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Flaws in the physical education requirement

UMBC displays itself as unique in many ways. It is inclusive of overarching themes of diversity and sets high academic standards compared to other universities. Yet, there is one aspect of UMBC that is simply obnoxious: the physical education requirement.

To graduate with a bachelor’s degree from UMBC, students must pass two physical education classes. These classes do not count towards the student’s 120 total academic credits, but do add one and a half credits each to the student’s semester course load.

Exceptions can be made if the student is over the age of thirty, in the military or physically disqualified from participating in the classes. However, for most of the student body, gym classes are required to graduate.

While the physical education requirement can certainly contribute to UMBC students coming out of their college experience as more well-rounded individuals, it is not the place of a university to dictate a student’s exercise behavior.

According to Andrew Galbreath, a mechanical engineering senior currently completing his gym credit, “the classes themselves were fun but I don’t see why they’re necessary because most of them don’t really promote an active lifestyle.” Galbreath believes that these physical education classes do not encourage those who need the encouragement to live those active lifestyles.

“If you do want to be active you are probably already doing things that are active such as intramural sports or exercising on your own,” he adds, “If they are dead set on teaching people how to exercise and lead an active lifestyle they should have classes that teach people to exercise in a healthy and safe manner.”

Andrew’s point is salient – students are not learning anything useful from these classes because they focus so intensely on certain sports or activities. Some classes, such as CPR, AED and First Aid Certification, do not even include exercise in their curriculum.

When informed of the physical education requirement. Cayden Renich, a freshman majoring in computer science, said, “I don’t really have that much time to spend on these classes. If it doesn’t count towards my 120 credits to graduate, then it doesn’t make sense to me.”

According to Cayden, there are a lot of alternatives to get exercise while at UMBC. “There’s a gym that’s free for us, and tons of clubs that I could join,” he said, “There’s nothing academic about being forced to do random sports for credit: either make it count towards graduation or get rid of it, I don’t want to waste an entire year on that.”

If UMBC wishes to teach its students how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and encourage exercise, it would be far better off instituting a general required class that teaches students about these matters, instead of forcing students to take classes that are not actually educational. Until that time, as it stands, the physical education requirement is only wasting students’ time and credits.