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Research Reviews

The Idea of Physical Education: A Memetic Perspective

Richard Tinning

The Big Idea

The subject of this paper is what Richard Tinning calls “the idea of physical education.”  In one form or another Tinning argues, physical education is universally familiar.  As a cultural manifestation, we find it early on.  In ancient Greece, it was institutionalized for the all-around education of male citizens.  Since then, even if in fits and starts, wherever formal education in general is valued we find in one form or another a physical component attached to it.

The question Tinning asks is:  Why has physical education survived in recognizable forms around the world over the centuries?  But the big question behind this question is this:  What of its future?  Despite the 2009 international survey of physical education in 167 countries (Hardman and Marshall) showing consistent government support for physical education (although under resourced), there are concerns about its global vulnerability.


  • Physical education is an idea culturally transmitted and globally developed.
  • As an idea, physical education is self-propagating.
  • It can therefore be considered a meme.
  • A meme is the cultural equivalent of a gene in...

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