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Physical Education in American Schools

Like sport and education in general, physical education responds to and reproduces broader social values. As such, it is an important topic for those interested in the history of schooling, as well as policy issues in education. This entry looks at the history of physical education in schools from the colonial era to the twenty-first century.

Early Practice

Before and after European settlement, Native Americans played lacrosse and many other games. European colonists' early schooling slighted physical development, despite the exercise recommendations in John Locke's important Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693). Scattered beginnings of the inclusion of physical education, for example, Benjamin Franklin's 1751 Philadelphia Academy, preceded independence.

Schools in the new nation gradually included exercise. Some boys' teachers instituted military drill, although Congress declined to require it ...

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