The idea of the idea of physical education: between essentialism and relativism in studying the social construction of physical education

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In a book which will be published by Routledge in July, I make extensive use of the notion of 'the idea of the idea' of physical education to consider the significance of the past and the present for physical education futures (Kirk, 2009). For the sake of brevity, I shortened this concept to the idea of physical education. The idea builds on earlier historical work published in Defining Physical Education (Kirk, 1992a) and Schooling Bodies (Kirk, 1998). In these studies I argued that physical education is socially constructed in the sense that it
is a human invention rather than an occurrence in nature. More than this, and following Goodson's (1997) lead, I proposed that this process of social construction involves struggles over resources between vying groups. Building on insights from 'new directions'
sociology of education (Young, 1971; Evans, 1986), which was itself a reaction to a particular approach to the philosophy of education fashionable in the 1960s and 1970s, this work sought to show the importance of human action within particular local and, increasingly, global contexts in determining the form and content of physical education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-40
Number of pages18
JournaleJournal de la Recherche sur l'Intervention en Education Physique et en Sport
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


  • sport eduction
  • youth sport
  • physical education and sport

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