People Who Hate Fun


Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun! by Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham

If there’s one important thing to remember about being a kid, it’s that all the stuff that’s the most fun is the stuff that everyone is absolutely convinced is bad for you. Comic books? Bad. Video games? Bad. Dungeons & Dragons? Bad. Skateboarding? Bad. Rock music? Bad.

So here’s a book dedicated to talking about all the things that were so awful for us, and how they weren’t really bad for us at all.

Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham put this together. It’s not quite a comic book — there’s a lot of straight text here — but it’s all broken up with plentiful comic illustrations. And appropriately, it starts out talking about how everyone was convinced that comics were bad for us, mostly focusing on the fraudulent research of Dr. Fredric Wertham. But it doesn’t stop there.

Among the other panics we’ve seen over the years, this book also spotlights fairy tales, Harry Potter books, all kinds of games (including soccer, chess, pinball, and shuffleboard), texting, social media, beepers, playgrounds, skateboarding, and much more.

But the most terrifying and infuriating chapter of the book is the one focusing on education. While things would seem to be much improved from the days when most children spent their days working in factories instead of going to school, the situation is definitely declining now. Schools and education “experts” have decided that recess is bad for you, that vacations are bad for you, that art and music are bad for you, that free time is bad for you — you see, they all get in the way of studying to pass the standardized tests.

We also learn about censorship in schools, as administrators crack down on student reporters, usually for the crime of making administrators look bad. And we learn that research has shown that students who sleep later do better in school — yet schools still keep demanding that classes must start at crack-o’-dawn in the morning. We learn more about the ongoing ridiculousness of Zero Tolerance policies, which appear to be designed solely to assault children and send them to jail for laughably trivial reasons.

While the other chapters made adults look like misguided fools reflexively hating anything new that kids were doing, that last chapter makes our educators, school administrators, and police officials out to be actively malign influences on our children, working to make our kids less educated and less secure, and mostly interested in abusing their power to kick kids out of school and stick them in jail.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Most of the book is very entertaining and informative — you’ll learn plenty, and you’ll find plenty of things to laugh about, too. Yeah, there are people out there who seem to genuinely hate it when kids have fun — but ultimately, they lose, and they go to their graves mocked and derided.

But again, that last chapter is shocking and infuriating. I don’t have kids, but holy bananas, I’m amazed some of the tyrannical teachers and awful administrators depicted here have managed to survive to the present day. I’m even more surprised that the terrible policies governing our schools haven’t been overturned, just because the resulting educational disaster is just so screamingly obvious. If reading this chapter doesn’t absolutely infuriate you, there’s a very good chance you’re already a school principal or school board member.

Go pick it up, partly for the humor, partly for the rage, partly to remember that today’s kids are no more awful than you were when you were in school.

Comments are closed.