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In defence of white privilege: Physical education teachers’ understandings of their work in culturally diverse schools

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Dean Barker
Publicerad i Sport, Education and Society
Volym 24
Nummer/häfte 2
Sidor 134-146
ISSN 1357-3322
Publiceringsår 2019
Publicerad vid Institutionen för kost- och idrottsvetenskap
Sidor 134-146
Språk en
Länkar https://doi.org/10.1080/13573322.20...
Ämnesord Race; ethnicity; cultural diversity; critical race theory; whiteness; equity
Ämneskategorier Pedagogik


Research suggests that physical education (PE) in Western countries is not providing equitable experiences for non-white students. Responsibility for shortcomings has often been ascribed to white PE teachers. Scholars have claimed that teachers lack cultural competence and know little about how physical cultures or health are understood by the young people with whom they work. The objective of this investigation was to investigate this claim and generate an understanding of how white PE teachers in a culturally diverse high school make sense of their work with non-white students. Data with three Swedish teachers of varying experience were produced using semi-structured interviewing. A series of school visits provided a complementary line of data. Four themes emerged from the data. These related to: (1) differences between white and non-white values; (2) the knowledge and dispositions necessary for success in PE; (3) the broad purpose of PE, and; (4) the differences between boys’ and girls’ experiences of PE. Data were interpreted using a Critical Race Theory (CRT) perspective, with the notion of ‘whiteness’ providing a specific analytic concept. The general thesis developed in the second part of the paper is that problems result not from insensitivity or incompetence but from discourses of whiteness in which many teachers live and work. By building on critical research both in general education and physical education literature and by utilizing whiteness as an analytical concept, the investigation shows how three PE teachers draw extensively on the racial discourse of whiteness and how this disadvantages non-white students. The paper is concluded with a consideration of how racial disadvantage could be challenged or disrupted.

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