21st Century…. sport?

I had a post planned on EdTech in schools being like rock band allegiances. I’ll save that one for later.

What has really grabbed my attention lately has been the Commonwealth Games in India. Not just the competition and the spectacle, but what I think are implications for PE in schools.

Two events caught my eye in particular. Cyclist Shane Perkins and wrestler Hassene Fkiri being disciplined for unsportsmanlike and “unAustralian” behaviour, and sprinter Sally Pearson’s disqualification from the gold medal in the 100m.


Shane Perkins - News Ltd


Perkins and Fkiri were in trouble for making “two fingered” gestures  (as well as in Fkiri’s case, refusing to shake hands). The reaction of the media was intriguing – the athletes were declared “unAustralian” and sanctions were called for (the first time I’d ever heard of such a thing). For Fkiri, his offense occurred at the conclusion of his bout and sanctions seemed straightforward – official rebuke and medal stripped.


Hassene Fakiri - AFP


After the initial media “scandal” reaction, the outcome seemed acceptable for most. But for Perkins, it got complicated. He was a hot chance for further gold. So officially and journalistically, he was initially put on a stay of execution, because it would be “harsh to upset all his work and training” by suspending him. Perkins eventually withdrew from his events, saving the Australian team chiefs from a potentially explosive sacking. Nevertheless, the Australian officials were reluctant to act.

Impression #1 –  it can be argued that winning is more important than being “Australian”.

The second event was the disqualification of Sally Pearson in the 100m after an appeal by a rival country.


Sally Pearson - AAP


Putting aside the merits of the case for appeal and disqualification, what I found most interesting was the comments made by the Australian Head Coach when asked about the incident.

Most notably, when asked whether the appeal was against the “spirit of the games”, Hollingsworth replied “We’re no longer in the Corinthian era, this is high performance sport”. Listen to him below.

Source – ABC radio “The World at Noon” 8/10/2010

To her credit, Pearson offered a “no hard feelings” sentiment to the rival team

Impression #2 – Sport is no longer about fair play, personal best and “the Corinthian era”. It’s just about winning.

How does this affect schools? Considering that much of the talk about PE in schools is centred on the “character building”, “life skills” that sport and PE offer and transmit to students, I think it is wise to pause a moment and consider what character building information these two circumstances provide. In Australia, much of this drama has been unfolding on prime time TV, with media analysis flowing thick and fast. Children watching this will undoubtedly form opinions, and unless it is balanced with a critical eye on why it is happening, much of this will probably form a new sporting paradigm for them. This surfaces at the school level not just on the sporting field, but across a range of experiences, because the “character building” lessons learned on the sporting field are invariably played out in classrooms, playgrounds and other social settings.

And just to add to my concerns, I came across this thread in a discussion on GATS (Gifted and Talented Students) in PE. At least one critical eye raised the question of elitism.

Perhaps this is the 21st Century way of looking at sport?

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