Theorists and activists argue that education is the bedrock of a democratic society. Having a well-educated citizenry is necessary for people to meet the demands required for democracies to thrive. In the United States, schooling is conceived of as one of the primary vehicles for educating these democratic citizens. For many who have gone through traditional schooling, physical education seems like an interruption in the school day, for better or for worse, a distraction from the rest of our formal learning. Physical education conjures up a flurry of competitive sports, dodgeball, and fitness tests. Perhaps it brings to mind anxieties around your own body composition and getting in shape, being physically fit or failing to become properly athletic.
In part, this is the consequence of designing physical education with a narrow focus on physical literacy, control, efficiency, and a commitment to a contextless ideal. It could also be the byproduct of larger cultural forces obsessed with profit margins, results, and the bottom line.
Contrary to this viewpoint, some educators and scholars are pushing to make physical education a more prominent contributor to democratic living.
Jeffrey Howard speaks with Nate Babcock, an educator in Southern California. With 18 years of experience, Nate is centered on broadening our views of physical education, approaching it as a way of encouraging mobility, physical and social, and democratic practices like cooperation, inclusion, dialogue, and collective exploration.
How might concepts such as bodyfulness, corporeality, and phenomenology inform a more democratic approach to physical education? What might a more expansive and democratic view of physical education look like? And how do we enlarge conceptions of physical fitness to include how we interact with one another beyond the gym and the classroom, and into our communities?
“Toward Better Whys and Whats of P.E.” by Nate Babcock (2020)
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