Philosophical Justifications for Physical Education
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Published: Thu, 05 Jul 2018
Issues in Physical Education
Examine the implications of the various philosophical justifications for Physical Education for the teaching of the subject.
The philosophies of the philosophers
Within a traditional context, Physical Education (PE) has been perceived as a non-academic subject in comparison to more well established subjects such as mathematics and the sciences. Different philosophers and commentators conjure various justifications by which PE can be placed within the National Curriculum (NC) and how the subject itself should be approached and delivered. This essay attempts to highlight and examine these philosophies, their implications and how they affect the perceptions and delivery of PE in this country.
Education is essentially associated with attainment of valuable knowledge. This knowledge, according to Hirst (1974, 1992, 1994) and Peter (1966), is that of theoretical and intellectual attainment. It is knowledge in this context which has an impact on our everyday lives. This is what is often termed as ‘orthodox’ education which arguably excludes PE. Reid (1998) supports this view stating that education must comprise (of) an acquisition of valuable knowledge. (Taking this into account) From Reid’s perspective, it follows that (it can be argued that) PE (does in fact) can be considered to develop valuable knowledge on its particular subject matter.
(Moreover) In addition to this, Reid (1998) reinforces his hypothesis by highlighting the link between the theoretical concept and the resulting practical knowledge. This is as a result of a ‘new orthodoxy’ construct within PE, (developed from attempts) which developed from a perceived need to justify PE’s intellectual properties. These include the increase in academic PE through examinations and the establishment of PE degrees and Sports Science degrees.
Reid (1998) (believes) suggests that PE fulfils the criteria that education demands, simply by practical knowledge through experience to develop ‘knowing how’. (So) When this is reinforced with theoretical knowledge relating to PE, educators of the subjects are arguably (overstepping) exceeding the currently accepted educational requirements as practical knowledge is deemed a satisfactory justification for inclusion within the NC. You need to put a reference to support this statement. One example of this type of educational justification can be seen in Sport Science degrees where physiology is complementary to pedagogy. This point made in Hoberman, J. (1992). Add the quote if you wish
Reid (1998) in fact, states that practical knowledge should not be either linked with or (lessened) reduced to ‘simple’ ability, where a student is able to strike a ball for example. “It is not the status of PE which is problematic then, but rather the academic view of education” (Reid, 1997, page 21), which is perhaps a little uncertain. It is this indecision which hinders the perception of PE within the subject itself and their resulting arguments of justification of NC status.
Reid (1997) further argues that education is not simply an academic endeavour but also the endorsement of personal and social assistance. This hedonistic approach somewhat further blurs the boundaries as to what is and what is not considered to be educational, as it suggests enjoyment is a precondition for education. Enjoyment is totally subjective and what may be perceived as enjoyable by one individual may not necessarily be enjoyable (for) by another.
This continued difference in opinion is echoed by Parry (1998). It is suggested that Reid (1998) fails to validate practical knowledge and to justify just how the skills learnt are worthwhile in nature. Where Reid (1997) states that the source of educational value of PE is in fact the pleasure extracted from the subject, it has been suggested that he has fallen (prone) prey to the perhaps arguably misleading notion of hedonism (Parry, 1998). As suggested earlier, pleasure, by definition, is (found) derived only from something a person enjoys. Should an individual fail to enjoy PE, (than) then this contradicts Reid’s (1997) concept.
Carr (1997) however states that as much as Reid’s (1997) work challenges some of the standard perceptions of education, it does contain some inaccuracies and misconceptions. It would be sensible to state just what you think these misconceptions are. Although Carr (1997) accepts that PE has certain levels of knowledge acquisition, this does not necessarily mean a concurrence with all of Reid’s (1998) opinions. This is rather messy, and the point is not clearly made. What are the specific points that Carr disagrees with? – state. You might find it useful to put parts of the next paragraph in here. The implications of this are that Reid (1998) believes that PE can alter your perception and comprehension of the world. However, people can be perceived as less educationally proficient should their experiences in the sciences and maths for example, be less than others. This is not the case with regard to PE as individuals are seen as ‘non-sporty’ rather than educationally deficient. These differing view points again further obscures the boundaries of PE’s educational worth. This point is made in Andy Clark (1996), I suggest that you put in the reference!
