P.E. lessons from sports politics
The introduction of school gymnastics is connected to Kunó Klebelsberg, who also promoted the training of P.E. teachers parallelly. In 1925, he established the Royal Hungarian College of Physical Education. The Hungarian sports life did not start developing during his ministership naturally; this process had already been present since the beginning of the 20th century, when sports became an integral part of Europe and also became part of everyday life gradually. The 1910s was the period of gymnastic festivals, where participants could show their knowledge in artistic ways to the audience. The employment of “the Hungarian physical education system” started in the twenties, when the earlier German gymnastics was replaced by the Swedish one. The innovation of the Swedish movement was the use of gymnastics equipment: rings and bars for men, beam and uneven bars for women. The German gymnastics remained in the form of military field exercises.
Returning to P.E. teachers, their secondary education was an 8-10-month long course of the National Exercise Club, which was not famous for its modernity even back then. Besides that unfortunately, P.E. teachers were not regarded as equal teachers before Klebelsberg’s reforms; which was rectified later.
But why did exercise become so important? Although the peace dictate of Trianon recalls the losing of territories and population in everyone’s mind, other limitations also took effect by the signing of the contract. For example, the number limit of the military force that had to work on voluntary basis, without military training.
Due to the disarmament of the army, it seemed necessary to organise the physical education of the school children at least. On the other hand, Kunó Klebelsberg thought that the country might be recovered by educating youngsters’ physique and personality carefully. That is why institutionalised P.E. lessons were introduced. Besides theory, some practical changes also happened: they started constructing gymnasia for schools.
The sports political activity of the Minister brought about important changes in three fields: the school education that was mentioned above, the physical education at school (also covered), and the physical education outside school. These activities were: levente organisations and scouts’ movements. Working people could not be left without exercise either, thus company sports were launched. The act of 1921 on physical education ordered that every factory employing more than a thousand people had to establish a sports complex for its employees. Thus, the question of physical education became a public affair, and its effect is still felt.
Translated by Zita Aknai