The 'obesity crisis' and school physical education

Kirk, D. (2006) The 'obesity crisis' and school physical education. Sport, Education and Society, 11 (2). pp. 121-133. ISSN 1357-3322

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The article builds on a number of recent critical reviews to argue that claims that we are experiencing an obesity crisis are almost entirely without foundation. The possibility is explored that this crisis is manufactured through a complex process of the social production of knowledge. The article marshals evidence to challenge the basis upon which crisis claims are made. In the context of this challenge, the relationship of this alleged crisis to school physical education is explored. Despite ambivalence from physical educators over the place of health-related exercise in their programmes, I propose that they may find it increasingly difficult to resist calls for physical education to be held accountable for children's health. This is because the notion of the obese child generates a powerful and increasingly pervasive cultural symbolism of degeneration. I conclude that there is a need for a critical pedagogy in physical education to provide a morally and educationally defensible form of engagement with obesity discourse.


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