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Why are boys falling behind? Author says elimination of rough and tumble play to blame

The continued crackdown of rough and tumble play for boys at recess is seriously hampering their development, argues the author of a new book. (AP file)

Remember playing dodgeball, tag or ‘tug of war’ on the playground at recess? Most kids today will never get the chance, and the author of a new book argues that’s seriously hurting boys now and for the future.

In the updated and revised edition of her controversial “The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies Are Harming Our Young Men,” Christina Hoff Sommers says evidence continues to mount that shows boys are being disadvantaged by the elimination of rough-and-tumble play.

“Boys used to do roughhouse play and boys were allowed to be boys. You are sort of emasculating young men and taking away some of their strength,” agrees KIRO Radio’s John Curley. “Women are getting better grades, graduating college at a higher rate, starting to out-earn men. You know why? Because of what’s happening on the playground at recess.”

Instead of ‘tug of war’, now kids are playing ‘tug of peace.’ Tag has been replaced with ‘circle of friends,’ an oft-criticized game where no one is ever out.

“Increasingly, our schools are failing to make a distinction between aggression and high spirited play,” Hoff Sommers said in a recent interview. “Rough and tumble play – it’s the natural play of boys everywhere.”

Hoff Sommers argues that’s created a culture that subdues young boys’ natural instincts from a young age and teaches them their urge to play rough is wrong. That in turn can neuter them for life, stunting their drive and development.

But KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney disagrees.

“Recess is a pretty small part of a kid’s life and especially with sports. Boys play so many sports, they’re going to have plenty of time to get all their aggression out.”

“As a mom of two boys, I just don’t see it,” says KIRO Radio’s Ursula Reutin. Both of her boys play football and a number of other sports and get plenty of rough play, she says.

“I think there is something to it,” Curley counters. “She has a ton of data to back it up.”

Tom and Curley on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

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About the Author

Josh Kerns

Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He covers everything from May Day riots in Seattle to the latest Boeing news. Email Josh at


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