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This report analyzes changes in a traditional physical education curriculum in an inner-city high school. The analysis is based on my 14-week participant observation of classes and interviews with a veteran physical educator (Mary) who experienced community and curriculum changes during her 26-year tenure. A written chronological research narrative was examined through a framework that delineates the nature of curriculum discourses and student social capital for schooling. The findings show that the curriculum is failing because negative social changes have denied students’ access to necessary social capital for successful learning. Mary emphasized a curriculum discourse of control based on a belief of dual-responsibility that dichotomizes educational opportunity into responsibility of control for teachers and responsibility of learning for students. A grounded theory developed from the case suggests that the physical education curriculum should emphasize transformation of knowledge and skills, the person, and community culture rather than reproduction of the “official knowledge” (Apple, 1993).
The author is with the Department of Exercise Science and Physical Education at Arizona State University, Tempe AZ 85287-0701.