2001-05-12 / Columnists

School Scope

School Scope

I think the first dodgeball game probably took place when one Neanderthal threw a raptor head at the first human.

That’s how long the game has been going on. You probably remember playing it as a kid. I know that I do. We played the game in gym at PS 106 right after World War II and we really enjoyed it.

For a couple of years in the mid 90’s, I was the teacher in charge of the vacation day camp at PS 114 in Belle Harbor. The kids there wanted to play the game all day, every day. It was their passion. It was all I could do to keep them from playing "King of the Hill," in which there are no teams – it is every person for him or herself. I wanted them to play other games – whiffleball, kickball, steal the bacon. All they wanted to do is play dodgeball.

Thanks to political correctness and a liberal desire to do away with any competition in life, however, the game may soon be over.

"This (dodgeball) is something that should not be used in today schools, especially in today’s society," Diane Farr, a curriculum specialist with the Austin (Texas) schools says. "With Columbine and all the violence we are having, we have to be very careful how we teach our children."

"What was once shrugged off at a harmless game is now considered aggressive, unwholesome and a cause of injuries," the New York Times said in a recent article on the subject.

The Austin school system, along with a number of other systems around the nation, has banned the game in its schools.

The game has been either banned or limited in such places as diverse as Fairfax County (Virginia), Oslo (Florida) and in parts of Nassau County.

In Maryland, one school district has limited all games that call for "human targeting," including football and hockey.

Others have reduced the number of games that call for the "elimination" of students, including dodgeball and musical chairs.

Musical Chairs? That’s right, the "experts say. If a child eliminates another kid by bumping him off a chair during musical chairs today, you’ll be bumping him off with a gun tomorrow.


Of course it is. It is, however, what passes for conventional wisdom in education circles in this post-2000 world.

In the opinion of those who now have the control of educational philosophy, there are two things that are terrible and must be eradicated immediately.

The first of those is competition. There can be competition (except for teachers, who have to compete for salary). Grades are bad because they show that one student has done better in class than another and that will make the student with the lower grade lose his or her self-esteem. Self-esteem, you know is more important that learning, more important that anything.

Standardized tests are intrinsically bad because they rate one student against another. Far better to let everybody work together in groups and then to give everybody in the group a passing grade so that they can all feel good about themselves. This is true especially in places where the "educational leaders" know that the kids will do badly on the test. Then, it is best to boycott the test and demand that some "alternative form of assessment" that the school has better control of, such as portfolios, should be used.

Sports are bad. They foster competition and competition means that one kid wins and another loses. That can never be, because the loser will feel bad and the winner will develop and overwhelming ego.

The second issue that turns liberals to rage is violence.

There must be zero tolerance for violence.

A third grader points his finger at another student and says "bang." That means suspension for five days. An angry fourth grader says to a bully who is bothering you, "I could kill you," and the police are involved.

A second grade boy gives a girl in his class a kiss on the cheek because she gave him her milk at lunchtime and he is charged with "sexual assault."

A father yells at a coach who has chastised his son in front of the other players and the father winds up in jail for harassment. In many areas, parents are forbidden to root, cheer, or yell in any way during games in which their kids are taking part.

Violence in television cartoons is out. No more Roadrunner. No more Wiley Coyote. They are much too violent, what with the coyote trying to catch the roadrunner and the roadrunner doing all sorts of unmentionable things to the coyote in return.

Which brings us back to dodgeball. It is a very competitive game. At the very best, one team wins and another team loses. At the worst, experts say, one child "wipes out" all of the others and is declared the winner.

Heavens to Betsy! Imagine that, a winner!

And, the game is violent. You all know how the game is played. One kid throws a ball at another kid (hitting above the shoulders brings instant suspension from the game). If the first kid hits the second, the second kid is out. If the second kid catches the ball, the first kid is out. When all the members of one team are eliminated, the kids still standing on the other side are declared the winner. In "King of the Hill," and in other individual games, the last child still in the game is the winner.

Liberals hate it. They say they have lots of reasons. "Kids are targeted for elimination by other kids," "violent behavior is rewarded," "the most competitive kids win while those who are not competitive should be the ones who are rewarded."

The liberals would love it if the first kid who was hit and eliminated from the game were declared the winner. That is their kind of game.

In any case, you can bet that dodgeball will soon be eliminated in New York City. So will tests and grades. So will all competition.

What will happen then, when kids get into the real world and find that competition is all? They will not be able to handle it and many will fail. Others will take their own lives, unable to handle even the mildest form of competition.

And it will be our fault for letting those who see the world as their liberal laboratory to win the game.

We will all be at fault.

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