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The 1964 article “Physical Education, An Academic Discipline” did much to foster more and better relevant research, which is what its author, Franklin Henry, who had earned a PhD in Physiological Psychology, had hoped would occur. However, a number of negative changes (which he certainly did not want) soon began to occur in the field of physical education, which now too rarely uses that name. (Few, if any, other departments in universities and colleges have made as many name changes.) The precipitous decline of efforts to put into practice the results of research (hence, the absence of pedagogy and other “applied” courses in too many curricula) is proving to be especially detrimental. American children and young people had become so inactive that the United States Department of Health and Human Services considered it imperative to state in Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General (published in 1996): “Community leaders need to reexamine whether enough resources have been devoted to the maintenance of parks, playgrounds, community centers, and physical education. Schools and universities need to reintroduce daily, quality physical activity as a key component of a comprehensive education.” This decline has continued in spite of the fact that the number of scientific and medical studies that verify the importance of physical activity continues to grow. The field once known almost exclusively as “physical education” has become divided and fractured. When will things change for the better?
Park is with the University of California, Berkeley, CA.