Educational Philosophy and Theory vol:45 issue:9 pages:934-948
This article deals with the educational significance of the raising of the human body at school. This issue is highly relevant today, because the discipline of physical education has to deal with a problem of legitimization as well as with a factual lack of appreciation (compared to other, more ‘serious’ subject matters). Moreover, the current organization of and the prevailing discourse on physical education has brought about a far going instrumentalization of the body (meaning that movement activities are made subservient to societal goals that have nothing to do with the corporeal). In this article I elaborate a new way to look at this formal discipline, arguing that we should take the term ‘physical’ quite literally and that the specific educational content of P.E. (in contradistinction to organized sport life outside school) resides in its concentration on the physical as such. I will support this thesis by taking into account some ideas of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben.
I will more precisely elaborate his thought that next to the more common classification of (motor) behaviour as ‘means in view of an end’ (instrumental behaviour, poiesis) or ‘pure ends’ (autotelic activity, praxis), there exists also a repertoire of movements that should be termed ‘pure means’. These precisely allow for an experience that is intrinsically equalizing and communizing and that has a deep emancipatory significance (which he describes as ‘potentiality’, but also as ‘profanation’). What we aim at is however not an abstract or general consideration about the aims of P.E., but a deeper understanding of specific practices. Therefore we will use this Agambenian framework to analyse things such as basic callisthenic exercise, as well as specific forms of play and sport. This will allow to make concrete suggestions regarding the (reformation of) P.E.-curricula.