Carr’s (1997) opinions differ in that his paper raises the prospect of a distinction between education and teaching of ‘life skills’ (or schooling). The implications of this are that Carr (1997) believes that education provides valuable knowledge and understanding, which is the predominant culture within schools, but schools also aim to provide vocational knowledge. It is suggested that sport falls into this appreciation as it teaches skills and abilities that can be applied directly or adapted for life after school and beyond.
These abilities can include communication and team work. Parry (1998) has expressed the opinion that education is not purely the quest for ‘valued’ knowledge but is coupled with enhancement of personal virtue due to “philosophical anthropology and the promotion of Olympian ideas” (Parry, 1998, page 65). (In other words) The implications being that, as a result of philosophical perspectives upon the human race, the promotion of the Olympian ideal that occurs through PE (which) has a lasting effect upon the individual in that it alters their values, goals for excellence, and their relationships. This is supported by McNamee (2005, page 16) who states a less restricted overview of education which is “the initiation into a range of cultural practices that have the capacity to open up the possibilities of living a full and worthwhile life”. (Yet) Again the implication of this viewpoint is that it supports the notion that PE can help provide and establish ‘life skills’, thus supporting its educational value. McNamee (2005, page 15) feels that Peter and Carr (1997) remain too ideological due to their “traditional liberal distinctions” even though McNamee (2005) states his belief that education is a vessel for dispensing cultural customs.
McNamee (2005) continues to highlight some oversights in the work of both Reid and Parry, suggesting that the (forma) former does not describe important epistemological aspects within PE as a subject. Although Reid does cite examples of practical knowledge application, there is a distinct absence of examples that are relevant to PE itself, thus providing evidence to support his view point but not with particular clarity in regard to PE. In fairness, I don’t think that Reid’s paper was specifically about PE as such, it was about education in general although certainly it featured PE – do you want to rephrase this point? Additionally, McNamee (2005) believes that Reid’s hedonistic (standing) view point that simply pleasure alone is justification for PE’s place on the NC is not entirely plausible. A point made in: Pekka Elo & Juha Savolainen (2000), . Do you want to cite the reference?
In comparison, McNamee (2005) draws attention to the cultural (practices) roles sport can play. These include, as Parry (1998) suggests, the formation of identities and the development to values which (is) are suggested to be closely linked to education.
People “have the capacity to develop, evaluate and live out their own life plans based on a combination of projects, relationships and commitments” (McNamee, 2005, page 16). Sport and PE, according to McNamee (2005), (has) have the ability to meet these potentials through a unique assortment of internal, and in turn external values, that are somewhat unique to sport and PE. One example could be teamwork experience from team games. Teamwork blankets many subdivisions including communication. The skills learned and finely developed within PE lessons can help in the attainment of employment, not necessarily only in a sporting context. So it would appear that PE contains the valued principles that Hirst and Peter suggest are key to education. The implications are therefore, according to McNamee (2005, page 17), that the educators of “cultural rituals” should ensure that “the values PE has and gives, are kept in good health”. The implication here being that , this argues that PE should remain within the curriculum as it teaches and enriches ‘life skills’.
(So) It appears therefore that there is much debate with regard to the implications of the conflicting elements of various philosophies regarding a unified perception of just what PE is and the resulting justification of its place within the NC. Reid argues that practical knowledge alone is in fact as valued as intellectual knowledge. Moreover, Reid also states that the gratification taken from PE further enforces this validation. Carr believes the contrary because philosophers have failed to differentiate between schooling and education. In contrast, Parry takes the view that a more Olympian standing point should be taken, in that PE can be used to promote achievement and excellence. Furthermore, McNamee states that PE contains many cultural values and can be used as a vessel to deliver these. In doing so, PE has an effect on our everyday lives, (therefore) thereby becoming educationally noteworthy as it contains ‘valued’ principles.
These somewhat contradictory philosophies and the resulting confusion in the implications derived from them, highlight the fact that (through) by selecting one philosophy as a standard conception of PE’s justification within the NC and not another, will inevitably lead to a dispute as to why it was selected in the first place. Clearly this is a matter of personal evaluation. What must be taken into account are the philosophies and ideologies of the PE teachers themselves. They are the administrators and deliverers of the subject and their opinions and ideologies can greatly influence the notion and (conception) implementation of PE. You could cite Tännsjö, T. and Tamburrini, C. (Eds.) (2000) As a reference on this point
The philosophies of the Physical Education teachers.
