Dodgeball is a 'tool of oppression' that sends a message it's okay to hurt other people.
Such stark warnings are the findings from a team of Canadian researchers who say they would like schools to get rid of the popular gym class game.
Dodgeball, which sees players on two teams try to throw balls and hit opponents, while avoiding being hit themselves, is played in schools all over the world with an organized league in the United States.
But according to three Canadian professors, the sport 'teaches students to dehumanize and harm their peers.'
When you're setting up the environment for students to learn, and you introduce the idea that it's okay to slam the ball at whomever you like, even if it's with a soft ball, the intention is there,' Joy Butler, a professor who studies pedagogy and curriculum development said to the Washington Post.
'When students think it's okay because they're being told it's okay to do that, what do they learn? People say dodgeball is being used as an outlet for aggression or catharsis. I suspect that this is where they're learning that.
'Phys-ed should be an arena where teachers are helping students control their aggression and move on instead of expressing themselves through anger.'
Researchers interviewed middle-school students about their physical education classes and say the overwhelming feeling was that students hated dodgeball.
The team's findings are to be presented at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences this week in Vancouver and will argue that the playground favorite actually 'reinforces the five faces of oppression' identified as exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence by political theorist Iris Marion Young.
'I think of the little girl who is running to the back to avoid being targeted,' Professor Butler said. 'What is she learning in that class? Avoidance?'
Researchers dug deep into the game and noted that the more athletic and authoritative students in the class established rules and practices which saw them gang up on other students.
'The message is that it's okay to hurt or dehumanize the 'other,' Butler said. 'The competition is about annihilating one's opponent, and the true definition of competition is between two evenly matched teams. Well, kids stack their teams, and they really enjoy beating the other team. What's the enjoyment of that?'
Gym classes are largely centered around games, she said, which is can be great, but can also exclude students with different strengths.
'If one thing were to come out of this it would be for P.E. teachers to look at their curriculums and look for balance,' she said. 'And that could mean dropping games and including other activities: outdoor education, fitness, gymnastics, aquatics.'
Not everyone agrees with the academic's findings.
Alix Piorun, 33, plays dodgeball in recreational leagues and was even a referee for the Dodgeball World Cup last July.
'I've always been a good athlete, so I guess you could say I've been on the oppressor side,' Piorun told the New York Post.
Piorun believes that the sport allows children who are not that fast or strong a chance to shine.
'Kids who aren't always the best athletes are sometimes the best catchers…there's always going to be people bigger and stronger than you, but you have to figure out a way to outsmart them — whether it's dodging or catching.