I encountered this article by chance today in The New York Times. Read it all the way through. I think it should resonate if you are, say, a fan of Notre Dame football, but especially if you profess concern for the welfare of boys in their struggles through the trench warfare of K-12 education.
We live in a country where people think it’s a problem to mask children against a lethal virus, but have no problem strapping a face-concealing helmet to the same kids’ heads and telling them to crash into each other at top speed. Does that make any sense?
Now consider how much effort our schools waste on “protecting” (straight) boys from encounters with pretty girls in short skirts and revealing décolletage, both of which supposedly ruin boys’ “concentration,” and necessitate the protective armor of “dress codes.” School dress codes are notoriously restrictive of girls’ apparel (and theirs in particular) for the better safeguarding of boys’ tender libidos and fragile capacities for directed attention.
Frankly, I think dress codes are mostly bullshit, but set that aside for the moment. Just compare the anxiety parents have over their sons’ “loss of concentration” in proximity to scantily-clad girls with the same parents’ blithe acceptance of the inevitability of traumatic brain injury at the hands (so to speak) of tackle “football.” Evidently, pretty girls are a hazard to “our boys,” but a trip to the ER and the neurosurgeon is no big deal. If you think it’s hard for a 16-year-old boy to concentrate on calculus when he’s sitting next to a hot girl in shorts and a crop top, ask yourself how easy it’s supposed to be after sustaining a concussion.
For years now, I’ve been reading right-wing ideologues’ hand-wringing about American schools’ supposed hostility to boys, a hostility supposedly engendered (so to speak) by their commitment to castrating forms of feminism and political correctness. I don’t doubt that there’s some left-wing/feminist over-zealotry out there, just as there’s zealotry in the schools of exactly the reverse variety. I wonder, though, what could more obviously express hostility to boys than to encourage them to smash one another to pieces on the gridiron for the approbation of the peanut gallery. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the “Alas, our poor boys!” crowd that tackle football much more obviously treats school-aged boys and college-aged men like disposable garbage than any confabulated “feminazi” schooling might. And it doesn’t even do so for ideological reasons aspiring to a conception of justice (however ill-conceived), but for small-potatoes athletic glory, and little beyond that.
Danny Doyle deserves enormous credit and respect for the lonely stand he’s taken against tackle football. He happens to be right on the facts and the normative issues, but also stands out as a paradigm of the sort of principled activism so easily disparaged by ‘hands-off theorists from within “the ivory tower.” If ivory tower philosophers made half the contribution to justice that the Danny Doyles of the world make, they’d have better standing to criticize. But they don’t. Few do. Hats off to those who do. Helmets, too.