Academic journal article New Zealand Physical Educator

Physical Education Down Under: Fusion or Confusion

Academic journal article New Zealand Physical Educator

Physical Education Down Under: Fusion or Confusion

Article excerpt


At the International Council for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport and Dance (ICHPER-SD) Conference held in Wellington in October 2006, the authors presented a keynote titled: Physical Education Down Under: Fusion or Confusion. This presentation was somewhat unusual as it took the form of a three act play. The story line was based around a final year teacher education student (Digger) who had a passion for physical education - doing it, studying it and wanting to teach it. In the first two scenes the story evolved around Digger planning for an in-class assessment - a 10 minute presentation on an issue relating to physical education and/or sport (in school). Digger was a dogmatic character who relished the opportunity to engage in arguments with his lecturers and fellow students about matters to do with physical edcuation. Although a 'novice' this helped him develop a good understanding about the purpose of physical education and its place in the school curriculum.

The setting for the third scene was a lecture room at the university where the students were to give their presentations. To ensure the students took this task seriously, the Professor made it a competition. The prize for the student with the best presentation was a trip to the ICHPER-SD conference. Five minutes into the scene Digger was asked to step forward to deliever his presentation to the Professor and lady PENZ'. It was titled 'Food for Thought'.

Digger's Presentation - "Food for Thought"

Physical education and sport are rich with social issues, value questions and moral dilemmas. Everyone has a strong opinion and speaks powerfully about these from a personal perspective. But what about the educative voice? Ninety years ago de Coubertin (cited in Muller, 2000) said physical education and sport, is more than 'animal function', it's more than 'pure physiology'. He argued it had a moral and ethical base and questioned what degree this influences decision making about future developments. The same question needs to be asked today.

In the 21st century there are many actions that stir our emotions, generate curiosity, provoke argument and present challenges. This richness should be celebrated, but for some reason we seem to focus more on the technical things, the pragmatics and the doing. Our thinking and teaching doesn't always seem to be driven by moral and ethical considerations.

If we (i.e. physical educators) are silenced and marginalised, we let ourselves get locked into an iron cage which captures our thinking and actions. This cage is designed, created, nurtured and seems to be locked by external forces such as the media, political agendas and even schools. From such a position it is difficult to liberate our thoughts. Consequently we keep reproducing the same' ole' same 'ole' in physical education and sport. I often wonder why this happens.

Where is the debate about the big ideas? Michael Apple (1990) says our profession has become obsessed with individualism, excessive competition, elitism, winning and performance based on science. Brohm (1978) called this a 'prison of measured time'. Surely the BIG idea or the WHY we do things has got to be more important than the WHAT. The WHY informs us about what we can do. The WHY is the thing that helps us construct a system of beliefs and social reality which in turn affects and informs our practice. Fernandez-Balboa et al (2006) claim that there is three parts to these realities: ideology general beliefs, habitus - the actions of many and discourse - the use language.

The interaction between the ideologies, habitus and discourse associated with physical education and sport form awesome structures of hierarchical power. These structures are not easy to identify or understand and almost impossible to change. This is evident in physical education and sport by the emphasis given to the technical aspects of movement. It also prioritises objectivity as determined by the measurement of biological function, time, space and distance. …

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