In the 2004 slapstick comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, character Patches O’Houlihan insisted “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” Perhaps, but can you dodge hundreds of academics declaring your sport a tool of “oppression”? That was the message at the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences held in Vancouver.
As presentations to the Canadian Society for the Study of Education included research declaring dodgeball “miseducative” — a term that fits perfectly with reeducation efforts unfolding across the country. Joy Butler, professor of curriculum and pedagogy at the University of British Columbia, explained “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.” it reads.
These warnings of the “hidden curriculum” of dodgeball builds on the work of he late Iris Marion Young, a social and political theorist at the University of Chicago who declared that the sport “reinforces the five faces of oppression.” Those include “marginalization, powerlessness, and helplessness of those perceived as weaker individuals through the exercise of violence and dominance by those who are considered more powerful.”
The best witness could be Patches O’Houlihan who explained
“Remember 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, like Winston here.”
While we did not use wrenches, I have to admit that I loved dodgeball even though I was far from the best at the sport. It was a huge amount of fun as a kid.
Given the moves to ban tag and other common playground sports, it is hardly surprising. Life has competition and, yes, dominance based on skills. It never bothered me that I was not the best athlete among my friends. I still played my hardest and took the results as part of life.
I am not sure of the citizens we are are fashioning in this protected and artificial environment. They have to eventually emerge into a world filled to tough competition and strife. Rather than find their own areas of success, they are being raised in what you can call the “five faces of indulgence”: pampering, permissiveness, adulation, delusion, and appeasement.