The newest addition to the list of things we should find “unethical” and “oppressive” is dodgeball.
Yes, according to some academics, the game you played in gym class when you were twelve is responsible for impairing the creation of “kind and gentle children who will become decent citizens of a liberal democracy”.
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The National Post released an article this week by Joseph Brean explaining how “dodgeball isn’t just an unethical tool, it’s a form of oppression.”
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This week, three education theorists will present the premise that dodgeball is “miseducative” and teaches “athletic privilege” to the Canadian Society for the Study of Education at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Vancouver, Canada.
HumanEvents report: The presentation argues that physical education is supposed to empower children via ‘democratic practices’, and dodgeball’s underlying message of athletic hierarchy and reinforcement of oppression undermines this.
Although dodgeball is the focus of the left for the time being, Brean points out fault in many childhood games, proving them to be similarly problematic. He describes capture the flag as ‘militaristic’ and says tag “singles out one poor participant, often the slowest child, as the dehumanized ‘It,’ who runs vainly in pursuit of the quicker ones.”
The idea that a games used to get children to exercise, work as a team, have fun, and discover their athletic abilities is secretly training them to oppress those they deem weak is a stretch at the very least.
Dodgeball, along with many other physical and intellectual games, is centered around the construction of a balanced team that is capable to handle the task at hand: winning. It’s not about participation trophies. The American football team the New England Patriots wouldn’t choose a lifelong accountant who has dreamed of being on a professional sports team over a football player that has trained since grade school, yet this does not make the Patriots ‘oppressive’ – it makes them winners.
According to Brean’s article, the educational theorists say that dodgeball impairs the creation of “decent citizens of a liberal democracy.” If a liberal democracy is threatened by juveniles playing dodgeball, maybe a reevaluation of the democracy is in order rather than one of a schoolyard game.
Brean references the comedy movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story with Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller in an attempt to highlight how dodgeball is a danger to the development of children’s character:
“Sport can teach ethical behaviour and give students the chance to practise it and, in this sense, it is important training for citizens in a democracy. This goal is impeded when cruelty, oppression and violence are built into the rules. Games become more like cruel initiation ceremonies into a brutal world in which might makes right. As O’Houlihan puts it, before he starts throwing wrenches at his players as a form of training: “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.””
To emphasize the ‘athletic privilege’ the game supposedly teaches kids, Brean once again quotes the comedy film:
“Dodgeball is a sport of violence, exclusion and degradation. So, when you’re picking players in gym class, remember to pick the bigger, stronger kids for your team. That way, you can all gang up on the weaker ones.”
It may be time to reconsider your premise when you’re citing a 2004 comedy film to back your thesis.