Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

Olympic Education: Fundamentals, Success and Failures

Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

Olympic Education: Fundamentals, Success and Failures

Article excerpt

The aim of this article is to study the broad field of Olympic education. Against the background of a continually growing commercialization of the Olympic movement and the struggle against doping, it is sometimes difficult to state that the Olympic movement is primarily based on an educational concept. It is the duty of researchers in the field of Olympism to constantly stress the educational objectives of the Olympic movement. Of course, one cannot do this without being critical. But criticism for criticism's sake does not help the educational side of the Olympic movement. It is the task of researchers to work on the historical base of the concept of Olympic education, to demonstrate its success and to analyze its failures or shortcomings in order to provide proposals for an improvement from which the Olympic movement can benefit.

Some Basic Historical Background Information

Despite Pierre de Coubertin's noble descent and his traditional schooling at the Jesuit school Saint-Ignace, he did not primarily make a career in politics, administration, law or the armed services. Of course, this is not surprising as Coubertin never intended to complete his early studies and training at University and the Military Academy of St. Cyr to qualify himself Officially for a position in any of the occupations named above. (1) Coubertin became a freelance journalist and above all a progressive-minded educational reformer and sports leader. (2) He himself wrote that he wanted to attach his name to an educational reform preparing adolescents to meet the political, social and economic demands of the twentieth century. (3)

According to Coubertin, traditional education was too weak to make significant contributions to the education of modern citizens. In particular, Coubertin criticized traditional school education for its strong emphasis on repressive teaching methods and its overcrowded curriculum. Of course, Coubertin was not alone in these criticisms. In general and even beyond France, progressive educators were strongly demanding the modernization of school education since at the very least, the 1870s. (4) The new educational Zeitgeist was mainly influenced by academics such as William Torrey Harris, Stanley Hall, John Dewey, and William Kilpatrick, whose writings had a big impact on European educators. (5) In France, one can name among many other academics Jules Simon who showed a strong engagement in implementing modern curricula in schools. Simon criticized the French educational system first and foremost for its ornateness. In his book La Reforme de l'Enseignement secondaire that was published in 1874, Simon complained about the overloading of the curriculum and the arguable teaching methods to transfer as much knowledge as possible according to the funnel principle. According to Simon, this way of teaching caused more harm than benefit as passivity on the side of the pupils led to demotivation in the long term. In addition, Simon claimed that by the mere teaching of an unlimited amount of facts the promotion of the pupils' individual skills were neglected. (6)

It is commonly agreed that sport in and beyond school settings played an important part in Coubertin's educational thoughts which he developed in the middle of the 1880s. His belief in the educational power of sport was first and foremost based on his experiences from his study trips in England and the USA in the 1880s and 1890s. From his studies of the role of sport in the English and American educational systems and of the organization of public sport in both countries, Coubertin was once more convinced that amateur sport could contribute much to the development of highly moral and social character traits. It was Coubertin's belief that both the national integrity and international strength of both countries were rooted partly in the worship of sport as an effective educational means. (7)

In an article with limited space it is hardly possible to describe Coubertin's early educational and sport-related campaign in detail. …

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