It is something often said among those who reflect on the changes in our education system over the past several decades that kids just can’t be kids anymore. This is especially true for young boys who find themselves in an educational environment where everything they have long enjoyed is now met with disapproval and bans.
Activities such as recess, along with various games, are a good example of this. The culprit is an education community fearful of liabilities, the projection of adulthood onto kids by adults who forget what it was like to be a kid, and an overwhelmingly female-dominated lower education system that will inevitably view gynocentrism as the norm.
Which brings us to two recent news articles. In the first, Huffington Post Parents reports that tag is now banned at Charlotte Avenue Elementary School in Nashua, New Hampshire. My comments are interspersed:
BOSTON, Oct 10 (Reuters) – An elementary school in New Hampshire has banned the age-old schoolyard game of tag, saying students sometimes tag each other too forcefully.
I can’t help but ask – what’s the body count? How many limbs were lost? How many were paralyzed? Did any of the middle and high school boys who had played dodge ball in elementary school shoot up their school recently, citing their experiences during tag as the reason why?
Sometimes sarcasm really is the best way to point out absurdities. And this is one such example.
“The other issue with tag is that students are running and not paying attention to where they are going,” Patricia Beaulieu, principal of the Charlotte Avenue Elementary School in Nashua, said in a notice on the school’s website.
The action, which followed several playground injuries attributed to the game, was criticized by some parents.
We are left to wonder exactly what these injuries are. The article does not say.
Most parents in the real world (as opposed to education administrators acting in loco parentis) understand that skinned knees and “owies,” while undesirable, are often simply part of the give-and-take of childhood. Indeed, it may be better for them to suffer only skinned knees or light bruises while learning the limits of physical play while under adult supervision, than for them to not know their limits and attempt to test those limits when adults are out of sight.
“Tag is one of the oldest playground games anywhere,” Bill Chisholm, 43, told Nashua’s Telegraph newspaper. “To ban tag is just ridiculous.”
A school district in Port Washington, New York, this year banned children from using hard balls, like baseballs or soccer balls, during recess and has made it policy to distribute soft, spongy Nerf balls instead.
The school referenced at the end of this HuffPo article is Weber Middle School. An article at CNN reports on the matter:
Is it an extreme case of helicopter parenting or a smart move to keep kids safe?
That’s what parents are asking after hearing about a Long Island middle school’s decision to ban most balls during recess and also require supervision of tag, even cartwheels, due to safety concerns.
No longer allowed at the Weber Middle School in Port Washington, New York: footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, lacrosse balls and any other hardballs that could injure a child. Also off limits: rough games of tag and cartwheels unless an adult supervisor is on hand.
Cartwheels, folks. Cart. Wheels. I can’t make this up.
“This isn’t smart. It’s actually counter-productive,” said Donna Daniels in an e-mail to CNN. “It saddens me to think that children no longer experience the joy of kickball, tag, dodgeball and simple outdoor games I remember so fondly when I reflect on my childhood. Our kids don’t experience physical activity unless it involves downloading an app.”
“Without opportunities to learn how to navigate space with their bodies, and to negotiate rules, risks, and experimentation of cooperative play, how are children going to ever be able to handle themselves in any society as adults?” said Alex Martin, an associate director at a Manhattan nursery school.
Yes. As a matter of fact, that sounds like what I said earlier in this post. Note that Mr. Martin is the only one (besides Mr. Rogers, quoted at the beginning of this post) who that talks about the psychology of play as a form of learning itself. Everyone except for lower education administrators seems to understand this concept. Even those who produced my favorite anime Full Metal Alchemist understood this:
On the other hand, although I am not often in agreement with education administrators, this part of the CNN article does resonate:
On the other side, there were some people who thought the school’s actions were warranted.
“Freedom is great until the parents sue the school district,” said Tyllor Parker on Facebook.
Deliberate neglect of students is one thing. But we are also living in litigious times. Schools cannot prevent all possible injuries. That much should be common sense.
And it should also be common sense that kids just need to be kids while they still can.