The ‘philosophies’ of PE teachers are generally considered to come about as a result of the culmination of experiences within sport, education, and everyday life (within and outside school). Included within these is ‘sport for all’, education for leisure and the continued development of the academic principles within PE (Green, 2000, 2001, 2003). Although these greatly influence the philosophies of PE teachers, health related exercise and enjoyment of the subject appear to be the central focal point of their lessons.
According to Green (2000), enjoyment and pleasure formed the basis for PE teacher’s lessons. One could say that a happy classroom is a learning classroom. It is through this that PE offers enjoyment, which acts as a catalyst for increased control over students and in turn heightens learning (Green, 2000). (Their) His justification of this is that PE can often be a ‘release’ of stress and pressure from other academic aspects of school, yet still maintaining its own promotion of the academic virtues in itself (Green, 2000). However, as discussed previously, enjoyment is not considered a prerequisite of education. With teachers adopting a more hedonistic approach to their lessons, the educational value of their lessons arguably become questionable. Do you want to justify this comment? Suggest using reference Savolainen J & Elo P 2000
In fact, many PE teachers perceive their subject as secondary to other subjects as they consider PE inferior in an academic sense (Green, 2000).
In Green’s (2000) study, many PE teachers associated enjoyment with sport. Understandably, sport is seen as the chief characteristic for the delivery of PE. The implications being that this often falls under a competitive sports bracket, largely in the form of team games. The main emphasis for PE teachers was development of skill acquisition and the resulting competence in performance (Green, 2000). However, this focus on competition within sport (is) can be contradictory to PE teacher’s slant towards hedonism. Many students dislike competitiveness and some even dislike sport in a ‘traditional’ sense (e.g. rugby, cricket, hockey etc.). This is particularly the case with girls (Green, 2001). The implication therefore appears that students can associate a distaste for something which PE teachers perceive as the very essence of their subject, something which they feel (is) should be enjoyable.
Another justification for inclusion on the NC from a PE teacher’s perspective is the promotion of health related fitness. One could question whether one hour of PE a week has an effect upon a student’s fitness, but rather highlights the fact that PE lessons themselves do not endorse healthy living but create an association with physical activity which can be carried into life after school. This in turn develops a healthy lifestyle (Green, 2001, 2003). PE teachers see sport as the main conduit for endorsement of a healthy lifestyle (Green, 2000). However, it is important to note that it is an assumption that PE actually has an impact on students and therefore affects their behaviour later in life, although this is perhaps a rather logical assumption. Kirk (2002) suggests that there is little evidence to suggest that PE lessons in secondary schools actually successfully promote lifelong participation. Therefore, it is important to establish what PE teachers are doing, and can do, to reinforce their hedonistic approach to establish current and future healthy living (discussed later).
The principal difference between teacher’s philosophies and philosophers philosophies is that teachers are frequently (somewhat) adamant their hedonistic approach is justification enough, where as, by contrast, philosophers are more inclined to persevere a more ‘orthodox’ educational justification. The implications of this statement being that PE teachers tend to feel a greater need to justify their position within the NC, and arguably this is justly so as they perhaps fail to acknowledge the perspective of some philosophers. It could therefore be argued that the philosophies of PE teachers are in fact more ideological in nature, as their attitudes towards justification within the NC, when compared to research by philosophers, are paradoxical. This may be due to the fact that PE teachers are more engaged than removed with their ideas (Green, 2001).
Green has suggested that the implications are that these ideologies are suggested to have been formed by what they (the teachers) are accustomed to (i.e. learned practices). This may have stemmed from individual’s (e.g. their own PE teachers) and experiences that have influenced their belief. Green (2000 Pg 79) states that “It is somewhat unsurprising to find that PE teachers’ philosophies as well as their practices represent something of a compromise (Green, 2000, page 79) between these influences as they perhaps, in terms of opinions and view points, pull them in distinctly assorted directions.” However, Green (2000) does argue that some relationship is present, connecting both philosophers’ and PE teachers’ opinions, although this is perhaps more through coincidence than mindful analysis by PE teachers.
