The folks who want to repeal or delay Oregon’s strong P.E. requirements have apparently been making the rounds to editorial boards, because there have been a couple editorials recently sharing their point of view. As a counter-argument, Kasandra Griffin of Upstream Public Health wrote the following letter to the editor, which was published in the Oregonian on Sunday, September 4th:
In “State needs to loosen physical-education requirements on schools,” (Aug. 25), The Oregonian/OregonLive Editorial Board might as well have written, “Who cares whether Oregon students are healthy or academically successful, anyway?” Scientific evidence shows that physical education (PE) helps students perform better in their other subjects and also helps them be healthier in the short- and long-term.
What’s not to love?
PE instruction is particularly important for low-income kids, who are less likely to live in neighborhoods with safe and adequate parks and whose families can’t pay for them to learn about sports, fair play and team spirit through extracurricular activities.
Oregon’s law was passed in response to a shortsighted trend of schools cutting PE despite its many benefits. The law requires a modest average of 30 minutes per day of PE instruction for elementary school students, and 45 minutes for middle school students. The financial crisis hit right after the PE bill passed in 2007, causing massive education cuts, and the federal No Child Left Behind Act directed states to focus primarily on math and reading. Oregon schools understandably had a hard time expanding physical education under those conditions.
Now the economy has improved, teachers have been added back and new federal education legislation, the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” actually supports investing in healthy students. Now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to getting Oregon’s children healthy and active as part of every school day, not throw it out.
Griffin is policy manager for food and school health with Upstream Public Health