Ross Clark Ross Clark

Rugby isn’t child abuse. But it is dangerous

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Why is no one only slightly wrong any more? We don’t say or do things that are foolish or ill-thought out – rather we are immediately guilty of fascism, genocide or child abuse. We don’t deserve to be merely argued against – we deserve to put before an inquisition, in a cage.

I guess that academics at Winchester University have deliberately chosen to use the words ‘child abuse’ in a paper in the Journal of the British Philosophy Association, arguing that schoolchildren shouldn’t be forced to play rugby in order to gain attention. If so, they have succeeded, because it is doubtful that the story would have made it into the newspapers, and I wouldn’t be writing about it now had they stuck to dry academic language. But I doubt that it will help them to make their case. Rather it will merely stir up outrage that they have effectively labelled the head teachers and sports staff at many of Britain’s schools as child abusers.         

Children are growing bigger and heavier from a young age

The point that they were trying to make will be lost in the melee.That is a shame because, had it been expressed in more moderate language, I would be fully in agreement with them. While it is tempting to resort to the usual complaints about a ‘snowflake generation’ being kept away from activities which previous generations engaged in quite happily, I remembered my own time at school and thought just how counter-productive it was for sports masters to force children against their will into playing very physical, dangerous sports, and in circumstances which are thoroughly miserable.  

As it happens I have never played rugby – my grammar school stopped short of forcing that on us – but I was made to play hockey and I hate the game to this day.

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