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The Ancient Class System of High School PE

Life can be very unfair at times.  And one of those times is adolescence.  And life is seldom more unfair than in high school and jr. high physical education classes.

My youngest is in a preschool class at the local high school.  In order to take him to the class, I drive by the sports fields.  I get there as kids are playing sports and we leave as they are heading in to change.  Watching them brings back nightmares of non-coordination and knowing I did not look like Camille in my gym clothes.  I really think something should be done about group physical education, because let’s be honest – it is one of the few places left in the United States where a class system is so obvious and yet nothing is being done about it.

The highest class is reserved for the beautiful people – this may have nothing to do with physical education per say and more just how life is, but it seems even more unfair when beautiful people still look beautiful in sporting attire (aka sweats).  And even if they are wearing last year’s clothes, it is ok because tight clothes look even better on them.

The next class is the jocks. They are able to excel no matter what sport is being emphasized that week.  With the possible exception of the four weeks of dance that are required in some areas, they look effortless in their motions.

Then we have the regular people who don’t hate PE, but don’t like PE.  They just kind of fit nowhere so they fit everywhere.  They don’t look horrible in gym clothes and they catch the ball as many times as they miss it.

Finally, the bottom class is reserved for the rest who are experiencing adolescence to its full extent.  Their arms are longer than their legs right now and trying to figure out how to walk correctly while their feet are growing doesn’t seem to come naturally.  Last year’s t-shirts fit tight in the wrong places and are really too loose in others.  They close their eyes while catching the ball and some fantasize how great their avatar is at wii sports.

I don’t believe all four of these groups should be together.  If you think about it, students are separated in other subjects.  Students can take honors English or AP Biology, and they can choose certain electives.  I think we should start tracking in PE.

We can keep the jocks and the beautiful people together in an AP PE class.  They do not practice throwing and catching because they have done so perfectly since birth.  They will learn how to steal bases, jump three feet to dunk a ball, and they can play some advance sports like field hockey (I think this is an advanced sport, so leave me alone.  I could never get the stupid ball out of the little net when I tried to pass the ball. )

The average people can be in the middle where they practice the basic sports and perhaps improve their game.  It’s just a fun class where sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

And then we can have a class for the group that have never been athletic, will never be athletic, and who somehow get a doctor to excuse them from this class at least 40% of the time.  This class could play wii active or run on a treadmill or just learn simple coordination through jazzercise.  Or they can focus on little played sports to see if there is a nitch unfound – like bowling, fencing, archery, or jai-alai.

Advanced class: Going UP the Slide

Although I am sure that because this is an unbiased report on PE so no one can tell which group I belonged in (but I will take you on in wii boxing any day, anytime), I should let you know I would have loved being tracked in PE.  Then I could have taken a special class, just for my type of “people” who realized that sports was not for me.  I can run on a track in circles.  I can do that.  Some might even say I can do that well.  Just, please, don’t ask me to catch a ball – with my eyes open.


  1. botut says:

    I’m with you my wii boxing friend. This is truly a great idea. I wonder why it hasn’t been implemented? Maybe staffing logistics?

    1. Marianne says:

      I have a feeling they would say that it costs too much money. I think coaches would like it more, personally.

  2. Sesika says:

    You hit the nail on the head with this piece. PE was such a painful experience in Jr high and high school. The locker room was always disgusting, and they expected you to take a shower after class? With 5 minutes before the next class? And in group shower areas? Seriously, who designed the place? We had to wear shorts. I hated shorts, especially when my mom wouldn’t let me shave until I was 14 when I just went ahead and did it so I had to do it after that.
    I had no problem with the sports part, but I always recognized how painful it was for those who would rather be playing, say wii, if it had existed in my time. And then watching the boys eyeing the girls, and not always just the beautiful ones. Sometimes the face didn’t matter as long as the legs were long. My favorite PE class I ever took was weight training. Boys were less likely to hit on you or push you around if they saw that you could bench as much as them. 🙂
    I was very happy when I attended my son’s 6th grade PE orientation and found out they had separate classes for the boys and girls. That made sense, especially at that age. At least it’s a step in the right direction.

    1. Marianne says:

      I loved 5 minute showers. I think we spritzed. Too bad dry shampoo wasn’t invented yet.

  3. PE can be a mine field. And I was athletic. I still hated picking teams, always feeling stressed-beyond-belief if I had to be the captain and choose some people over others.

    And I’m not sure anyone looks great it sweats.

    Welcome home, by the way!

    1. Marianne says:

      I think it is nice you were stressed out by the less athletic of us. I had never bee so stressed in my life as team pick day!

  4. Rachael M says:

    Marianne, this idea is PURE GENIUS!!! I was one of those poor, pathetic, nerdy kids who suffered through every year of PE. I don’t think anyone ever really wanted to have to choose me to be on their team. I was actually so traumatized by being forced to play so much volleyball (& I don’t think it’s really possible for any so-called able-bodied person to be any worse than I was at that game), that I haven’t played it EVER again in the ensuing 18 years. And, frankly, my goal is to never, ever play it again. Maybe if I’d had the option of playing with others anywhere near my skill level, I might not still have nightmares that I’ve got to go to PE.

    1. Marianne says:

      I can’t stand volleyball. My sister-in-law plays for a college. Sometimes it makes me question her judgement – I mean, who likes volleyball?

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