Educators Denounce Dodgeball as “Oppressive” and “Miseducative”

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.

33 thoughts on “Educators Denounce Dodgeball as “Oppressive” and “Miseducative””

  1. The victim industry is as stupid as it is lucrative.

    Academics in the field earn a living, and the prestige of their positions, by manufacturing crisis. This produces a weak generation maladapted for survival in the world.

    The fact these academics weren’t mocked is the key takeaway. The neurosis is encouraged.

  2. 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.

    I conclude that the hidden curriculum to empower students by engaging them in so called critical and democratic practices, is a project antithetical to the potential physical education has to develop the mental and physical strength and agility these students will need outside the classroom.

  3. Free market competition produces the highest quality products at the lowest possible prices. Communists hate competition. Communists are self-loathing losers who covet and steal (both sins) the success of their physical and/or intellectual superiors. Self-hating communists failed at dodgeball and many multiple other activities.

    Americans must recover the public education system from the communists. All laws precluding the firing of public workers who are absent from work due to a strike or “job action” must be rescinded and all public school teachers/professors unions/associations decertified. Under the freedoms and rights of the Constitution, workers are free to strike and managers are free to fire strikers and hire replacements. All laws to the contrary are irrefutably unconstitutional by way of denying the freedoms and rights of taxpayers and mangers.

    Break the lazy, greedy, striking, thug, communist teacher/professor unions which have caused the “student loan crisis” and the price of public education to skyrocket. The public worker unions have caused tax and fiscal perversions exponentially more egregious than Pentagon/NASA budgeting did in the cases of:

    “a $285 screwdriver, a $7,622 coffee maker, a $387 flat washer, a $469 wrench, a $214 flashlight, a $437 tape measure, a $2,228 monkey wrench, a $748 pair of duckbill pliers, a $74,165 aluminum ladder, a $659 ashtray and a $240- million airplane.”

    – L.A. Times

    By far, the most important component in the educational process is the intellectual capacity of the student. The effort of the teacher is far less critical and relatively negligible. Fundamental competence is not expensive – rabid, slathering communists are. Americans derive no benefit from teachers parking lots full of Range Rovers and Mercedes Benzes.

  4. ha ha ha EDUCATORs are one of the three or so Major Tools of Oppression.

  5. I believe miseducative is an adjective and should therefore precede a noun.

  6. dodgeball rewards agility, hand eye coordination, but most of all, teamwork, and aggression

    aggression is an important social skill, even if it’s only used in the most ethical of ways

    aggression is alive and well in the US, but maybe not Canada

  7. “democratic practices, we conclude that the hidden curriculum offered by dodgeball is antithetical to this project”

    The phrase “this project” sounds rather ominous here. The project is not to develop a well-rounded child, one who can work in a group AND stand alone; the project is to build those who only work in a group. That is her ‘hidden curriculum’. Additionally, the unintended consequences of her advocacy is extremely detrimental to kids.

    Why are learning democratic practices supposed to be the focus of recess or PE anyway? Students are to learn to improve and push themselves individually, as well as work together as a group. That’s why a wide variety of sports and games are played, why progress in sit-ups and push-ups ought to be measured. Work together and improve oneself.

    Gymnastics, diving, wrestling–not one of these is democratic; since these sports focus instead on the excellence of the individual. Part of the joy for each of these activities is that as each individual excels, the whole team excels (of course, that works for other team sports, but it is especially pronounced for these). You really have to learn to stand on your own two feet for these sports; you cannot blame anyone but yourself if you don’t excel.

    In dodgeball you have to learn to face what is coming at you. You have to get better at responding to and managing what comes at you (a good lesson for dealing with life). You have to get better at maneuvering. You have to get better at learning to deal with defeat, trying again, and dealing with a bruised ego.

    Life’s hard. Let children practice games that reflect the hard knocks of reality in a play setting before real life actually hits them with a wrench as adults.

    1. well said. arete is the goal of classical physical education. excellence. from the gymnasium– Plato’s

  8. In the seventh grade I would rise at dawn’s first light to be at the school gymnasium to play dodgeball before school started. I remember the contests teaching me to be more resourceful on defense than bold on offense, for seldom did the best athletes more than the most marginal among us survive to be the last one standing. For me, the contests had a leveling affect that offered those of us with less physical ability to experience the thrill of victory as often as the agony of defeat. Rather than deny those with the least prowess for athletics any opportunity to succeed upon a playing field, dodgeball is one sport that ought to be promoted to them.

