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Issues in Physical Education: Historical, Philosophical & Social

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Instructor: Tawnya Eash

Tawnya has a master's degree in early childhood education and teaches all subjects at an elementary school.

Physical education has encountered controversial issues surrounding gender, abilities, race, and other classifications. Identify the historical, philosophical, and social issues related to physical education systems. Updated: 11/18/2021

Issues in Physical Education

There have been major changes in physical education over the years. Physical education is now defined as the overall development of health and wellness. It's no longer seen as just a separate class or subject, but an integrated content area with its own standards and objectives. People everywhere are recognizing the importance of physical education beyond the focus on movement, and its role in creating a healthy lifestyle.

Current research, improved resources, and specified standards have all enlightened people to see how vital physical education is in elementary and secondary schools. Let's take a look at some specific historical issues.

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  • 0:42 Historical Issues
  • 3:04 Philosophical Issues
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Historical Issues

Physical education is important in providing a healthy lifestyle for Americans. Documents from the Surgeon General's Report, the Healthy People Report 2000, and the Center for Disease Control's guidelines showed that generally people are inactive, have a poor diet, and are overweight. In turn, we are realizing the impact physical education can have.

Physical education teachers have a curriculum with goals, objectives, and assessments to help students realize how to lead healthy lives. Experiences in a physical education classroom don't just develop movement. They help students learn and practice ways to stay healthy and fit.

Physical education wasn't always required to be offered in schools until after the Civil War. Then, in the 1900s it became more of a focus. Since Eisenhower, many American presidents have placed an emphasis on physical fitness. Eisenhower created the President's Council on Youth Fitness, which eventually led to the development of the Presidential Fitness Test Award, intended to prepare young Americans for the military.

Then, in 1972, the Title IX federal law prohibited sexual discrimination. Many physical education programs at the time separated girls and boys during class. With the introduction of Title IX, it was suggested that they form homogeneous classes based on the following principles:

  1. Physical education classes cannot be conducted separately on the basis of gender.
  2. Students may be grouped by ability, even if it results in more of one sex in a specific group.
  3. Students may be separated by gender in class for specified sports with physical contact such as wrestling and boxing.
  4. Standards can be changed or modified to avoid gender bias.

Research supports the fact that physical education classes aid in the physical and mental health of all individuals. In addition to preschool programs becoming more prominent across schools, new physical education guidelines are required. There's an increasing number of schools that are creating pre-K programs. A quality early childhood education is known to have a positive impact on a child's overall development. Physical education teachers are learning to help pre-k students thrive in their classrooms as they adhere to specified early childhood standards.

Let's see current trends that include all students as part of the physical education classroom.

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