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How About A Game Of Tug-Of-Peace?

Just got back from Tulsa, Oklahoma for a wedding (it's that time of life; weddings galore). Tulsa, incidentally, is a vastly underrated city-- and thoroughly "red state." For example, the mega-church steeples surge high into the horizon, serving as landmarks for the respective neighborhoods around the city. Tulsa (it seems, at least) is powerfully fecund; there are kids everywhere, and they, like so many other "red state" kids, play contact sports and keep score from a very young age.

Meanwhile, back in blue state America, there is a troubling trend. Have you ever heard of tug-of-peace?

Neither had I.

But it doesn't end there:

It seems that many adults today regard the children in their care as fragile hothouse flowers who require protection from even the remote possibility of frustration, disappointment or failure. The new solicitude goes far beyond blacklisting red pens. Many schools now discourage or prohibit competitive games such as tag or dodge ball. The rationale: too many hurt feelings. In May 2002, for example, the principal of Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, Calif., sent a newsletter to parents informing them that children could no longer play tag during the lunch recess. As she explained, "In this game, there is a 'victim' or 'It,' which creates a self-esteem issue."

Protecting the feelings of our little ones, at all cost, is creeping into the psyche of America's education establishment. And, while the elimination of competitive contact sports in our public schools isn't grounds for a new American Revolution, it's certainly not a positive development in our nation's history either. Think about how European soccer (and basketball) players flop onto the ground with the slightest touch. Think about how the U.S. is really the only country where football (not futbol) is king (Australians get credit for rugby, Canadians for hockey). We're a competitive nation. It's what makes us great. If you have talent, if you have merit, you will succeed in an America with competition.

And the elimination of true competition has implications in a global economy:

Children who are protected from frank criticism written in "harsh" colors are gravely shortchanged. In the global economy that awaits them, young Americans will be competing with other young people from all parts of the world whose teachers do not hesitate to use red pens.

Ideally, America's recent trend of protecting our kids from ever experiencing disappointment, shielding them with bizarre, reinvented nomenclature to describe activities in a more "non-threatening" manner, will one day be but a comical footnote in our history.

Boosting self-esteem is great, but come on. The "kid glove culture" is getting out of hand.

Some adults, fed up with the wimpification of our nation's kids, are fighting back. The backlash against the prohibition of dodgeball was even the plot of a Hollywood movie. In Houston, Texas, there is an ongoing adult dodgeball league which meets near my house about once a week. May have to go check it out.

Throwing spherical rubber projectiles at one another, however absurd, is precisely the kind of competition that has made America so exceptional. Competition is worth fighting for.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 June 2005 10:31 PM


Yes! Well put!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at June 6, 2005 08:51 PM

That sucks!

Posted by: Bart at June 7, 2005 06:34 AM

Have you ever noticed the hot house tomatoes, compared to home grown ? There is a BIG difference in taste and quality! The home grown don't appear to be as perfect on the outside. The hot house taste like nothing! I say dodge ball will give kids character! Hot house flowers don't smell as good as home grown! Appearences aren't everything!...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at June 7, 2005 06:51 AM

My wife's company is actually having a dodge ball tournament for their sales meeting next week. My first thought was how they got that one past the company lawyers. Anyway, might be a sign that the pendulum is swinging back a bit. I think (hope) that the tag prohibition is the exception - we are talking about California remember.

Posted by: paul at June 7, 2005 11:45 AM