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|Submission Title:||Envisioning PE 2020|
|Submission Entry:||The noted futurist of the 20th Century, Herman Kahn, observed ca. 1969 that the best way to forecast the future is via empirically-based extrapolation. In brief, Kahn advised futurists to understand societal and global trends. To the extent that these trends endure the forces and factors driving past-present reality constitute a reasonable predictor of the future.
Notwithstanding Kahn’s brilliance, he researched and wrote during a different era. Even as Kahn offered his insights, the late Donald Schön (who gained fame for his work with reflective practice and practitioners) authored a little known, but very important book. He called it “Beyond the Stable State.” Marketed as a book about politics, the double meaning in his title is apparent today.
Ours is a world of rapid, dramatic and even revolutionary transitions and important transformations. The stable state of the 20th Century has been replaced by the unstable, fast-moving, and complex 21st Century set of realities. Not only have young people changed, but so have their families, and so must the social institutions that serve them. In fact, a 2010 special issue of The Future of Children (Journal, available on line) identifies the need for a new set of social institutions for a new era. Examples like these cause me to wonder about the import of extrapolation for the PE 2020 project.
This much I know: We have a choice between a reactive and a proactive stance. Reactively, we can permit important professional and societal forces to proceed without planned interventions, more or less assuming that today’s PE will be tomorrow’s. Although I’m not certain about very many things these days, I am quite certain that this option will destine the profession to a steady decline and an unhappy ending.
Alternatively, we can envision a (more) desirable future and then figure out how to organize and mobilize for collective action. Since the PE profession as a whole currently lacks sufficient economic resources, political clout, and scientific legitimacy (in many quarters), mobilization for action will by necessity involve other professions, the private sector, and governmental leaders. This will not be easy, in part because our professional associations appear to lack the commitments and the capacity to make this happen. I also wonder about the critical mass of leadership needed for such an endeavor.
Above all, the profession lacks the power and authority to be granted the autonomy needed to make the decisions about PE’s future. Issues of scientific legitimacy enter here, but so do popular stereotypes of “gym teachers” and “gym class.” Like it or not, we’ll need solid alliances with other professions.
Finally, “cookie cutter” schools with standardized curricula are soon to be relics. Learning and healthy development during out-of-school time are emergent priorities, and so are career academies. Pay for play is everywhere and growing. Meanwhile, poor kids in poverty-concentrated communities can’t find a safe place to play and lack adult mentors and coaches. Implanted in these realities are the seeds of opportunity for proactive leaders.