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Fla. Bill Would Allow Students to Substitute Computer Science for P.E.

By guest blogger Gina Cairney

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In the push to meet future demands in the computer science industry, many states and districts are considering allowing students to fulfill graduation requirements by substituting computer science credit for math, science, and, in some cases, foreign language.

Now in Florida, lawmakers are even considering allowing students to take computer science in lieu of P.E., and still earn a diploma, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Naturally, this has some health and P.E. advocates worried.

While recent studies show a leveling off in the overall childhood-obesity trend, the issue is far from being resolved.

Last month I wrote about a study that suggested this overall trend was masking an increase in obesity rates among children from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Considering that obesity has been deemed a disease by the American Medical Association, any move at the district or state level that further diminishes students' opportunities to engage in regular physical activity could be seen as a red flag.

Florida Sen. John Legg, a Republican who sponsored the bill in which the proposal is embedded, expressed understanding of P.E. advocates' concerns, but told the Sentinel he didn't want students to miss out on an opportunity to take computer science courses, nor did he want to add on to high school students' graduation requirements.

Florida currently requires its high school students to take one credit of P.E. as part of a graduation requirement, which can be substituted with an appropriate alternative activity like marching band or sports.

The proposal, like others throughout the country, is aimed at boosting digital education in the state.

More notably, it's aimed at pushing students to consider studying computer science. A move that will supposedly help meet future demands for such skilled workers.

Perhaps it's one thing to question the need for student athletes to take a one-credit P.E. course, but allowing students to "skip" P.E. in schools with limited physical education and activity opportunities may have a negative impact on students' health outcomes later in life.

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PHOTO: Topeka Seaman Middle School students perform a push-up demonstration in January in Topeka, Kan. The students participated in the Kansas Fitness Information Tracking program that studied the link between physical activity and student test scores. —AP/File

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