Liberal Arts Blog — California’s Fitness Test: Bullying, Body-Shaming, and the Non-Binary

Liberal Arts Blog — Saturday is the Joy of Sports, Dance, Fitness, and All Things Physical Day

Today’s Topic — California’s Fitness Test: bullying, body-shaming, and the non-binary

In his budget for 2020–2021, Governor Gavin Newsom of California proposed a three-year suspension of California’s fitness test for fifth, seventh, and ninth graders out of concern for bullying, body-shaming, and the non-binary. The concerns are valid. But how do you balance them against the need for higher standards and expectations for physical fitness? High school students in California aren’t tested at all. Should the priority be raising standards not lowering them? What state does the best job on the physical fitness front? What school? What country? What would you think should be a minimal level of fitness in fifth? seventh, ninth, and twelfth grades? Today excerpts from an article on Newsom’s proposal. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1."In the 1950s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was horrified to learn that European schoolchildren were acing a fitness test designed by competitive rock climbers, while the majority of American kids failed…the fear that the United States was falling behind on the world stage led to the introduction of the Presidential Fitness Test, which rewarded the students who could do the most pull-ups and run the fastest miles.”

2. “By the time President Barack Obama entered office in 2009, though, gym teachers had started to worry about the psychological impact of forcing kids to compete in boot-camp-style exercises that tended to be humiliating for those who came in last. In 2012, the Presidential Fitness Test was quietly replaced by a program that focused on students’ overall health rather than arbitrary fitness goals.”

3. “Along with Connecticut and Alabama, California is one of only a handful of states that also has its own obligatory school fitness test for teens and preteens.”

NB “Along with the traditional one-mile run, it includes exercises designed to assess strength and flexibility, such as push-ups, abdominal curls and shoulder stretches.”


1. “Everyone has different body types. School is stressful enough. It should keep students active, but sometimes some people just can’t do some things, and that’s not fair.”

2. “People don’t fit into boxes.”

3. “The standards are different for boys and girls, which officials say has prompted complaints from parents whose children don’t identify with either gender. Similarly, transgender students who aren’t out to their classmates and teachers could face an uncomfortable dilemma if they don’t meet the expectations for their chosen gender.”


1. The number of California students whose scores place them in the “healthy” range has dropped steadily since the 2014–2015 school year,”

2. “Another lowering of the bar so that everyone wins.”

3. “Some argued that kids would never learn to overcome obstacles.”

NB: “It’s important to know where everybody stands in their physical fitness when they’re going through school, I think data is more important now as we are all just getting bigger.”

Newsom wants to halt physical fitness test due to bullying, gender issues

California may stop school fitness tests over fears they lead to bullying and body-shaming

Physical Education / CA Physical Fitness Test

California may pause student fitness tests over bullying concerns

Concern about body-shaming, non-binary students prompts California to rethink school fitness tests

FitnessGram by The Cooper Institute

Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to sports, dance, fitness. Or the coolest thing you learned about Sports, Dance, of Fitness in your life — whether on the field, on the dance floor or in the gym, whether from a coach, a parent, a friend, or just your own experimentation.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day. Or even change their life. It’s perhaps a chance to put into words something you have never articulated before. And to cement in your own memory something cool you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.