PC Culture

Researchers Claim Dodgeball Teaches Kids ‘Oppression’ — But It’s Really Not That Serious

Players at the Epic Pro Dodgeball event at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Fla., January 23, 2019. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)
There’s a such thing as thinking about something so much that you lose track of how simple it really is.

Researchers are arguing that dodgeball is not just a harmless children’s game, but actually a sinister activity that teaches them “oppression.”

According to an article in the National Post, three “education theorists” will give a presentation at the upcoming Canadian Society for the Study of Education meeting in Vancouver arguing that the game of dodgeball is “miseducative” — because it basically makes kids learn that they should be oppressing weaker people or something.

Joy Butler, professor of curriculum and pedagogy at the University of British Columbia, said in an abstract of the presentation:

As we consider the potential of physical education to empower students by engaging them in critical and democratic practices, we conclude that the hidden curriculum offered by dodgeball is antithetical to this project, even when it reflects the choices of the strongest and most agile students.

According to Butler, dodgeball “reinforces the five faces of oppression.” These were defined by the late University of Chicago social and political theorist Iris Marion Young. Butler’s abstract identifies three of those “faces” as “marginalization, powerlessness, and helplessness of those perceived as weaker individuals through the exercise of violence and dominance by those who are considered more powerful” — and, according to the Post, Young “also includes exploitation and cultural domination.”

My reaction to all of this? Honestly, it’s so stupid that I don’t even know where to start.

When I was a kid, I really enjoyed dodgeball — and not for the reason that you might think. I didn’t enjoy it because I was good at it, because I was never good at any sort of athletic activity. No . . . I enjoyed it because it was the only activity where I got to sit around and relax because I wasn’t good at it. Honestly, dodgeball days were like a dream. I used to get hit by the ball (often even on purpose) and then get to just chill on the sidelines for a while. It was awesome.

What’s more, at no point during any of this did I start to feel like I was somehow inferior or “powerless” because other kids were better at hitting people with a ball than I was. I never saw any of the kids who were good at it become violent or domineering in any way. Yes: Believe it or not, these kids were actually able to be good at and enjoy dodgeball, without becoming people who felt like it was acceptable or cool to “oppress” others. Amazing!

I know that these researchers would probably say that I just don’t get it, that they’re just smarter than I am, that I just haven’t thought about it enough or learned enough. The truth is, though, there’s a such thing as thinking about something so much that you lose track of how simple it really is in reality. Too much thinking can often make things more complicated than they really are, and this is definitely an example of that.

Yes, dodgeball encourages competitiveness. Yes, the stronger, more athletic kids are going to be more successful at it than the weaker ones, but what game doesn’t have winners and losers? I mean, seriously, this is so ridiculous. If we thought about all children’s games through this kind of social-justice lens, kids wouldn’t be allowed to play any of them. After all, couldn’t you say that a game like musical chairs just isn’t “inclusive” enough, that it actually promotes exclusion? Couldn’t you argue that games like tag and hide-and-seek encourage stalking behaviors? Or that Simon Says teaches women that they have to do what men say? Like, why isn’t it “Sara Says,” patriarchy?

I could go on, but I’m actually kind of concerned that one of these researchers might take one of my comparisons seriously, so I’ll just leave it at this: Dodgeball is just a game, and I will give you $1,000 if you can find me even a single student who has become some kind of abusive tyrant because of it.

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