It’s a while since I’ve shouted at the radio, but I hollered at it on Friday morning. The Today programme had a feature on physical literacy. If you’re not sure what that is, bear with me a moment.
Apparently, Daley Thompson commented that British athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson threw like a girl, rather than like an athlete, when competing in the heptathlon event at the Athletics World Championships in the summer. I missed the comment and the kerfuffle that followed, although, if what I heard on the radio is anything to go by, the summer silly season had a field day (pun intended).
Partly in response to that, a campaign has been launched focusing on physical literacy, making use of the pre-existing hashtag #likeagirl.
Now, I’m all for girls seeking to excel at athletics and athletic competence being part of daily life for everyone, but what on this green earth is physical literacy?
How does “literacy” (defined, essentially, as being able to read and write) have anything to do with athletic competence and confidence? Inserting the word “physical” in front of it doesn’t alter that.
I googled “physical literacy” and found a definition, but it’s so convoluted that I don’t understand it. There were also heaps of results referring to physical literacy, although that doesn’t validate the expression.
We don’t talk about numerical literacy or scientific literacy – at least, I haven’t heard those and the concept of numeracy, in particular, doesn’t appear to fit with the concept of literacy. The term emotional literacy has been banded, but I’m still baffled why this poor word is being adopted as a “gate”-like suffix, what it’s supposed to mean and how anyone seeking to interpret the words they hear is supposed to understand what’s really meant.
Above all, it doesn’t add clarity to what the campaign appears to be driving at – i.e. girls incorporating physical fitness in their daily lives and being comfortable with – and enjoying – being athletic. Why not say that, rather than use an expression that bears little resemblance to what’s meant?