Opinion: IWU should offer self-defense classes for PE credit

By Farah Bassyouni Feb 24, 2023

As a liberal arts institution, students are required to take a variety of courses, one of those being a physical education course. Students are required to take a full year of PE classes, whether it be four half-semester courses or two full semester courses. 

With all that time in PE, it would be nice to have some sort of benefit along with it. As safe as Illinois Wesleyan’s campus is, there is still always the looming possibility of ending up in the weekly campus safety report. Even though the quad is the size of someone’s backyard, anyone from Bloomington-Normal can walk through, making walking through campus late at night very unsettling. 

While the university can’t prevent outsiders from being on campus, they can give the power back to students by offering self-defense classes as physical education courses. 

Self-defense courses are hard to come by around the Bloomington-Normal area. While there is a solid amount of martial arts studios in town, many of them do not offer self-defense courses for adults. In order to find studios where they offer these kinds of services, it requires driving to either Peoria or Champaign, both about an hour away. This kind of commitment is not feasible for college students with busy schedules and no cars. 

Along with this, self-defense courses do not come cheap. The average cost of a two-hour class can start anywhere from $45 to $200 depending on the course. Prices like these are not designed for college students and make learning skills as important as these that much harder.

If IWU were to include self-defense courses in the physical education curriculum, they would see a definite demand. The whole point of having PE as a requirement for earning a degree is to teach students the importance of staying active. This has had the opposite effect as many students try to choose the easiest course to get it over with. Programs like “Fitness Walking” and “Pickleball” that don’t require a lot of effort tend to fill up the quickest. If a self-defense class joined the catalog, students who were genuinely interested in learning would be drawn to it. Students would have the opportunity to be active and also get something out of their PE course rather than just taking it to check off a box. 

Illinois Wesleyan University takes a lot of pride in preparing their students for the big wide world. The courses offered all tend to meet this expectation, except the PE courses fall flat. In order to engage the student body, they need to teach skills apart from academics that we will take with us for the rest of our lives. Self-defense is one of those skills that is invaluable, and IWU should offer an opportunity to learn skills that could save lives. 

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