A Healthy Alternative to Wellness Courses


Nick Wnuk

“Team fit- field house!”
These are the infamous words of every team fitness teacher as he or she herds the students into the gym like cattle to a slaughterhouse for 176 school days per year.
The current Illinois code mandates that high school students must be in a gym class for a minimum of three days per five day week. The Lake Forest High School code, however, says that team fitness is to be treated like an academic class in respect to time and grades.

This rule may experience drastic change, however, as Illinois Senate Bill 1189 is being passed around the Senate Education Committee. The bill proposes that high school students should spend a minimum of 225 minutes per week in physical education, adding ten minutes a week to our time in wellness.
There are undeniable benefits of being active especially when sitting at a desk for a large majority of the school day, but when students reach a certain age of maturity, it should be their right to decide when and where they will derive their physical activity. To spend almost four hours a week in gym class is not only counter intuitive to that right, but it is illogical in pursuit of maximizing academic growth in the classroom and through extracurriculars.

This is why the idea of seniors in high school being able to replace their wellness credit with “healthy alternatives” should be proposed to the Illinois Senate.

When students reach this point in their high school career, many develop a wretched sickness that students and faculty like to call “senioritis.” To most teachers, the cure for senioritis is to slap their students with poor grades and for Deans to administer detentions for tardiness and absences. This, however, is not the only solution.

Team fitness is no stranger to senioritis, and is in my opinion, one of the biggest contributors to it. As students visit colleges and sign away their next four years, they become filled with excitement and a sense of independence. How can the state ask that same person to play badminton against kids who are closer in time to middle school than to college?

Perhaps the question shouldn’t ask how, but why. The faculty and administration needs to understand that it is their job to grow the curriculum to keep the students immersed in their school day – in turn becoming proponents of a new bill.

A required wellness course does not coincide with this academic growth, and it demeans the maturity that seniors have reached. Is there something then that students could do with their time that would be more beneficial to their overall growth and well-being than team fitness?

If Lake Forest wanted to be on the forefront of getting seniors to use their time in school effectively, then they would enroll them in professional work opportunities. In some capacity, whether within the school or community, students could get four hours of work a week doing something that is relevant to their interests as opposed to swinging a badminton or chucking up half-court shots.

Even if not to work in professional work settings, this freed up time could allow students to take classes that they never had the chance to take, such as Computer Science or Economics. They can also take a new elective like Consumer Ed where they can learn directly applicable life skills and Ceramics which can operate as a creative outlet. Wellness credit wouldn’t have to be thrown out the window because certain work experience and classes could fall under the “Healthy Lifestyle” alternative.

Lake Forest High School’s mission statement serves as a reminder to the purpose of our education system which is the “developing [of] compassionate, confident,and accomplished students.” Is team fitness an important aspect of being compassionate, confident, and accomplished or could we perhaps build those qualities in a much more meaningful way?