The power of silence and myth of neutrality: Gender in the national curriculum for physical education in England.

Year: 2001

Author: Penney, Dawn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper explores the ways in which ‘gender issues’ have been addressed in the official texts relating to the National Curriculum for Physical Education in England and specifically, the conceptualisations of gender, sexuality, masculinity and femininity that can be identified as inherent in, promoted by, but also excluded from these texts. It is argued that in important respects, silences speak loader than words and that neither silence nor the use of ‘neutral’ language is in any way neutral. These characteristics of the texts are identified as having important implications in relation to the degree to which the National Curriculum for Physical Education serves to (I) demand or encourage that established and inequitable practices and beliefs will be challenged, and (ii) prompt and support the development of new practices in which currently marginalised (or absent) discourses will be accorded a higher status. Attention is then directed to the scope for teachers and teacher educators to ‘fill the silences’ in official texts in ways that may serve to extend the ‘gender agendas’ addressed by and reflected in physical education curricula and teaching.