Trophies For Everyone, But Dodgeball For No One    



  By: Katie Petrick
   Published : June 14, 2019




Put down all red rubber balls and do not even dare consider throwing one at anybody. But you will still receive a trophy for whatever made-up reason, even if it is demoralizing.

This is the current plight for the school system. Kids are not being allowed to play dodgeball because it is oppressive, according to some researchers. At the same time, teachers are handing out trophies left and right, awarding students for all sorts of things.

The latest example of the Oprah Winfrey “You get a trophy” craze is actually quite disheartening. An Indiana special education teacher should have gotten hit by a dodgeball after deciding to award 11-year-old Akalis Castejon, a fifth grade boy with autism, a trophy reading “Most Annoying Male.”

Akalis, a student at Bailey Preparatory Academy in Gary, Ind., is nonverbal and often rocks back and forth trying to express himself. And somehow the teacher thought it a good idea to give Akalis an award calling him the most annoying male student in the class, though hundreds of other descriptive words were available for the choosing.

The light in the story was explained by Akalis’s father, Rick, who said he’s grateful that Akalis did not understand what was happening.

“When they called him up, he was just excited to get a gold star because it was shiny," Rick said.

And, of course, the school’s response is typical of how schools respond in these situations, these being the ones in which they must cover their backends.

“The Gary Community School Corporation does not condone this type of behavior and will continue to put the safety and well-being of our students first. We extend our deepest apologies to the impacted student, the family and anyone else who takes offense to this unfortunate occurrence,” Peter Morikis, Gary Community School Corporation emergency manager, said in a statement.

But this is just the latest example of what our schools have been doing to our children. This is, indeed, an “unfortunate occurrence,” one that continues popping up in the news cycle on a weekly basis. Teachers act in a manner outside of the duties or intellect of being a teacher, and the school releases a blanket statement, that is sometimes apologetic, but always contrived.

At the same time teachers are calling students annoying, students are also being told that playing dodgeball is a “tool of oppression.” A trio of Canadian university professors presented findings to the Canadian Society for the Study of Education in Vancouver at the beginning of June, saying that dodgeball is used to “dehumanize others,” is “legalized bullying,” and “reinforces the five faces of oppression,” which are: marginalization, powerlessness, helplessness of those perceived as weaker, exploitation, and cultural domination. The researchers obviously did not learn Patches O’Houlihan’s five D’s of dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge.

“If you master the five D’s, no amount of balls on earth can hit you,” O’Houlihan said in the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

The researchers actually suggested that in physical education class, games should be removed.

“If one thing were to come out of this it would be for P.E. teachers to look at their curriculum and look for balance…And that could mean dropping games and including other activities: outdoor education, fitness, gymnastics, aquatics,” said Joy Butler, a professor at University of British Columbia who studies pedagogy and curriculum development.

If games are removed from the curriculum because a student’s feelings may be hurt or there may be one student better than another, kids will have no exposure to true sport or competition. If teachers dare let students have exposure to such experiences, they may find that competition is motivational and can lead to further positive outcomes. This is why no one can win and everyone must receive a trophy, despite teachers very clearly not understanding how to develop specific awards, as learned in the Indiana story above.

Researchers and the school system are then leading the charge on not allowing children to be physically active and work in a team sport because red rubber or foam balls are now simply tools of oppression. As the researchers claim, it teaches students that “it’s okay to hurt or dehumanize” peers. But, again, there are teachers handing out trophies to some of the most vulnerable students branding the students as being the most annoying. Which of these is really hurtful and dehumanizing?

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