Academic journal article New Zealand Physical Educator

Should You Buy? Neo-Liberalism, Neo-HPE, and Your Neo-Job

Academic journal article New Zealand Physical Educator

Should You Buy? Neo-Liberalism, Neo-HPE, and Your Neo-Job

Article excerpt

Abstract

Have you noticed a proliferation of commercial services and programmes to help schools do Health and Physical Education (HPE), school sport, or physical activity better? It is no accident that more and more businesses want to promote their product to schools and that schools are seeking a "competitive edge" by purchasing these new products. This paper addresses the socio-political conditions, reflecting the ideology of neo-liberalism, that have shaped the rise of a market philosophy in education. HPE and school sport, important educational spaces for the production of healthy, self-managing citizens, are ripe for the intervention of market forces. Often commercial providers have no educational expertise yet, through their co-option of the "right" language, they find themselves teaching a simplified or populist version of HPE. This ultimately raises the question, "What is the value of HPE teachers' expertise to 'trade' in the education market place?" Time for a neo-job?

Key Words: neo-liberalism; commercialisation; physical education; sport

Introduction

Have you noticed in correspondence, emails, and phone calls to your school, or in education magazines and on web-sites, a proliferation of commercial services and programmes to help you do health and physical education (HPE) and school sport, or to promote physical activity better? Do you "buy them," literally and/or metaphorically? It is no accident that more and more businesses want to promote their product to schools and that schools are seeking a "competitive edge" by purchasing these new products. This paper looks at the socio-political conditions, reflecting the ideology of neo-liberalism, that have shaped the rise and rise of a market philosophy in education, schools and HPE.

Neo-liberalism can be understood as an approach to governing society in such a way as to reconfigure people as productive, economic entrepreneurs who are responsible for making sound choices in their education, work, health, and lifestyle. Underpinning neo-liberalism is a core belief that free marketing (of schools, educational services, employment etc.) will result in more efficient and effective outcomes. Within neo-liberal contexts;

All human actors to be governed are conceived of as individuals active in making choices in order to further their own interests and those of their family. The powers of the state are thus directed at empowering entrepreneurial subjects in their quest for self-expression, freedom and prosperity. (Davies & Bansel, 2007, pp. 249-250)

Neo-liberalism is claimed by Apple (2006, p. 14) to be so pervasive that, "If we were to point to one specific defining political/economic paradigm of the age in which we live, it would be neo-liberalism." Such pervasiveness can make the neo-liberal approach to governance appear somewhat natural, logical, or commonsense (Rizvi, 2007) and thereby stifle critique or resistance.

Thus, neo-liberalism has a global impact as it is taken up by governments, organisations, and individuals as the way to live, manage, trade, and learn. The globalisation of education "such as worldwide discourses on human capital, economic development, and multiculturalism; intergovernmental organizations; information and communication technology; nongovernmental organizations; and multinational corporations" (Spring, 2008, pp. 331-332) reflects the tenets of neo-liberalism. Neo-liberal school reforms are designed to privatize traditional government educational and school services (e.g. free schooling, staffing of schools) and return them to the marketplace in which "choice" is believed to provide a better outcome. In 2004, in the UK, Ball observed:

In the context of competitive and contract funding, there is an individuation of schools and of the school workplace - more and more short term projects, freelancers, consultants, agencyworkers, fixed term contracts, skills-mixes - these new kinds of workers are "with" and "for" the organisation rather than "in" it. …

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