Banning Boyhood

Huck Finn must be spinning in his literary grave.  Just recently a Colorado Springs, Co., elementary school banned tag during recess, joining other schools that have prohibited this childhood pastime.  Upon hearing this, I thought about the movement to ban cops and robbers, musical chairs, steal the bacon, and the kill-joys' most frequent target and this writer's favorite childhood school game, dodge ball.  Then there's the more inane still, such as the decision by the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association to prohibit keeping score in kids' tournament play. 

There are many ways to describe this trend.  One might say it's a result of the left's antipathy toward competition, the increasing litigiousness of the day, or the inordinate concern with self-esteem and hurt feelings.  Then, if I am to speak only of my feelings, the word stupid comes to mind.  Really, though, regardless of whether the motivations are good or ill or the reasoning sound or not, at the end of the day I find a conclusion inescapable.  Slowly, incrementally, perversely, boyhood is being banned.

Make no mistake, the aforementioned examples are not isolated social accidents but part of a pattern.  Recently I was talking to a friend who has two young sons, and he mentioned how he bought their toy machine-gun and revolver at a garage sale.  He and his wife remarked about how it was the only way to find realistic-looking toy guns nowadays, the kind that were staples of Boydom when I was a lad.  Oh, toy guns can still be seen -- that is, when they aren't prohibited by crime-ridden cities or crazy moms -- but they don't resemble anything John Wayne would have wielded.  Often misshapen, more and more they come only in colors that, well, men aren't known for being acquainted with, ones that some would describe as "girly."

Getting back to the People's Republic of Massachusetts' soccer league, it was so concerned about the poor little eggs' feelings that it also decided no one should get trophies.  This isn't unusual, as the practice of awarding trophies to all or none is now often adopted, lest a tear run down a cherubic face.  Moreover, frowning upon competition - which boys thrive on --isn't limited to frivolous pursuits, as schools increasingly dispense with merit-based academic models in favor of schemes such as "Outcome Based Education" (it's nothing like what it sounds). 

No doubt some will chide me for casting these preferences as being characteristically male.  Sure, not every boy craves competition any more than every girl eschews it, but the sexes are different.  Boys love games, sports and locking horns; they love hierarchies and high-fives; they love guns, soldiers and shoot-‘em-up games.  Namely, they love things that are slowly being taken away from them or curtailed.

As I indicated earlier, there are many reasons why we've departed from sanity.  The threat of litigation is real, and this article cites the case of seven-year-old Heather Lindaman, whose parents are suing their school because she broke her elbow while playing a variation of dodge ball.  The opponents of such games use cases like Lindaman's to buttress the assertion that they are too dangerous for children.  I'll only say that this is hogwash -- as all activities entail risk -- because it's irrelevant to my main point.  Regardless of why these prohibitions are instituted, the end result is the same: Boys' passions are being exiled.  Dangerous?  You may as well just say that boyhood is dangerous. 

Of course, we could do what one school that banned dodge ball did: Switch to yogic exercises.  Wow!  And liberals say that conservatives are no fun?  Why is it that the most childish understand childhood the least?

While leftists may be childish, they conjure up pseudo-intellectual reasons for their social engineering like seasoned psycho-babblers.  Tag leads to "conflict on the playground" and some students being chased "against their will," said Cindy Fesgen, assistant principal of the Discovery Canyon Campus in Colorado Springs (my particular discovery is that the school is run by lunkheads).  Dodge ball is emotionally damaging to less athletic children; it "hurts their self-esteem," is how it's usually put.  David Limbaugh wrote about this attitude:

Diane Farr, a curriculum specialist in Austin, Texas, explained that her school district implemented the [dodge ball] ban to satisfy a panel of professors, students and parents who wanted to ‘preserve the rights and dignity' of all students in the district. So dodge ball is a dignity thief? Of course, claims Farr. ‘What we have seen is that it does not make students feel good about themselves.'

There's more. According to one anti-dodge ball crusader, ‘at its base, the game encourages the strong to victimize the weak. ... Schools preach the values of harmony, community and cooperation. But then those same schools let the big kids loose to see if they can hit the skinny nerd in the head with a hard, red rubber ball.'

