Dr. Max Fourestier, or the swansong of the medical period of physical education

Research papers
By Sébastien Laffage-Cosnier

In France, from the end of the nineteenth century onward, physicians played a significant part in school physical education (PE). Many academics have already published works that reveal the role and influence of medicine within this field of education. In 1950, Dr. Max Fourestier introduced the concept of dividing the school day into two parts. In the morning, students did intellectual, classroom-based activities, while the afternoon was reserved for PE classes. This program was implemented at the Gambetta Elementary School in Vanves, a municipality in the suburbs of Paris, where Fourestier was the school’s physician. This study shows that the school innovations in Vanves were, on the one hand, an example of a rich interweaving of the dynamic, quantitative, and normative conceptions of health theorized by Georges Canguilhem, and, on the other, that they paradoxically participated in the sidelining and symbolic reduction of the role of physicians in PE in a context of major administrative restructuring. Lastly, the study moves on to question the symbolism of this reduced role—the last honors of which seem to go hand in hand with the end of the so-called medical period of school PE.

  • school innovation
  • physical education
  • physician
  • Fourestier
  • Vanves
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