Stupidity is really hard to dodge

March 22, 2005, midnight | By Dan Greene | 16 years, 3 months ago

Elementary school is a wonderful place, full of rich life lessons learned from being exposed to the real world for the first time. But while discovering where glue lies on the food pyramid makes for an easy lesson, not every message is as fun to learn. School is the first time kids aren't hugged non-stop, and it is the first place they will discover that they won't win at everything in life.

The best teacher of all these experiences does not grade papers or even ladle out Jell-O for lunch; in my opinion, the greatest grade-school lessons are taught on the blacktop, as red rubber projectiles fly towards kids' heads at the speed of sound. Yes, I'm talking about dodgeball. Also called "The Sweet Science," the game involves hurling rubber gym balls at the opposing team's kids, brutally eliminating them until none remains.

For decades, educators used "The Sweet Science" as a means for not only improving hand-eye coordination and cardiovascular health but also stressing important scientific principles like gravity, velocity and natural selection.

Yet, the sport enjoyed by countless kids in countless playgrounds for countless years has recently come under fire across the country. Parents, educators and physical education "experts" now say that dodgeball is too violent and damaging to kids' self-esteem. It all started with the whiny 1990s, when everyone went insane protecting the self-esteem of our nation's youth, who obviously only became emotionally vulnerable in the past decade...and only in America. We collectively went to crazy lengths to keep our kids emotionally secure. (Case in point: Teletubbies).

It all went downhill in 1992, when Neil F. Williams, a physical education professor at academic powerhouse Eastern Connecticut University, released his "Physical Education Hall of Shame." In it, he described games that have no place in any decent P.E. program, encouraging violence and discrimination as they do. The villains: dodgeball, musical chairs and, of course, duck-duck-goose. The fact that we are condemning duck-duck-goose is almost as sad as the fact that we have nothing better to do.

In years since, voices like Williams's combined with the nit-picking tide of public opinion, and school systems everywhere — our very own Montgomery County included — banned dodgeball. And this "murder sport" isn't alone; parents and educators across America have asked schools to eliminate tag (encourages touching), rope-climbing (sheer danger) and musical chairs (promotes exclusion). Musical chairs, people! What's next, Capture the Flag becomes Share the Flag? Or perhaps Sit Quietly in a Circle and Watch the Flag?

It's not that I think we're raising a generation of wussies — although I have noticed how much easier taking third graders' lunch money has gotten — I just think that future generations of American kids will miss out on experiencing those essential playground lessons, harsh though they may be.

Yes, musical chairs, dodgeball and the like are based on exclusion and the idea that the bigger, faster kids are better prepared for life. And we've all suffered through a game or two. Heck, I broke three fingers playing dodgeball on the last day of third grade — that was ironic.

I'm no proponent of the "Suck it up, life sucks and global warming will take all the water and oxygen before you're 30" school of thought, but I do think that it is important for kids to learn that they don't always win, and what better place to do it than a fun environment with all their friends? It is not survival of the fittest but rather, a healthy example of the competition that is all around us.

The other thing dodgeball is great for is venting frustration in a controlled environment. You can slam it to Jimmy Durkowitz because he told that girl you like that you wear diapers at night (or something), and there are no negative consequences. It's all just part of the game.

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Dan Greene. Dan, alright fine, VJ, is proud to be a senior at Blair and a member of the best paper. Ever. He's really funny, trust him. As managing sports editor and ombudsman he enjoys sports and ombudsing. Dan also enjoys literature, soccer and crude humor. One … More »

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