The practical implication of this philosophy in this link can be seen in a more leisure-based PE programme. Sport England (2003) note that that the most frequently taught sport within schools is athletics. This is followed by gym, tennis, rounders, hockey and netball. It can be seen that these sports are consistent with the competitive team sports which PE teachers are accustomed to and with those sports in which many students are disinclined to participate (in). There is a stark contrast between this statement and a survey detailing of what sports students enjoy the most. You need to quote the source of this survey. These include basketball, badminton, swimming, cycling, roller skating and bowling (more ‘lifestyle activities’). As it stands, PE lessons are dominated by more ‘traditional’ sports. These appear to be the sports which students find less enjoyable. It is therefore contradictory of their hedonistic approach for teachers to persist with these sports. Promotion of lifelong participation is one of their (the teachers) justifications for position within the NC, and as it appears ‘carry over’ of these sports into adulthood is negligible, it would be illogical and contradictory to fail in the inclusion of more ‘lifestyle activities’, even if this goes against their ideologies. These activities are often carried out after school as extracurricular PE, as normal school time and budgets restrict the ability to run them.
Fairclough, Stratton and Baldwin (2002) state that under 50% of schools offer lifestyle activities as extra-curricular PE. This is supported by Penny and Harris (1997, cited in Green, Smith and Roberts, 2005, page 28) who state that extra curricular PE is “more of the same”. This is being of reference again to ‘traditional games’ PE. It is clear that some teachers are taking (into) account of the (findings) beliefs of the philosophers that we have cited above. They understand the importance of ‘carry over’ into life after school as (this is) being best achieved through more ‘lifestyle’ activities. However, more is needed as only half of schools run these activities within their lessons or as extra curricular options. Ideally you need a reference to back up this statement
So, it therefore appears that the implication of the thrust of these arguments is that the majority of PE teachers position enjoyment at the forefront of their lessons. This compliments Reid’s argument that PE is, and should continue to be, more hedonistic. A more leisure orientated education has developed, as suggested by McNamee, which runs parallel with, and encompasses, valued cultural practices philosophy (Green, 2003). (However), This is not always the case however, as some teachers are restricted to their ‘comfort zone’ in terms of what sports and activities their lessons include. This is seen in the findings of Sport England (2003) where only 50% of schools offer a more leisure based, ‘lifestyle’ option. By remaining within their ‘comfort zone’, teachers are contradicting their justification of NC status by pleasure, as many students do not enjoy more ‘traditional’ PE. (Moreover, their (the teachers)). Teachers may consider that another justification of life long participation is also challenged as those who fail to enjoy PE lessons are more inclined to sever ties with physical activity.
In contrast, the view of Carr that PE should perhaps be dissected and analysed separately from the other aspects of the NC has implications that coincide with the view that teachers have formed of their subject. They (consider) regard it in a different way to other more overtly academic subjects, as it is more of a release of pressures from those other subjects. There are various philosophies and ideologies which have formed for, and have formed as a result of, the justification for NC status. This is a bold statement. Can you justify it? Some contradict one another, and some support each other. This is messy and nebulous. If you have a clear point you need to make it overtly. (However,) what is clear however, is that there is much debate on the subject, and a topic which demands so much deliberation must, in itself, justify its importance solely through the vastness and time spent on arguing its case. No. I don’t agree. It must justify itself on the strength of its arguments or the evidence base supporting it. The philosophical justification has nothing to do with the length of time spent arguing about it! This applies whether the argument is for or against NC inclusion.
Carr, J. (1997) Physical Education and Value Diversity: A Response to Andrew Reid. European Physical Education Review, 3(2), page 195-205.
Fairclough, S., Stratton, G., and Baldwin, G. (2002) The Contribution of Secondary School Physical Education to Lifetime Physical Activity. European Physical Review, 8(1), page 69-84.
Green, K. (2000) Exploring Everyday Philosophies of PE Teachers from a Sociological Perspective. Sport, Education and Society, 5(2).
Green, K. (2001) Physical Education Teachers in their Figurations: A Sociological Analysis of Everyday ‘Philosophies’, Sport, Education and Society, 6(2).
Green, K. (2003) Physical Education Teachers on Physical Education: A Sociological Study of Philosophies and Ideologies. Chester: Chester Academic Press.
Green, K., Smith, A., and Roberts. (2005) Young People and Lifelong Participation in Sport and Physical Activity: A Sociological Perspective on Contemporary Physical Education Programmes in England and Wales. Leisure Studies, 24(1), page 27-43.
