Just as a blind squirrel can occasionally find an acorn and a broken clock is right twice a day, the Wisconsin legislature every so often passes a bill affecting our schools that includes a sensible idea.
Among its grab bag of changes, Wisconsin Act 105, enacted last December, creates the following new statutory provision:
118.33 (1) (e) A school board may allow a pupil who participates in sports or in another organized physical activity, as determined by the school board, to complete an additional 0.5 credit in English, social studies, mathematics, science, or health education in lieu of 0.5 credit in physical education.
Currently, all high school students in Wisconsin must take three phys ed classes, spread out over three years. The new law would authorize School Boards to reduce the required number of classes by one, in order that the student could take instead a class in English, social studies, math, science or health education.
I think the Madison School Board should take advantage of this increased flexibility. We ought to change our policy so that high school students participating in sports can skip a gym class and take an additional class in an academic subject instead.
I don’t base my view on the premise that gym classes have no value – I think instead that the permitted alternatives generally have a lot more value for our students, and particularly for students who are already benefiting from the physical activity of a sport. Of course, eliminating a requirement of a third gym class for high school athletes would not prevent those students from taking a third or even a fourth class if they chose to and could work it into their schedules.
We are constantly constrained by our resource limits from offering as many classes to our high school students as we would like and they deserve. If we change our phys ed requirement in the way that’s authorized by the new law, we may be able to reduce the number of gym classes we offer and replace them with additional classes that promise more academic benefits for our students.
This seems to me like an easy call. What am I missing?