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History of PE

history of peThe Ancient Greeks were one of the first groups of people to insist on Physical Education (PE) which is why the history of PE can be traced back to the ancient times. However, in the Ancient Greece, PE was linked with military service, which was compulsory for most young men. The aim was to ensure that the soldiers were at the peak of their physical fitness for battle - a concept the US Armed Forces still employs.

Schools and colleges in the US initially ignored the necessity for Physical Education for their students. It was widely regarded that children, at school, should only be concerned about their academics and therefore such activities were regarded unnecessary. This was a sentiment echoed by many as late as the 1980’s. One name that has always been associated with the introduction of Physical Education as a subject is that of Dr J.C. Warren. Dr Warren was a medical doctor from Harvard University and used his medical expertise in determining the importance of Physical Education. As a result of the growing importance of Physical Education, health and exercise have almost become synonymous in all age groups.

However, there is some controversy. Due to the rising popularity of sports and, in particular, team sports, many PE teachers believe the most appropriate context in which to teach physical education is team sports. On the other hand, there are others who feel that physical education should be taught as a stand-alone item and children should be encouraged to undertake physical exercise this way. The benefits of the latter is that, later on in life, the child will understand the importance of fitness, rather than associating it with football, baseball or other team sport alone.

There was a general decline in teaching Physical Education in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This was due to economic factors and the decline in Government funding. PE has returned to prominence and is taught at all school levels these days.

The return of PE’s prominence may also be attributed to the growing epidemic of obesity in the US, particularly, in children under the age of 18. Many people now believe that the wrong diet and a lack of exercise in childhood carry their effects through to adulthood.

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