Past & Present Physical Education Philosophies

Instructor: Allyn Torres

Allyn has taught high school chemistry, and has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

In this lesson, you will learn about the educational philosophies of physical education. Both past and present philosophies will be discussed in detail.

Gym Class Heroes

Does the mere mention of physical education classes make you cringe in embarrassment? Or does it make you smile nostalgically? Gym class is one of those topics that people generally feel very strongly about. You were either a ''gym class hero'' or a gym class hater. Very few people fall in between. Regardless of your feelings about physical education as a child, as an adult you most likely acknowledge that gym class was an important part of your schooling. Keep reading to learn about three philosophies that have dominated physical education classes throughout the years.

The Health Philosophy

Prior to the twentieth century, physical education wasn't very common. Working-class boys received very little training and girls typically didn't have physical education at all. Due to health concerns, early in the twentieth century, the health philosophy came about and physical education became a part of the school curriculum. The intent was to train children physically, and to act as a ''therapy'' to cure to the physical problems that children were experiencing. When physical education classes were first implemented, they were thought of as almost an extension of the medical profession. The goal of physical education was to ingrain healthy habits into children at a young age. It was used to strengthen boys for the army and the workforce, and to mould girls into healthier future mothers.

Physical education classes were put in place to improve health and strength.
physical education

The Sporting Philosophy

After World War II, the focus of physical education classes became less about training for war and more about playing games. Instead of ''training'' students physically, teachers began educating students through sports, and the sporting philosophy emerged. The goal of physical education shifted to teaching students about morals and character. Games were thought to teach good morals and good character traits like sportsmanship. Games and sports came to be the picture of a ''typical'' physical education class.

Sports made their way into physical education classes after WWII.
sports in physical education

The Academic Philosophy

Beginning in the 1960's, thoughts about physical education shifted to a more academic focus. Those who subscribed to the academic philosophy of physical education believed that physical education needed to become more academic in nature. In order to continue to have a place in schools, physical education needed to instill knowledge in students. It wasn't enough to educate students about morals through sports anymore. Physical education teachers needed to justify the value of physical education to the overall education of students. Physical education began to be aimed toward intellectual knowledge and moral education through sports. Proponents of the academic philosophy demanded that students be instructed about the science and mechanics of the sports they were playing.

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