Saturday, March 5, 2011

You've caught me at a very strange time in my life

Middle-school boys in Tacoma, WA have started their very own after-school program, a "Fight Club" in a school bathroom.  One of the broke the first rule of Fight Club as shown here.  Check that story first, I'll wait.  I am not a parent, but I'm an uncle and former high school teacher.  I'm bothered by the fighting in a tiny measure, but I'm shocked and disappointed by the school's response.  This struck an immediate impression in me that may disappoint some people who've "known me all my life".  All I can say is, "all your life" usually means "while you were a child", and that was a long time ago.

"Fight Club" is one of my 2 or 3 favorite movies of all time.  There, I said that.  The original version is not family-friendly (to an extreme), but it's how a lot of people relate to their world and I acknowledge that on artistic merit.  The cable edit is still good enough that I'll watch it a couple times when it rotates through the channels.  When Tyler and the narrator start their first fight...

"How much can you know about yourself, you've never been in a fight? I don't wanna die without any scars."

The fight concludes with a tap-out and a handshake and a smile.  After a few weeks, they were carved out of wood.  There was respect; more importantly, there was self respect.  Back to that point later.

There's something to be said about protecting our young.  The "most protective mothers" on Earth are usually bears or lions or some such monster that mauled a hiker in Reader's Digest.  Those same protective mothers will bring home injured, live prey for their young to learn to kill.  Hooves, horns, and desparation is not "safe".  More hunters are injured by deer than by any other common game animal in North America.  These young also fight each other constantly, and the youngest one is always the loser every day of its life.

The human equivalent of this live-prey training is Pop Warner football and karate lessons.  Shy, quiet children can thrive in karate lessons.  I grew up largely without that live-prey training and only started lifting weights 3 years ago after what Tyler Durden would have called a "near-life experience".  My wife says I carry myself differently, and that people respond to me differently.  I came close to a fistfight with an aggressive drunk just this week until he backed down and left.  You have to know your limits, and you need to be ready for the discomfort of occasionally reaching them.  Reaching your limits can foul up your whole day, and that is part of life whether you prepare for it or not.

Boys (and some girls) will inevitably fight.  Not that I encourage fighting for aggression's sake, but this is a legitimate interest in self-challenge, comparable in every way to rock climbing or marathon running as adults.  These fights had rules and a school nurse nearby instead of being on the street with weapons.  These kids shook hands before and after.  What these kids need is an MMA club, some boxing headgear and MMA gloves and a wrestling mat.  This is 6 inches from YMCA boxing or the wrestling team the high school already spends money on.  This principal's response was they would lock that particular bathroom after school hours and expel the kids in the video.  As a former educator and little boy, I was stunned.  This principal teaches students who can organize an after-school activity, including safety rules (which is mind-boggling at 11 yrs old), but cannot find another bathroom.

Why on Earth would your sweet Pookie Bear fight a classmate for fun?  Pookie gets his lunch money stolen every day by a 15-yr-old in 8th grade, in a fight he doesn't want and has no chance of winning.  Pookie's understanding of conflict is that he is a "loser".  One day a week, Pookie locks the door behind him and tests his mettle with a willing classmate his own size until one of them says "stop".  It's fair and square, and he sometimes wins.  For the first time all week, Pookie is not a victim; he is an athlete with a W-L record and scars and respect.  He beat the kid that beat the other kid that beat him last week, so they're all peers now in a way you and I cannot comprehend.  You cannot just eradicate that and say it's for Pookie's own good.  Pookie clearly needs an outlet and is not completely reckless about it.  Does that need go away when this activity is banned from school grounds?

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