Dodgeball is 'dehumanizing' and should be banned from schools, experts say
If you're the kid who was never great in gym class, dodgeball was probably your worst nightmare.
The thought of an hour of other kids smashing a ball at your head never sounded particularly fun - and now experts have confirmed your fear, by warning that the sport is "dehumanizing" for children and should be banned in schools.
According to a team of Canadian researchers, dodgeball - a game where two teams throw balls to hit opponents and try to avoid getting hit themselves - sends the message that it's okay to hurt other people.
The team's findings will be presented at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences this week in Vancouver, with them arguing that the game actually "reinforces the five faces of oppression" identified by political theorist Iris Marion Young as exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence.
Joy Butler, a professor who studies pedagogy and curriculum development, told the Washington Post that she suspects children are learning aggression from dodgeball.
"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," she said.
She continued to claim that physical education should be a place where children learn to control their anger, rather than take it out on others, stating: "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.
"Phys-ed should be an arena where teachers are helping students control their aggression and move on instead of expressing themselves through anger... I think of the little girl who is running to the back to avoid being targeted. What is she learning in that class? Avoidance? [...]
"The message is that it's okay to hurt or dehumanize the other. The competition is about annihilating one's opponent, and the true definition of competition is between two evenly matched teams. Well, kids stack their teams, and they really enjoy beating the other team. What's the enjoyment of that?"
In addition, the same group of researchers pointed out that gym classes as a whole are largely centered around games, which can be beneficial but also risks excluding students with different strengths.
They added that the more athletic and authoritative students in the class established practices that saw them gang up on other kids, with Butler suggesting educators alter the curriculum to help solve this issue.
"If one thing were to come out of this it would be for P.E. teachers to look at their curriculums and look for balance," she said. "And that could mean dropping games and including other activities: outdoor education, fitness, gymnastics, aquatics."
However, not everyone agrees with the professors' findings. Speaking to the New York Post, Alix Piorun, who plays dodgeball in recreational leagues, claimed dodgeball allows children to flaunt different strengths.
The 33-year-old, who was a referee for the Dodgeball World Cup last July, said: "Kids who aren't always the best athletes are sometimes the best catchers…there's always going to be people bigger and stronger than you, but you have to figure out a way to outsmart them — whether it's dodging or catching."