Hirst, P. (1974) Knowledge and the Curriculum. London, Routledge, Kegan and Paul
Hirst, P. (1992) Education, Knowledge and Practices. Papers of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, April 26-28.
Hirst, P. (1994) Keynote Address, National Conference for Physical Education, Sport and Dance, Loughborough University, 1994.
McNamee, M. (2005) The Nature and Value of Physical Education. in Green, K. and Hardiman, K. (Eds.) Physical Education: Essential Issues, page 1-20. London: Sage.
Parry, J. (1998) The Justification of Physical Education. in Green, K. and Hardman, K. (Eds.) Physical Education: A Reader, page 36-68. Meyer and Meyer: Verlag.
Penny, D. and Harris, J. (1997) Extra-curricular Physical Education: More of the Same for the More Able. Sport, Education and Society, 2(!), page 41-54.
Peter, R.S. (1966) Ethics and Education, London, Allen and Unwin.
Reid, A. (1997) Value Pluralism and Physical Education. European Physical Education Review. 3(3). Page 6-20
Reid, A. (1998) Knowledge, Practice and Theory in Physical Education. in Green, K. and Hardman, K. (Eds.) Physical Education: A Reader, page 17-35. Meyer and Meyer: Verlag.
Sport England (2003) Young People and Sport in England: Trends in Participation 1994-2002. Sport England: London.
Generally a good piece of work. I have made changes in grammar and syntax directly but have left some changes for your discretion. You must get out of the habit of starting paragraphs and sentences with adverbs!!!
In commenting on this piece, I have tried to follow your own thought train and arguments – which are largely sound, and have not tried to substantially alter the thrust of your submission. It is important to put in overt references to “the implications” of the various philosophies, as many of your comments are relevant but rather tangential and do not therefore directly relate to the question.
You have spent a fair bit of time arguing that the NC is essentially pivotal in the justification of the various philosophical schema outlined and I’m not sure that the authors would actually agree with you. It is surely the viability or justification of the NC that is secondary to the philosophical outlines. You might want to reconsider some of your stronger statements on this point.
The references that I have suggested that you include are:-
Andy Clark (1996), ‘Connectionism, Moral Cognition, and Collaborative Problem Solving’, in May & Friedman & Clark (eds), Mind and Morals. Essays in Cognitive Science and Ethics, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp.109-128.
Pekka Elo & Juha Savolainen (2000), ‘Just Learning’ in Acta Philosophica Fennica vol. 65: New Ethics – New Society or the Dawn of Justice, Hakapaino Oy, pp. 149-187.
Savolainen J & Elo P 2000
Philosophy Teaching As Cultural Heritage: From Bildung Und Urteilskraft To Communities Of Inquiry
Bulletin of the Russian Philosophical Society (2000)
Hoberman, J. (1992) Mortal Engines: The Science of Performance and the Dehumanization of Sport, New York: The Free Press
Tännsjö, T. and Tamburrini, C. (Eds.) (2000) Values in Sport: Elitism, Nationalism, Gender Equality and the Scientific Manufacture of Winners, London: Routledge.
I think you should do well with this as it is certainly well above the standard of many that I have seen.
If you wanted to expand the arguments further you could move into the area of virtue theory as a philosophy and the implications for teaching – which are huge
Here is an extract from Lumpkin, A.; Stoll, S.K.; & Beller, J.M. (1999) Sport Ethics: Applications for Fair Play, (second edition) Boston: McGraw Hill.
In the recent past, there has been a revival of virtue theory in mainstream and applied ethics. This has usually taken the form of a resuscitation of Aristotle’s work. Here ethics is based upon good character and the good life will be lived by those who are in possession of a range of virtues such as courage, co-operativeness, sympathy, honesty, justice, reliability, and so on and the absence of vices such as cowardice, egoism, dishonesty, and so on.
Sport’s traditional function as role modeller for youth is premised upon virtue theory. Russell Gough’s (1997) admirable book is a user-friendly application of virtue ethics in sports. This language has an immediate application in the contexts of sports in theory but in practice, spitefulness, violence, greed often characterise elite sports. Moreover, we often question the integrity of certain coaches or officials just as chastise players who deceive the officials
Ref: Gough, R. (1997) Character is everything: promoting ethical excellence in sports, Orlando: Harcourt Brace.
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