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Is Dodgeball Bullying?

Dodgeball, a game where the objective is to hit other players with a rubber ball and eliminate them, is quite a popular game in school. Proponents of dodgeball point out that it’s a great (and fun) way to get some exercise, but the game does have a dark side: some people point out that dodgeball lets kids gang up upon and pick on their schoolmates who are physically weaker.

Debates on dodgeball’s implications on the mentality of children and what kind of mindset players will get from the game have risen throughout the years: is dodgeball bullying?

A new study presented at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, offers support that dodgeball may send the wrong message to schoolchildren:

Some researchers in British Columbia concluded it's the former, calling dodgeball "a tool of oppression" that unfairly targets some kids, teaches them to dehumanize each other and reinforces negative behaviors parents teach their children to avoid.
David Burns, a co-presenter of the study and an educational studies professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia, told Canadian broadcast station CTV that dodgeball doesn't set young people on a path to become kind adults.
"If someone is going to be a good person when they get older ... they need to have practice when they're young and in school exhibiting those characteristics," Burns said. "If you want people to practice the disposition of ganging up on people, if you want them to practice really enjoying throwing things at people, it can lead to all sorts of other things in the future."
In other words, dodgeball sends the message that it's acceptable to "dehumanize or hurt" the other player, researcher Joy Butler, a professor who studies pedagogy and curriculum development at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, recently told The Washington Post.
The researchers said dodgeball "reinforces the five faces of oppression" — exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence — as defined by political theorist Iris Marion Young.

Do you think that dodgeball encourages bullying?

image credit: U.S. Air Force photo - via wikimedia commons

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While dodgeball CAN be an issue, it doesn't have to be. We only played it at recess, not gym class, so all participation was voluntary.
As long as the ball isn't too hard and you keep the distance far enough to keep the throws from being too hard, it can be a fun game. Personally, I liked being up on the wall since I was often the last man standing. I wasn't quite so good at throwing.
In any case, perhaps it would be best if additional options were available at the same time for those students that want to opt out of the game.
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I was an unathletic kid, and I personally loved dodgeball. It seemed to me like a good equalizer with regard to the skills of the athletic kids and those who were not. It was quite satisfying to be on a more level playing field, in that sense, and to whack my "oppressors" with a ball. I specifically remember an instance where I was the "last man standing", and held out for another half-minute or so dodging the shots of all comers to the whole class' fleeting admiration.
Now, I suppose there are even less physically-able kids for whom it's as unpleasant as softball or gymnastics were for me, and more fundamentally pacifistic kids who simply find it fundamentally unpleasant. But I'm skeptical that any activity imposed by authority will please all participants. Ultimately I think it's the school environment itself that "reinforces the five faces of oppression".
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