“Boys with sticks”: play violence is good!

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Here’s an interesting article advocating for letting boys play violent games with pretend weapons.  And here’s Jonah Goldberg on one school’s bizarre decision to ban superheroes on the grounds that they “solve problems using violence.

“Anti-violence” advocacy is…baffling to me.  I’m not a violent guy, or a believer in gratuitous violence, in movies or in video games or in real life.  But surely a basic goal of parenting is teaching children right from wrong–by which I mean, it’s right to defend the weak and uphold the law, and wrong to do the opposite.

My older boys have seen my waist festooned with a variety of tools for causing pain, injury, and death–and also an uncomfortable garment meant to protect my vitals from people who would too me harm.  My youngest is too young to remember those days, but perhaps he will get to see that someday, too.  All of them have shot each other with Nerf guns, or fought with foam swords, and waved sticks around.  it’s normal.  It’s what my friends did when we were young.  It harms no one.

Surely, we must teach our children moral concepts, such as kindness, gentleness with the weak (such as their younger brothers!), and the limitation of violence to situations where it is required.  Yet they seem to get this naturally.  The older boys don’t intentionally harm the younger.  The concept of self-defense is entirely natural to them, including a notion of proportionality.  When they pretend to fight, they always have a story to go with it, about how one of them is the bad guy who needs to be stopped and the other is the good guy intent on stopping him.

It seems to me the kids understand it a lot better than the adults who either retreat behind “all violence is bad” platitudes, or, as in the case of our corrupt political class, seem to excuse violence done by the “right” people while harshly condemning violence from the “wrong” people–with right and wrong typically determined by skin color or occupation rather than by who is actually morally right or wrong in a given interaction.  The kids know what’s right, and they act it out themselves without any interference.  It takes years of teaching to invert that–why on Earth would anyone want to?

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