"Run fat boy, run"

Year: 2013

Author: Renwick, Kerry

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In response to the awareness of the increased incidence, in Western countries, of obesity in children and young adults, the means of prevention has been signalled on the agenda of both State and National governments in Australia. Increasingly described as an epidemic, there has been an ongoing elicitation of a medicalised perspective. Responses are often proffered with a societal blaming of the victim, for poor decisions or because they live in marginalised or disadvantaged circumstances. The Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum can be interpreted and enacted in schools, in ways that frame childhood or youth obesity as a ‘sickness'. Such a perspective can be viewed as a catalyst to implement behaviour change regimes such as exercise more and eat less, to resolve this ‘illness' and redress the epidemic.
This paper draws on the work of Bernstein (1999) as it considers the construction of HPE pedagogical practice using obesity as a case in point. It seeks to critically explore how ‘official' knowledge, represented in epidemiology, health promotion, nutrition and exercise science, and ‘local' knowledge of one's lifeworld, represents distinct ideological positioning which may be viewed as responsible for variance with intentions and realisation for both educator and student.
Using Bernstein's vertical and horizontal discourse, this paper will evaluate contrasting ideological positions of the Australian HPE curriculum. In doing so, emphasis will be given to the development of particular pedagogical constructs of obesity, as it informs practice. The incorporation of understandings of the horizontally structured knowledges of students seeks to explain the emergence of more inclusive pedagogical approaches, within the construct of the HPE curriculum.
 Basil Bernstein (1999): Vertical and Horizontal Discourse: An essay, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 20:2, 157-173