Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Physical education an unnecessary requirement

Published: October 31, 2014
Section: Opinions

Badminton, basketball, volleyball—all words that I associate with gym class. I don’t know about you, but I was not a fan of gym class in high school or middle school. I think the fun of gym class ended for me in the elementary years. If there wasn’t a giant rainbow parachute, there wasn’t anything to look forward to.

As a Brandeis student, there is a general education requirement of two physical education classes. Overall, the school does a good job giving a variety of options, some of which include basketball and volleyball. Nevertheless, there is also the choice of ballroom dance, yoga, weight lifting, tennis, power walking, golf, fencing and it goes on and on. Despite the wide selection, many Brandeisians, myself included, have no desire to extend their gym class experience into their higher education.

Fortunately, for those who want a less physical alternative to fulfilling this requirement, the school also offers first-year and senior-year experience courses. These classes are in a setting where students get to speak about issues or skills pertaining to healthy living. Honestly, this is a lot more appealing option than that of a class that consists of sweating and probably rushing to a later class still sweaty.

In college, we actually have an acceptable “excuse” to get out of gym. The first-year experience courses in particular focuses on the skills necessary to navigate university life. Issues like roommates, sleeping and all-around healthy choices in the environment of a college campus are discussed. In the high stress land of higher education, such a class does not sound like a bad idea, especially for first-years who are on their own for the first time. So the class, in theory, has merits. The truth, however, is that the class is only seen as a way out of weekly scheduled exercise.

Possible valuable discussion aside, the first-year experience class seems to have other drawbacks. First, it is a class of entirely first-years. First-years are at the beginning stages of acquiring experiences, but do not yet possess the context necessary to have some of these discussions. Next, and this may not be the case for everyone, most first-years have not just yet decided upon a concrete direction. Countless students change their mind or specify what interest they will pursue in their college career during their first year. Thus, first-year seminars may be nothing more than a good place to get some first-years talking about college life.

The concept of seminars may have me scratching my head, but more importantly, I question the point of these physical education requirements. So in order to accomplish this, general requirements consist of at least one class in each school, a quantitative reasoning course, a writing intensive course and a foreign language, among others. A comprehensive perspective is crucial in true pursuit to higher education, but how does one’s ability to throw a ball or run a half-mile fit into that?

This isn’t a question of the importance of being physically active, but one of the mandate made by the school that its students integrate it in their routine. Exercise is a lifestyle choice. Students come to Brandeis with academic goals. So these gym classes and even the less physically straining alternatives just seem out of place because they lack any utter academic purpose.

Physical education courses do not count toward majors or contribute anything of vital importance to students’ education. Instead of taking a class that students are interested in, they’re making room in their schedule for basketball or volleyball. They are rushing up the Rabb Steps from Gosman. There are enough varsity, club and intramural sports along with dance troupes, group fitness classes like hula hooping and so much more on campus that I believe students have adequate avenues to an active lifestyle, if that’s what they choose, without mandatory gym classes.

Brandeis offers a wide variety of physical education classes. There seems to be something for everyone, even those who don’t want to get sweaty. Nevertheless, with the idea that students are here to expand their minds, maybe they should not be a part of the list of things a student needs to graduate.