Fitness testing in Australian Schools: A manifestation of a hyper-civilising process?

Year: 2012

Author: Alfrey, Laura, Gard, Michael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Fitness testing in schools can often lack educational value and be damaging to those who participate. Whilst the nature and purpose of fitness testing is contested, it remains a staple component of most secondary Health and Physical Education (HPE) programs within and beyond Australia. This paper draws upon the work of Elias, and in particular his work on the civilizing process, to discuss the ongoing and widespread use of fitness testing in schools. It is not our intention here to subscribe to a grand narrative, nor do we view 'civilisation' as an ideal and static state that is achieved through a linear, uni-directional process. Rather, we hope to apply one specific aspect of Elias' thesis to the phenomenon of fitness testing in HPE. It is our view that the prevalence of fitness testing in schools could, in part, be a result of an ongoing process of hyper-civilization which sees young people being conditioned to meet a social standard of fitness and in so doing demonstrate what Elias would refer to as a 'blindly functioning apparatus of self-control'. The term 'hyper' is used to suggest that, in relation to HPE, fitness testing operates as an exaggerated process of civilization. We would add the proviso that we perceive 'civilizing processes' as problematic regimes of power.