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Stop playing up! A critical ethnography of health, physical education and (sub)urban schooling

This thesis explores the place of health and physical education in the lives of Otara youth in New Zealand. Situated in the southern suburbs of New Zealand’s largest city, Otara, South Auckland is known for its cultural diversity, as well as for poverty and crime. It is home to large numbers of indigenous Maori and migrant Pasifika (Pacific Island) youth. Based on a year-long critical ethnography of a multiethnic high school, this thesis explores how these young people engage with and respond to the school subjects of health and physical education. It also discusses broader issues in their lives, including the social geographies within which they reside, and how they understand their bodies, sexuality, health, gender and physicalities. The subjects of health and physical education are compulsory in most schools internationally – in New Zealand they are directly linked in curriculum policy documents and in school practice – but share a somewhat uneasy relationship and differing historical positions. Considered low status in schools, these subjects are also conflated with narrow body and health norms, possibly problematic for young women, and/or are wedded to the social and cultural world of sport. Curriculum policy documents established in the last ten years offer the possibility of critical and social approaches to these subjects, but examples of critical practice remain rare. Health and physical education are thus compulsory, contentious, contradictory and complex subjects within contemporary schooling. Critical ethnographies of schooling are relatively scarce compared with conventional ethnographic accounts, but critical ethnographies of health and physical education (PE) are almost unheard of. The use of such a methodology in this study enabled an indepth account of Otara youth in the subjects of health and PE at school. It also provided a platform for storied accounts of how one teacher, Dan, enacted a critical and culturally connected pedagogy of health and PE with the young people in his classes. This thesis explores the complex potential for health and PE as key sites of learning for Pasifika and Maori youth. It examines health and PE as subjects that are both politically fraught and spaces of hope.
Type of thesis
Fitzpatrick, K. (2010). Stop playing up! A critical ethnography of health, physical education and (sub)urban schooling (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4429
University of Waikato
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