COLUMN: We need to let kids risk getting hurt if they want to

Do they have to live out an existence like John Travolta circa the 1976 television film The Boy in the Plastic Bubble?

Pauline Johnson Collegiate student Leahla Baston tries to evade an incoming ball on Thursday November 22, 2018 as she takes part in a gauntlet-style dodgeball tournament at the Colborne Street high school in Brantford, Ontario. Researchers from British Columbia have recently called the activity a tool of oppression. Brian Thompson/Brantford Expositor/Postmedia Network/File Photo

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Dodgeball is not a tool of oppression. But those who say it is are tools.

A team of Canadian researchers has come out with an analysis claiming the schoolyard sport of dodgeball is a “tool of oppression” and a form of “legalized bullying.” In the study from the University of British Columbia, they note the game is the only one in which human beings are targets and that it victimizes those seen as weaker people.

To be frank, this is absurd. While the game is not fun for some, such challenges are a part of life. Too often in this country we see hippy-dippy but well-meaning educators remove things from the life of a child out of caution while failing to realize those same things provide an outlet for those who are struggling.

Teachers once tried to ban tag in my own elementary school days in the 1990s. My memory may be admittedly foggy, but I can recall a principal and aide or two arguing it was a form of bullying for someone to be touched by other students, declared “it” and then heavily avoided in jest on the playground.

A school in British Columbia banned children from holding hands in 2013. The principal defended the decision at the time, saying it was for safety reasons. The policy was temporary, but temporary is no substitute for jaw dropping stupidity.

A school in the Toronto area did something similar the same year. Unlike those in British Columbia, they decided to ban all balls that were not made of sponge or nerf material. Yes, this happened after someone got a concussion thanks to a soccer ball hitting them in the face, but can no one duck anymore? Does no one have the capacity to say “heads up” when a round projectile is flying through the air?

Apparently not.

I could not find examples of such lunacy in Alberta and the Parkland School Division says such activities are not banned. But to those who favour this sort of thing and to those places where such policy occurs, what do you expect of children? Do they have to live out an existence like John Travolta circa the 1976 television film The Boy in the Plastic Bubble? Do they have to be coddled to such a ridiculous extent all the time?

This is what conservatives are talking about when they get angry and chastise snowflake-like action and policy. People are so concerned with child safety, they forget about child mental health. If the little boy or girl in class does not want to talk about their feelings, tag, dodgeball, soccer and other forms of contact can help.

Let’s pivot away from this notion children have to be kept comfortable and free of any risk whatsoever in their daily lives. It is unhelpful in childhood development, makes many hate school and reinforces many bad stereotypes about this country.

I mean, I was hit in the head a few times growing up. I think I turned out fine.

epretzer@postmedia.com

twitter.com/EvanJPretzer

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