence. It also provides precious information on maintaining fitness and provides knowledge on how to avoid destructive lifestyle habits. Moderate physical fitness will alleviate minor symptoms such as indigestion, constipation, headaches, and lowers stress levels. Healthy individuals are more productive at work, are less likely to be absent at work and are usually more satisfied with their occupations. Incorporating a healthy lifestyle at young age increases the likelihood of it continuing into the later years; this will dramatically reduce medical costs for taxpayers. The politicians in Victoria running the education system in British Columbia must realize how important a well-organized Physical Education program is and introduce it into the high school curriculum. It is travesty that it has not already happened and must be done immediately.