Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bullies in Gym Class?

"We always played dodgeball. It was great fun. How can that be called bullying?" "If you don't want to play, then don't."
Comments this week in the case of a school board and physical education teachers in Windham, New Hampshire, when they decided that dodgeball should no longer be part of the curriculum due to the potential for bully-type behavior. Naturally, not everyone was upset as evidenced by the preceding quotes, one from a parent and one from a school board member who voted against the ban.
Yes, we always played dodgeball as kids. However, that was before the term "bully" came into common parlance, before ADHD, before YouTube videos of playground beatings, and a host of other social ills that have befallen society. I suspect there were always bullies, always kids who were smaller, weaker and unable or unwilling to fight back, but the emphasis was far less intense (though not necessarily a good thing).
Like it or not, sometimes in gym and on the playground, it's impossible to opt out of an activity, risking the jeers of others and the subtle or not so subtle hints about being "chicken" from peers. That fact renderes the "don't play" argument useless. That's why school leaders need to take charge instead of letting kids and parents decide what's enough and what's too much when size and age discrepancies create potential painful mismatches.
I applaud the school board and teachers for banning the game as a venue for potential harm. As a physical educator, I never played dodgeball simply because there were too many possibilities for injury and embarrassment. Having the best athlete in school drill a ball in one's direction is terrifying. Eventually, we went to foam balls for every activity that required hard throwing and catching...while the flight was often errant due to the incredibly light weight, nobody got hurt, everyone enjoyed a game, and fear of play was eliminated. We went so far as to eliminate most smack talking among teams in order to lessen the impact of competition. Yes, there were still winners and losers: a valuable life lesson; however, no one was made fearful of flying objects or other students. No jocks and nerds...just players having fun.
Good for the folks in New Hampshire.


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