Despite announcing it would be phased out in January, the Ohio State’s physical education program is here to stay. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Managing Editor for Design

The Department of Human Sciences announced in January it would be phasing out Ohio State’s physical education teacher education program by 2022. However, the decision was reversed later in May.

While the decision to keep the program occurred in May, Phillip Ward, a professor of physical education teacher education, said there was still confusion over the status of the program as a previous story from The Lantern was still being cited by groups concerned about the program’s closure.

Erik Porfeli, department chair of the College of Education and Human Ecology, said the program was initially to be phased out because enrollment in the physical education teacher education program was low and had been for a while.

Because of that, Porfeli said the previous dean of the college, Cheryl Achterberg, wanted to move forward with ending the program after plans of the closure were already in talks. Achterberg was succeeded by current dean Donald B. Pope-Davis effective July 15.

“During that time, there were a number of people who expressed concern about the importance of physical education, physical activity in youth,” Porfeli said.

The decline of jobs for physical education teachers was also cited to faculty as a reason for the program being closed, Ward said.

“In actual fact, there are many jobs for physical education teachers,” Ward said, citing that in 2017, 58 percent of lessons taught in physical education in Florida were taught by people without physical education degrees. “This is pretty much the case throughout the country.”

Ward said after the initial announcement the program was being phased out, the faculty of the program asked about the procedures being used to close the program and questioned the rationale behind the elimination.

After speaking with members of the university, Ward said that was when the decision came into question.

“They indicated to us and to our dean at the time and the department chair that those procedures to close us were not correct, and that we were not to be closed,” Ward said. “So we were in one sense, even though there were procedures trying close [the program], we were in fact never able to be closed in that sense.”

After the faculty found out the program was staying, Ward said everyone felt there was a big relief.

“I can tell you that during our six months, our faculty were very distressed about the circumstances, and I don’t think any of us would say we’ve been probably as distressed about something in our professional lives to the same degree as we were then,” Ward said. “Right now we’re feeling pretty good about everything.”

Moving forward, Porfeli said he sees the physical education teacher education program as contributing to a national conversation where health and wellness can “have its day” and engage populations to increase the health and wellness in the country.

Despite the decline, Porfeli said he expects to see an increase in the physical education teacher education program enrollment in the future because he believes that students in K-12 education will recognize the link between health and academic performance and become inspired to pursue physical education.

“I’m hoping that we can increasingly, with the faculty, create this virtuous cycle where great things happen in K-12 that inspire kids to go to college and not only bump into and say ‘I happen to want to pursue this major,’ but actually come to the university saying this is exactly what I want to do,” Porfeli said.