Physical Education (Kinesiology) | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Physical Education (Kinesiology)

Kinesiology, a branch of the educational curricula of every province in Canada which originated with a variety of forms of activity and concepts such as drill, calisthenics, gymnastics, physical training and physical culture.

Physical Education (Kinesiology)

Kinesiology, a branch of the educational curricula of every province in Canada which originated with a variety of forms of activity and concepts such as drill, calisthenics, gymnastics, physical training and physical culture. The term "physical education" denotes a subject area of deliberate or systematic physical training undertaken in the classroom or during regular school hours, rather than an all-encompassing concept which might include all forms of games and interscholastic or extracurricular sport undertaken within educational institutions. More recently the term "kinesiology" has replaced "physical education" in an effort to define the subject matter more clearly.

Diverse History

Because EDUCATION is under provincial jurisdiction, the history of physical education varies from province to province. Those involved in education in central Canada were responsible for early leadership and initiative in the area, particularly the first chief superintendent (minister) of education in Ontario, Egerton RYERSON. After frequent trips to Europe in the 1840s to study various educational systems, Ryerson attempted to infuse new, practical subjects such as music, art and physical education into the existing curricula of schools in Canada West.

Education in the mid-19th century was grounded in the classics (Latin, Greek) and directed mainly at the sons of well-to-do families who attended PRIVATE SCHOOLS and secondary or "grammar" institutions. Ryerson sought to rebuild the educational pyramid from its base, the elementary or "common" schools.

In Europe physical training was entrenched in institutional systems of exercise such as the Ling system in Sweden, the Danish system and the German gymnastics or "Turnverein" societies, but Canada had no such tradition. When in 1852 Ryerson published a series of articles on "Physical Training in Schools" in his administrative mouthpiece, The Journal of Education for Upper Canada (complete with woodcut diagrams), he was effectively advocating the inclusion of physical training into the schools.

Prior to 1880, only 17% of Ontario's teachers received some form of pedagogical preparation, and only the Toronto Normal School, the province's main teacher-training centre, could boast any facility for teaching physical training of any kind. However, the Normal School's first instructor of physical training, Colonel Henry Goodwin, a retired drill instructor, probably taught only army drill and calisthenic exercises to the few prospective teachers who did enrol. The only physical training manual available for teachers from the education office was a military drill manual.

Drill and Rigid Calisthenics

Ryerson's advocacy of some form of physical training and the militaristic threats of the American Civil War during the 1860s resulted in the entrenchment of drill and rigid calisthenics as forms of physical education in schools. During the last third of the 19th century, the French Catholic and English Protestant schools in Québec followed the military drill precedent with some apparatus gymnastics introduced to Montréal schools through Mr Frederick Barnjum, the proprietor of a Montréal gymnasium and McGill's first physical education instructor. The idea of training and disciplining the body through military drill was also adopted in the Maritimes, where military instructors were hired to teach physical education classes. In the western provinces, which were being settled in the late 19th century, drill and calisthenics were the only forms of physical training used by interested teachers or school boards; nowhere in Canada were play, games or sports accepted as legitimate aspects of the curriculum.

Instructional Material

By the turn of the century, with the movement in many provinces toward compulsory public education and mandatory systems of teacher training, curricula (at least in theory) became more standardized. Of great importance in this regard were the development and widespread availability of teaching manuals which provided, in effect, written guidelines for lesson plans in many subject areas. In physical education, teaching manuals contained sections on physical education instructional material. In addition, early textbooks - eg, Blackie's Sound Bodies for Boys and Girls in New Brunswick and Houghton's Physical Culture in Ontario - both published in the late 1880s, offered lesson plans for teachers in drill, calisthenics and gymnastics. Ministerial reports on numbers of students in each subject area reflected dramatic increases in the number of students taking physical training, concomitant with the availability of these manuals and textbooks.

The first national program of physical education, the Strathcona Trust, was implemented in 1909 in elementary and secondary schools through a joint venture among provincial departments of education and the federal departments of militia. Sir Frederick W. BORDEN, the minister of militia, persuaded Canadian railway magnate and philanthropist Sir Donald SMITH (Lord Strathcona) to donate $500 000 to be used for the initiation and sponsoring of national programs of physical training and military drill in Canadian schools. The principal sum was invested, and the accrued interest financed the program. The Strathcona Trust sponsored 3 syllabuses or manuals that were widely used in Canadian schools; it systematized physical education as a regular subject of instruction and it encouraged teacher training in physical education. Departments of education, however, relied totally upon the trust and offered very little substantive or financial incentive to promote physical education further. Because the system was militarily based, it did not evolve in concert with American and European trends in physical education, which were directed at the inclusion of play, games and sport to complement the systematic training of the body.

Vociferous Opposition

Female educators, led by McGill University's physical director Ethel Mary Cartwright, were vociferous in their opposition to the militaristic nature of the Strathcona Trust and its advocated "physical jerks," which ran contrary to the child's natural inclination toward play. Women teachers of physical education were first taught at the Margaret Eaton School of Physical Culture (originally the Margaret Eaton School of Literature and Expression) in Toronto and at the McGill School of Physical Education; they received diplomas by taking courses in anatomy, physiology, hygiene, first aid and sports instruction.

Although the last Strathcona Trust syllabus, published in 1933, included a full section on play and games, the actual teaching of classes remained rigid, formal and discipline-oriented. Dr Arthur Stanley Lamb, the director of physical education at McGill University and the proclaimed "father" of physical education in Canada, fought the Strathcona Trust system at every opportunity. Lamb sought to instil a new form of physical education by creating a national physical education professional association in 1933: the Canadian Physical Education Association, renamed, in 1947, the Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and renamed again, in 1994, as the Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CAHPERD).

First University Degree Programs

Combined with the first university degree programs in physical education in Canada - at U of T (1940), McGill (1945), UBC and Queen's (1946), and Western Ontario (1947) - the Canadian association worked to inculcate sports and games in the curriculum, to teach students through physical education instead of disciplining them by it, and to make physical education a recognized, significant part of the curriculum. (In the 1920s and 1930s some universities required all students to take a minimum number of hours of physical training classes or to participate in the intramurals or intercollegiate athletics.) In the latter regard, the National Physical Fitness Act, passed by the federal government in 1943, was an important catalyst in promoting teacher training in physical education at universities across Canada. Under the Act $250 000 was offered to each province on a grant-matching basis to encourage the development of physical education.

Ongoing Budget Battle

Today, although the public is more health conscious than ever before, physical education seems to be subject to an ongoing budget battle. Over the years, physical education was making huge strides towards its establishment in all levels of education from primary grades to university degree programs. Now as school boards across the country undergo huge budget cuts, physical education is often the subject of a core curriculum debate. The irony is that in an era of escalating health care costs and the trend toward sedentary occupations in an "information age," the need for body-focused education is paramount.

CAHPERD plays a strong role in promoting physical education as part of the core curriculum through its many lobbying efforts, resource development, programs and professional development opportunites. Continual support of the media, health, education and research organizations and the support of parent groups are necessary to retain the profile of physical education/kinesiology as an integral part of the education curriculum. It may be that the Internet/World Wide Web will become an avenue for the promotion of and education toward a physically active lifestyle.


Further Reading