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MOVEMENT EDUCATION: Looking Back to Move Forward

Back in the “sixties” when we, the recent converts to movement education, were looking at the sacred cows of physical education with the same irreverence that teenage boys looked at conventional hairstyles, some of us took the position that physical education needed a new movement education image. Others took a more conservative position by simply including movement education units of exploration into already existing curricula for the lower grades.

We puzzled over British books on educational gymnastics, games, and dance as we sought help in making transformations. A book by Dr Liselott Diem, “Who Can?”, became the impetus for our efforts to change command-style teaching into a series of questions. A close examination was made of the teaching process, which succeeded in giving children more choices and teachers an avenue for creativity. Many children began passing through schools whose PE teachers zealously developed “movement education” programs. I concluded, quite erroneously, that physical education was headed for a new era. I figured that teachers and administrators would embrace movement education as the foundation and fundamental substance of physical education. However, I overlooked the strength and intransigence of the advocates of scientific PE. Movement education is art, as such is often a more round-about method of achieving PE goals. We, the converts, failed to convince a majority of administrators that, through movement education, skills could be taught more successfully. As a result, employers didn’t search for movement educators among newly graduated physical education majors.

The blame must rest on us for pushing instead of gently leading. We confused the issue by not demonstrating a clear way to teach complex motor skills.


Instead, we emphasized movement theory and pedagogy through “Basic Movement Education” The elimination of competition in skill building, a main goal for movement educators, was too hard a pill for the traditionalist to swallow. What they didn’t realize was that many of us movement educators had been, and still are coaches as well as instructors of skill-oriented programs. Movement concepts and team skill development are very compatible. Problem solving and shared responsibility bring the minds of many individuals together on the single objective of winning. Movement education can find root within a spectrum of educational programs from early childhood to late adulthood. Its acceptance by organizations like the NAEYC and other early childhood organizations is most significant. I am optimistic that the old saying, “What goes around, comes around,” also applies to movement education.

As physical education continues its struggle for a meaningful identity, a growing appreciation of movement education is re-emerging across the country. There is interest among fitness educators, gymnastics coaches, and instructors from a variety of specialties. Movement education is given more emphasis new coterie of presenters.

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