The Epidemics Epidemic

I’d like to quote something from a recent article on the “narcissism epidemic” or “Generation Me” at the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The social sciences have too often jumped in feet first, raising unnecessary panics over video games, “fad” mental illnesses, and “crises” of sexual assault. I’ll acknowledge that it’s probably difficult to sell a book or get a government grant arguing that something isn’t a big problem, yet it is time for the social sciences to carefully consider the chasm that too often exists between the data that they produce and the claims they make to the scientific community and general public. Words such as “epidemic” should only ever be preceded by words like “smallpox,” and should henceforth be stricken from the social scientist’s lingo. (…)

The evidence just isn’t there for an epidemic of narcissism or anything else. Social scientists would do well to exercise a degree of caution when interpreting data. Just like with the little boy who cries wolf, people are bound to notice too many phantom epidemics. The price to be paid is the credibility of social science itself.

Of course I was thinking “video games” (and “comic books”) before I even got to the part of the article where the author mentions this. (Little did I know while reading this that the author, an associate professor of psychology at Texas A&M, has already written about his take on game “violence” in particular.) I recommend the article for all academics who will wring their hands over the next big cultural boogeyman, and to all professors who lament the moral fiber of “kids today.”

(And as an added side note: As someone who was bullied and played dodgeball as a kid, I’m a little offended by the commenter who calls dodgeball a “particularly horrific game (in which authority figures actually encourage normal kids to act like bullies).” Maybe the bullies were different in this person’s neighborhood, but where I grew up, bullies beat you up, up-close and personal, and did not invite you to play a game of dodgeball with them.)

4 thoughts on “The Epidemics Epidemic

  1. Every geek I’ve met loved dodgeball. If you were small and wiry (like I was) or just ballsy enough to try and catch the ball (The GF) you could own that game.

    I wonder how the whole ‘geeks hate dodgeball’ thing got started.

  2. Ha – my little afterthought wasn’t quite intended to spark a debate on the merits of dodgeball, but all comments to that effect are quite welcome. Just meant to point out that describing a game as “horrific” kind of distracts us from the behaviors that are definitely physically and emotionally harmful for kids. Getting a rubber or foam ball thrown at me in the “magic circle” of a game, with rules of conduct and safety, was always much less traumatic than, say, getting rocks thrown at me.

    (Mostly, though, I preferred dodgeball to kickball, which also involves throwing stuff at people, if for no other reason than that our gym teacher generally divided us into dodgeball teams, whereas kids themselves tended to “draft” kickball teams … and you can guess when I tended to get picked.)

  3. “anti-dodgeball” sentiment is a clear sign of a generation of socially acceptable mediocrity. Dodge-ball is nothing, I got kicked into the wall regularly sparring my tae-kwon-do master and other superior fighters. I got my face pounded by a bully once, cried, and then my dad chastized me for being a pansy. I wished he chastized me more, I only ever beat-up one bully in my life and I regret not pounding them all into the ground.

    But this “anti-dodgeball” sentiment takes it to a whole new level. I’m frankly terrified. If the Chinese decide to invade the Western world tomorrow they wouldn’t have to fire a single bullet.

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