A new critical pedagogy for physical education in turbulent times: what are the possibilities?

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In his book On Critical Pedagogy, Henry Giroux (2011) writes about the possibilities for critical pedagogy 'in dark times'. Giroux argues that "politics is central to any notion of pedagogy that takes as its primary project the necessity to provide conditions that expand the capacities of students to think critically and teach them how to take risks in a socially responsible way" (p. 6). The challenge for critical pedagogy is to address the changes that have taken place in politics and in society more broadly in the past 50 years, since the earliest appearance of this concept inspired by the work of activist scholars such Paolo Friere (1996/1968) among others. Recent social analyses have disorganised and undermined standard conceptions of political divisions around Left and Right, and traditional strategies of resistance to oppression and stock critical pedagogy aspirations such as empowerment and emancipation. A particular focus of this work has been social injustice (Dorling, 2010), inequality (Atkinson, 2015; Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009), ‘hard times’ and economic crises (Clark, 2014), the reshaping of social class in the 21st century (Savage, 2015) and the rise of the 'precariat' (Standing, 2016). This chapter takes up the challenge of a critical pedagogy for dark times and how such work might be undertaken for and through physical education. Physical education itself as be repositioned in the school curriculum in many countries, most often within larger configurations of school knowledge such as 'health and wellbeing'. This repositioning and the requirement for physical educators to work with new subject matter beyond sports and games has created risk but also opened up new possibilities for critical pedagogy in 'dark times'.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Research in Sport, Health and Physical Education
Subtitle of host publicationHow to Make a Difference
EditorsRichard Pringle, Hakan Larsson, Goran Gerdin
Place of PublicationMilton Park, Abingdon, Oxon
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2018


  • physical education
  • critical pedagogy


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