Canada is known for its nice people. If you ever want to meet some of the politest people on the planet, all you have to do is cross the northern border into Canada. But niceties can sometimes be seen as a sign of weakness, as is the case after this Canadian college professor called for all dodgeball to be disbanded as a sport because “the message is that it’s okay to hurt or dehumanize the ‘other.'”
For the uninitiated dodgeball is a team sport where each team tries to peg people on the other side of the court with balls. If a person is hit with a ball, they are out. The team that has all their members eliminated first loses. The aim of the game is to get out as many people on the other team as fast as possible. Dodgeball has a cult following among many Americans – and towns like Portland, Oregon host dodgeball games for adults at public parks.
However, Canadian researchers found that dodgeball encourages players to use the “five faces of oppression.” These strategies of gameplay include exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. Isolating people and targeting the weakest links surely is a strategy for dodgeball that can work – which means it is seen as a “tool of oppression.”
But do these heady analyses of the game really hold true? Or is dodgeball just a game played among competitors?
The team of researchers behind this claim hope that Canadian schools quit using the game on the playgrounds and in local gyms. That’s because the Canadian educators fear that dodgeball “teaches students to dehumanize and harm their peers.”
“When you’re setting up the environment for students to learn, and you introduce the idea that it’s okay to slam the ball at whomever you like, even if it’s with a softball, the intention is there,” Professor Joy Butler said. She teaches pedagogy and curriculum development. “When students think it’s okay because they’re being told it’s okay to do that, what do they learn? People say dodgeball is being used as an outlet for aggression or catharsis I suspect that this is where they’re learning that.”
Not only does the professor disagree that dodgeball helps students relieve anger, she argues that it may increase their feelings of rage.
“Phys-ed should be an arena where teachers are helping students control their aggression and move on instead of expressing themselves through anger.”
These professors did not come to these findings through intellectual discussions alone. They also conducted thorough interviews with middle-school students and learned that the overwhelming trend was that these students hated dodgeball.
The research team hopes to present their dodgeball-related findings to the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences to argue for the dissolution of dodgeball across the country.
“I think of the little girl who is running to the back to avoid being targeted,” Professor Butler said. “What is she learning in that class? Avoidance?”
Do you think dodgeball is healthy for young students or not? Should gym teachers continue to use the game?
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