Can Our Field Have a Mission?

Article excerpt

Now, well into my 70th active year in a field that has been searching for a "consensual name" for well over a century, I admit that at one point I too thought that the question had been resolved. I can remember C. H. McCloy (arguably the top "physical educator/scientist" of the first half of the 20th century) telling me in the early 1950s, "To change the name away from physical education now would be akin to rolling back Niagara Falls." Perhaps this was not the best comparison, since ice dams have, on occasion, "rolled back" the falls.

It is now an established fact that our field (originally called "physical education") has at least tentatively decided to call itself "kinesiology." Michael Wade in 2007 offered a number of insightful reactions in "Quo Vadis Kinesiology," a presentation that pointed out our field's highly disturbing lack of orientation, embodied in the name change and characterized by the absence of a clear statement of mission.

Wade's presentation was to members of the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education (AAKPE). This scholarly group of 100 (elected) scholars separated itself in the early 1990s from the founding professional society, AAHPERD, which of course spawned us all in 1885, under its original name, the Association for the Advancement of Physical Education. This separation could be considered emblematic of the fragmentation that has beset our field in recent decades.

It was discouraging upon review of the 2006 proceedings of AAKPE to find that the academy had just written out of the "discipline" my five areas of scholarly endeavor. My books and articles to date have related to the historical, philosophical, management theory, international-comparative, and professional preparation aspects of physical activity education and educational and recreational sport. In program planning, these areas were eliminated from the "disciplinary component" invented by the current AAKPE seers. Yet each of these areas, I feel certain, has solid "knowledge contributions" to make to the lives of humans who, one hopes, will continue to be involved in purposeful participation in physical activity and related health education worldwide.

Generally speaking, as I look back over my years of experience in the field, I feel that the development of a "disciplinary thrust" in the 1960s and thereafter was a good thing. However, the way it was done--by complete separation of a number of sub-disciplinary groups ranging from history, philosophy, sociology, physiology, psychology, and many others (including the separation of AAKPE itself from the parent body, AAHPERD)--has proved to be a mistake. These subdisciplines are all "out there" now like the famous "floating apex" of "Peter Principle" fame--in other words, each is a scholarly society with nothing underneath it. The respective disciplines to which they each fled (e.g., philosophy) barely know that they exist!

The public, too, doesn't know about them; the field of education doesn't know it; and physical educators and coaches worldwide hardly know (or care!) that they are there either. Meanwhile, the people from different specialties within some of these societies often don't speak to each other as well. …