Physical Education – A Look From an International Perspective


Cars move Americans from place to place, but limit citizens’ physical activities.

Jil-Marie Menne

As an international student on a year long stay in the United States, I have seen a lot of differences in food, people, landscapes and especially physical activities in comparison to my home country of Germany. Cars dominate the society.

“We’ll take the car to school. You don’t have to ride the bus,” my host mom, Jan Anderson, said one morning in August.

I’d been to New York for three days and walked a lot, so of course I thought I was going to walk a lot in my host state of Arkansas. Fayetteville proved me wrong.

I started counting my daily steps and 2000 steps a day wasn’t much. As I started to observe, it became obvious to me that kids here don’t get a lot more than this amount of steps each day, especially if they don’t participate  in any sport.

Continuing my observations that people take their cars almost everywhere, I got to notice that people are bigger in America than in Germany. I started thinking about the reasons for this, and how the country could fix this important issue. As I continued to think about this, I got to experience my first American holiday.

With my first Halloween in the U.S., I was completely shocked. Kids drove from house to house to get candy, instead of walking across the yard. My thoughts again returned to P.E.

A variety of questions ran through my mind: Should Physical Education be a required class for everyone, every year? That way kids at least get to move at school? As I thought about this question, a second one ran right through in my mind. Would they really work out or just sit there?

 I decided to ask different people for their opinions about Physical Education throughout  my exchange year. I’ve gotten to know people from all over the world, so I asked my friend, Margherita Bachis from Italy, what her thoughts were on this subject.

Bachis said, “Boys play soccer and girls [play] volleyball.” So basically, they just do whatever they want.

Then, I reflected what we do in P.E in Germany. I realized that we do a lot of different things like gymnastics, track and field, basketball, volleyball and different workouts. Also, we have to take physical education for all 13 years of school. It’s not a major class, but at least twice a week we get to move. This is especially good for students who can’t play any sports in their free time, and  it is a good thing to do at school.

Cars move Americans from place to place, but limit citizens’ physical activities.