  9. Ridiculous. Dodge ball is fun. It teaches you to have quick reactions. Good exercise. It’s co-ed. I’d rather see kids playing dodge ball than staying inside playing violent video games. This is the problem with kids these days. School is sheltering them as well as their parents. Yes, the more athletic kids get picked first. That’s life. Teaches you to get tougher. Yes, the stronger kids will throw harder. That’s life. Do some push ups. Snowball fights are out. Water balloon fights are out. We are raising a bunch of snowflakes that can’t handle reality. That’s why they protest everything in the streets. Wimpy, sensitive, namby-pambies.

  10. In light of today being the 75th anniversary of D-Day I must wonder if today’s pampered snowflakes could do what the greatest generation did that day. My hunch is that they would have held protests during bootcamp. this nation is in danger at this point.

  11. Having sex in the back seat of a Mustang is one thing. Doing it in a Dodge is a bit lame. These Dodgeballers need some sex education not sports education. The educators need to learn about real life and not get hung up on this kind of pig latin apCray.

  12. 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.”
    Seems Joy here didn’t dodge enough wrenches.

  13. Richard Feynman once described a phenomenon he called ‘cargo cult science’. The apparatus of observation is set up, ‘but the planes don’t land’. He said he was reluctant to say much about disciplines other than his own, but it was his impression that a great deal of research in education fit this description. E. D. Hirsch some years back elaborated on this point, saying research in education is bedeviled by mis-specified models and poorly chosen empirical methods and produces reams of studies with ambiguous and / or non-replicable results. (Social psychology is also notorious for non-replicable results).

    That’s when education professors are acting as social researchers and not as priests in the weird sociological cult that is the contemporary academic left.

    Here’s a suggestion: shut down the teacher’s colleges. All of them. Do it by state law, one state after another. Certify aspirant teachers by a set of baccalaureate examinations and relieve local school districts (and any private schools subject to state regulators) of any obligation to hire from the pool of those holding MEd and BEd degrees. Recruit your school administrators from the ranks of teachers and from the ranks of those having some background in psychology, general public administration, or philanthropic administration, screening them with civil service examinations.

    You can reconstitute teacher training by having a program prescribed by statute and setting up new teachers’ colleges whose founding deans are gubernatorial appointments. Find the people who think like E.D. Hirsch and put them in charge of founding the new system. In such a system, applicants would be screened by baccalaureate examinations and could seek one of 8 or 9 sorts of certificate depending on what their antecedent course work was. They’d take a brief menu of courses in teaching methods specific to their certificate program and then spend the balance of their 1st year in an internship. Their second year would be as a stipended apprentice at a local school working with a state-certified master teacher.

    One thing the federal government can help with is to strip NCATE of any gatekeeper functions it currently holds in accrediting teacher training programs. That organization is pure poison.

    1. “produces reams of studies with ambiguous and / or non-replicable results”


  14. You can just hear and see the oppression with all the laughing and funny faces made by children playing dodgeball.

  15. “the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences”
    This has to be one of Dante’s stages of hell.

    “They have to eventually emerge into a world filled to tough competition and strife.”
    Really? I think JT doesn’t realize how much the “real” world has changed. Youth are catered too and are never told to be an adult.

    I wish I was making this up, but this is a conversation I had with a sophomore (Mech Eng) intern from University of Michigan.

    Intern: Chem 101 was really hard, I only got a C.
    Me: Really? That’s pretty basic stuff.
    Intern: Well I only went to maybe two of the classes a week, and didn’t read the text.
    Me: So, it’s not that it was hard, you were just lazy and didn’t go to class.
    Intern: No! I had other things to do and why would I go to a class where attendance isn’t mandatory?
    Me: So you are just a child and need a forced reason to do what you are supposed to. What other things do you have to do? You are in college to go to school.
    Intern: Well, I had other classes and stuff.
    Me: So you had another class at the exact same time?
    Intern Well, no but…..

    He went on to brag about only going to three classes of his psychology class and still passed. He brought up the brilliant point again, why would I go if I can pass anyway? I know it fell on deaf ears but I tried to explain to him that you missed out on the discussions during the class and that he had cheated himself of potential mind provoking discussion.

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