Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Smooth Sailing or Stormy Seas? Atlantic Canadian Physical Educators on the State and Future of Physical Education

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Smooth Sailing or Stormy Seas? Atlantic Canadian Physical Educators on the State and Future of Physical Education

Article excerpt

Attending to futuristic predictions is not an exercise confined to the realm of science fiction. Contemplating the future--in this case, the future of physical education--helps ensure the discipline is not forced to make changes based on what other disciplines are doing or have done. It also helps to ensure that changes within physical education are not unnecessarily influenced by trends or fads du jour. More importantly, as Kirk (2010) has suggested, studying the future allows those in the discipline to control their own fate or create their own destiny--at least to a certain degree.

For at least three decades, physical education pedagogues and researchers have been attempting to predict what kind of future lies ahead for physical education. Unfortunately, these predications have, more often than not, been less than idyllic. For example, Tinning and Fitzclarence (1992) initially acknowledged a crisis within physical education, as they suggested in-school physical education programs were simply becoming "out of touch" with postmodern youth culture. Similarly, and more than 15 years later, Lawson (2009) suggested that we might see "more of the same" as outdated programs continue to be out of sync with today's students, schools, and societies. Moreover, Locke (1992) and Kirk (2010) both raised the possibility of the extinction of physical education from public school programs altogether.

Thirty Years of "Crisis"

A brief selection of writing from the 1980s to the present, by some of the field's most notable pedagogues and researchers, provides an overview of the issues and discussions related to physical education's place within contemporary schools. Consider the following point about physical education, offered at the 1981 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) National Convention:

I have no trouble envisioning the rapid extinction of high school physical education in the next two decades. As it is currently programmed and currently taught in most places, it probably deserves to die out.... Too many students are apathetic about it. Too many students are disruptive within it. Too many students have already become cynical about it. The vast majority have learned to tolerate it, not to expect too much from it, and not to give too much to it. (Siedentop as cited in Dodds & Locke, 1984, p. 78)

Dodds and Locke (1984), themselves, have been more direct. They suggested that "physical education as it now exists in many American public schools is not worth saving. None at all would be better than what we have" (p. 76).

Writing in the early 1990s about secondary school physical education, Locke (1992) stated the following:

   My assumption is that if the dominant model is not broken, at the
   very least there are a lot of schools in which what is done in the
   name of physical education is not working well. Further, what goes
   wrong (disturbing levels of student alienation, program marginality
   in school curriculum, deep and destructive role conflicts within
   those who teach) involves the kinds of problems that can't be
   repaired simply by improving existing forms of content or
   instruction. The level of change required is so substantial it
   would have to be called replacement, not repair, (p. 362)

Also in 1992, Siedentop and O'Sullivan's preface to a special theme issue of Quest titled, "Secondary School Physical Education" stated:

   Along with many others, we have become convinced that the time is
   at hand for a radical reconceptualization of high school physical
   education and the preparation of its teachers. We have come to
   believe that the program configurations in many schools are
   dysfunctional for students--and too often for their teachers too.
   (p. 285)

At the turn of the century, Penny and Chandler (2000) concluded their article on the possible future(s) of physical education by stating, "We regard substantial change within the subject as a matter of necessity if it is to have educational worth in the 21st century" (p. …

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