Gym class can’t get a break. A highly unscientific sampling of the conventional wisdom on physical education reveals a lot about what kids think of regular, enforced school exercise. “My least favorite thing about elementary school gym class was the boys being absolutely psycho,” one young woman told me. “Locker rooms were definitely fraught,” said another, about her middle school PE. “It’s not so much the body, as it is performing,” offered another—that pressure to throw and run well for an impromptu team, “so if you screw up a catch or whatever in dodgeball you let them down.”
The humiliation of being passed over when kids pick teams; the awkwardness of having to socialize with strangers from different grades; the Hobson’s choice of either undressing and showering in front of peers or returning to class in sweaty clothes: all these features of physical education contribute to kids’ discomfort.