The Canadian Society for the Study of Education at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences has decided that dodgeball — the gym class game and rite of passage for most elementary schoolers — is not merely a somewhat dangerous schoolyard pastime, it’s a tool designed to teach children an “unethical system of oppression” that “legalizes bullying.”
The game, of course, is a familiar one: two teams — usually self-selected in a mildly embarrassing process — race to take control of a set of large rubber balls that they then throw at the other team. Kids hit by the balls are out and a winner is declared as soon as one team has been completely eliminated.
In a totally serious article published in Canada’s National Post, researcher Joseph Brean and his team argue that social justice demands the complete and total elimination of dodgeball from the Canadian physical education curriculum, lest children grow up to understand they can wield their privilege the way they wield a rubber athletic ball.
The game, the group claims, is “miseducative” and forces students to display “hierarchies of privilege based on athletic skill,” even though the game is mostly just about throwing balls at other children.
“Dodgeball is not just unhelpful to the development of kind and gentle children who will become decent citizens of a liberal democracy. It is actively harmful to this process,” the researchers claim, adding that the game is, at its core, “oppressive.”
“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,” the researchers claim.
Ultimately dodgeball’s “hidden curriculum” reinforces the “five faces of oppression,” they claim, as it encourages the “marginalization, powerlessness, and helplessness of those perceived as weaker individuals through the exercise of violence and dominance by those who are considered more powerful.”
Part of the problem, apparently, is that, unlike other nursery games and elementary school sports, dodgeball puts the focus on other students. In order to succeed in the game, you have to target other kids and hit them with the ball. When you make humans the target, the researchers say, you “legalize bullying” (because most of the targets are smaller, weaker children).
“If you practice ganging up on people, over time you’ll esteem ganging up on people,” one team member told Canadian media. “If that’s what you want, then dodgeball is an excellent tool to that end.”
Dodgeball has been a target of social justice warriors before. Schools have been working for years to ban dodgeball from the physical education curriculum for reasons ranging from bullying to athletic capacity, even legal liability. Edutopia reports that dodgeball, though a much beloved memory for Gen-Xers and older Millennials, has little value for modern physical education teachers, who want to focus more on developing social skills than showcasing athletic prowess.