The Atlantic

Gym Class Is So Bad, Kids Are Skipping School to Avoid It

Not only does P.E. do little to improve physical fitness, but it can also lead to truancy and other disciplinary problems.
Source: Jeff Chiu / AP

It’s almost too easy to satirize physical education, better known by its eye-roll-inducing abbreviation P.E. From Clueless to Superbad to Spiderman: Homecoming, parodies of gym class are a pop-culture darling. Perhaps that’s because they speak to one of America’s fundamental truths: For many kids, P.E. is terrible.

A recent working paper focused on a massive P.E. initiative in Texas captures this reality. Analyzing data out of the state’s Texas Fitness Now program—a $37 million endeavor to improve middle schoolers’ fitness, academic achievement, and behavior by requiring them to participate in P.E. every day—the researchers concluded that the daily mandate didn’t have any positive impact on kids’ health or educational outcome. On the contrary: They found that the program, which ran from 2007 to 2011, actually had detrimental effects, correlating with an uptick in discipline and absence rates.

As for why

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic3 min read
The Education Scandal That's Bigger Than Varsity Blues
It’s hard to snatch attention from the jaws of intrigue, and Varsity Blues had it all. There were fake SAT scores, a shady deal maker, and wealthy parents eager to lay waste to anything standing in front of their children on the road to a selective c
The Atlantic7 min read
Uber Riders Can’t Stand All the Air Fresheners
Customers are reporting migraines. Drivers say they’re just trying to provide a pleasant ride.
The Atlantic4 min readSociety
War-Crime Pardons Dishonor Fallen Heroes
After three decades in the Marine Corps, I know how important it is to hold service members accountable.