The Problem in FLVS Personal Fitness

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Graphic by Peter Rawlik

As Dreyfoos students, the majority of us have experienced the triumphs and tribunes of one of the integral parts of our school’s competitive ideology, something we may all complain about but participate in anyway because “who has room in their schedule?” It’s not walking up three flights of stairs daily, not standing in a mile-long line for lunch, but rather, it’s Florida Virtual School’s (FLVS) Physical Education. The school district’s policy requires that students must take one online class and two semesters of PE, so I, like many other students, opted to “kill two birds with one stone,” and take FLVS’s PE course.

“Wait,” my confused, college-educated parents said when I told them in May of 2015 that I needed to take this, “back up, online PE? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the physical part of the education?”

“They give you a FitBit thing,” I responded, my 15-year-old mind clearly not seeing the extreme irrationality of this decision.

“That’s crazy,” my mother, someone with as much motivation to make kids go outside as Michelle Obama, said.

“No, it’s not,” I said, shaking my head.

However, after two years of working on the class, (and finally completing the full course in September), that’s exactly what I am saying now. It is crazy. Beyond crazy really, it’s irrational, stupid, and defeats the entire purpose of physical education in schools.

For the first semester, ironically titled “Personal Fitness,” students are required to purchase a Mov-Band. The band, (besides being incredibly unfashionable and clashing with almost every outfit), tracks their movements throughout the day, as participants are to instructed to complete at least 10,000 steps daily. To make sure the students are doing this, the Mov-Band must be plugged into the computer at the end of the day, and a certain program is to be downloaded so the instructor can make sure the student is achieving the movement goal. What teachers don’t seem to realize, however, is that many students end up giving their bands to students more active than themselves (for example, members of a sports team in season), putting their Mov-Band around a dog’s collar, or, craziest of all, attaching the band to a ceiling fan.

This can get tricky, as students are required to actually log the types of exercise that they are supposedly performing weekly. Because of this, many students, including myself, with higher priorities tend to put in random numbers for the time it took them to run a mile, or how many sit-ups they can do in a specified amount of time.

Fitness Lifestyle Design is the second semester, one that involves less exercising than a sloth with Type 2 Diabetes. The Mov-Band is dropped, making it even easier for participants to fake their data. But what replaces the exercising? Like Personal Fitness, there are quizzes as well, but unlike the first semester, where the quizzes made up more than 50 percent of the assignments, there are only a few; the bulk of the assignments consist of essay writing.  That’s right; a class whose prime purpose, I thought, was to get kids outside forces students to lock themselves inside and write about their fitness goals. The extremities go as far as students constructing a children’s book about essential nutrients the body needs. Seen as busy work, like in semester one, students often use a past PE FLVS students’ work as their own.  

On top of the cheating found in both semesters, students have found new ways to not do their work. The incessant amount of quizzes, for example, that clutter the assignments page of Personal Fitness, is one. Because students tend to be lazy, especially when they are taking a class they don’t really care about, many will copy and paste the questions into Google and are able to easily find answers online. FLVS does not seem to have prevented these specific issues. Despite this, they have begun to take the initiative and force students to get their activity logs signed by parents. FLVS also warns students not to use work from friends who have taken the class in the past, as they have a Turnitin-esque software, and are able to catch cheating by using this software. Both of these instances prove that there are many steps FLVS has taken to force students to take this class, and every online class, seriously.