08 SES 10 A, Health Education in a Curriculum Perspective
Parallel Paper Session<br />
In contemporary times, news and entertainment media around the world bombard us with the message that we should be worried about health. Current issues that dominate public discussion include everything from alcohol and drug use, teenage sexual behaviour and pregnancy, through to suicide, obesity and poor nutrition. Issues of safety, risk and decision-making are invariably implicated, along with more traditional calls for hygiene practices and illness prevention. The overweight, the sick and those deemed ‘unhealthy’ are routinely castigated for putting themselves at risk and for burdening health systems. As Deborah Lupton (2003) notes “falling ill has become viewed as a sign of moral failure, a source of blame…. Not to engage in risk-avoiding behaviour is considered a failure of the self” (p. 58).
The visibility of such neoliberal health discourses is a form of public pedagogy, based on moral panic, by which everyone learns to self-monitor, regulate and medicate their bodies in the name of health. Thirty years ago, Robert Crawford (1980) coined the term ‘healthism’ to describe the proliferation of health messages and the expectation that one’s health is essentially an individual responsibility. Healthism extends beyond the boundaries of illness and physical health concerns, crossing over into body maintenance, control and intervention. Later commentators have discussed healthism in relation to ‘new public health’ which, according to Peterson and Lupton (1996), requires individuals “to manage their own relationship with and to the risks of the environment, which are seen to be everywhere and in everything” (p. ix, my emphasis). Although a form of public pedagogy, health also has an overt and explicit place in the formal education and schooling of young people. Schools are increasingly held up as sites of blame for health problems and called on to respond to health by ‘educating’ young people to be healthy (Gard & Wright, 2005).
This paper discusses the possibilities for an applied critical pedagogy of health education to speak back to dominant body and health discourses. Such a pedagogy may provide the space for young people to engage in a critique of, and resistance to, healthism. I first argue that there is an urgent need for critical pedagogies of health education to be developed in different international contexts. I then outline what the key tenets of such pedagogies might be, arguing that, while cultural location is important to consider, some aspects of such a pedagogy might potentially cross national contexts. I end by drawing policy and practice examples from the New Zealand context to exemplify how such pedagogies might be actualised in educational practice.
Crawford, R. (1980). Healthism and the medicalisation of everyday life. International journal of health services, 10 (3), p. 365-388. Gard, M., & Wright, J. (2005). The obesity epidemic: Science, morality and ideology. London and New York: Routledge. Giroux, H. (2005). The terror of neoliberalism: Rethinking the significance of cultural politics. College Literature, 32 (1), p. 1-19. Kincheloe, J. & hayes, k. (Eds) (2007). Teaching city kids: Understanding and appreciating them. New York: Peter Lang. Lupton, D. (2003). The social construction of medicine and the body. In G. Albrecht, R. Fitzpatrick & S. Scrimshaw (Eds), The handbook of social studies in health and medicine, (pp. 50-63). London and Thousand Oaks: Sage. Moss, D.M & Osborn, T.A. (Eds) (2010). Critical essays on resistance in education. Peter Lang: New York. Peterson, A. & Lupton, D. (1996). The new public health: Health and self in the age of risk. St Leonards, Australia: Allen and Unwin. Wright, J., MacDonald, D. & Burrows, L. (Eds) (2004). Critical inquiry and problem solving in physical education. London and New York: Routledge.
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