Call me crazy, but the people who disgorge these notions just must have been skinny nerds in school.  That is, the variety without the brains or ambition to be Bill Gates.

Limbaugh continues,

"Educators also fear that dodge ball is not only violent, but that it and other games convey ‘a message of violence.'

‘With Columbine and all the violence that we are having, we have to be careful with how we teach our children,' says Farr."

We certainly do, and that's why we should keep them far from Farr and her ilk.  These crackpots are just a few degraded brain cells away from saying (about football) that "violent ground acquisition games are a neo-fascist metaphor for war." 

Just as outrageous as these prohibitions is the persecution of hapless lads who run afoul of them.  Limbaugh wrote of this as well:

The Washington Times recently detailed a litany of examples, including: a threatened suspension in California of a 9-year-old for playing cops and robbers, two New York 2nd-graders suspended and criminally charged with making terrorist threats for pointing paper guns and saying, ‘I'm going to kill you,' and a 9-year-old New Jersey boy suspended and ordered to undergo psychological evaluation because he told another student that he planned to shoot a classmate with spitballs.
Could it be any clearer?  They are diagnosing normal boyhood behavior as a psychological problem.  After all, even if little boys don't have toy guns, how many won't point a stick or their finger at you and say "Bang, bang, you're dead!"?  It's also interesting to note that the very same people who will lecture us for not subscribing to the notion that homosexual behavior is innate and healthy will swear that this normal boyish behavior is learned and destructive.

Then there is that which is truly destructive.  It's something dark, a motivation that lurks in the hearts of many who advocate this insanity.  To wit: There is an increasingly common antipathy for all things male, especially in academia.  This attitude was highlighted by Christina Hoff Summers in her book The War Against Boys.  Summers cites feminists such as Carol Gilligan, who believes that we should, as Summers puts it, "... civilize boys by diminishing their masculinity," and Gloria Steinem, who counsels us to "Raise boys like we raise girls."  And in this category I would also put certain men such as Harvard psychologist William Pollock, who wrote the book Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood.  Really, our children do need to be rescued from myths, but they're not of boyhood.

We should also realize that education has increasingly become a feminine domain.  While in 1982 there were 1.4 female teachers for every male, now the figure is 2.1.  This is not to imply that the fairer sex can't have a sound teaching philosophy, but the fact is that far too many young women today are in the grip of feminist dogma.  Moreover, the type of women who become teachers is also an issue; for instance, let us consider graduates with degrees in Women's Studies.  Such people are mostly women, and since there aren't many careers available to those with such illustrious qualifications, many of these ideologues decide to teach.

And the problem with such individuals is that -- just as an Afrocentrist views matters through the prism of race and a Jihadist through that of believers versus infidels -- they tend to see everything as a battle of the sexes.  In their minds, the ever-present "patriarchy" will only be vanquished and women liberated (of course, they will never see this as having been achieved) once boys are sufficiently reprogrammed.  Masculine traits that may enable boys to be dominant must be quashed, because otherwise they may dominate women.  These are people like Swedish politician Gudrun Schyman, who said that Swedish men were like the Taliban.  The truth is that the women in question are the Femiban.      

Many will protest, of course, insisting that anti-male bias doesn't rule their minds.  And perhaps it doesn't in some cases. But their hearts are a different matter, complex and containing biases that aren't always so conscious; rather, it may be more a matter of visceral dislike, a feeling.  The liberals in question see masculine symbols and behavior and feel an aversion, in much the same way a person with a fear of heights may get a queasy feeling upon seeing airplanes or tall buildings.  So, unwilling to confront their prejudices, they manufacture excuses.  Dodge ball is dangerous, cops and robbers is violent, musical chairs is exclusive, tag terrorizes.  If only they would be intellectually honest and reveal their true feelings: Boys are bad.

Perhaps this is why these social engineers will see a bevy of boisterous boys and want to douse their masculinity with Ritalin. 

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