The Atlantic

Letters: ‘The P.E. I Was Exposed to Was Not Evil, Just Sad’

Readers share their memories—the good, the bad, and the humiliating—from childhood gym class.
Source: Corbis / Getty

We Asked Readers:

Was gym class a traumatizing part of school that still brings back shivers about that one particularly menacing bully? New research backs up what all too many of us already know: P.E. is kind of the worst.

Tell us: What was your childhood P.E. experience like?

Here’s how readers responded.

A handful of readers explained how gym class creates a culture where bullying thrives:

Twelve years old, entering high school, physically underdeveloped and socially challenged, I was a prime candidate for bullying. Our high school allowed upper-class students to choose where they spent their time during free periods. One of the options included the gym. There was a group of older students who spent their study time in the bleachers during my gym classes. To this day (I’m now 77), I remember their taunts and jeers as I participated in the exercises. They had a nickname for me, one I can’t say even after all these years, so real is the pain when I recall it, not because it was forbidden language, but because of the mocking way in which they used it.  

A painful experience, yes, but suffering that was mitigated by my very wise eighth-grade teacher. He had taken me aside one day to tell me that my brain had developed faster than my body but in

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min readTech
The T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Will Only Hurt Consumers
When market concentration increased after past mergers, prices surged and jobs were lost. There’s no reason to think this time will be different.
The Atlantic3 min read
Disney Delivers a Truly Bizarre Sleeping Beauty Sequel
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil probably shouldn’t exist, but it is at least transfixing and stars a genuinely charismatic Angelina Jolie.
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Just Don’t Call It Abortion
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have gone further in embracing abortion rights than ever before. But they still hide behind euphemism.