A Journalist's Archive

Let Children Be Children
By Kathy Hare

Congratulations graduates! The world is now your oyster, so get out there and harvest those pearls.

As for parents who have children just entering the school system, I suggest you spend the summer educating yourself and your child about all the pitfalls they must avoid, because no matter what your age, the rules have changed since your school days.

Don’t expect school policies to be sensible, logical or based on age-appropriate behavior. Inform your child that hugs, hand-holding, hits, kicks, and god forbid – kissing – are not tolerated in our school system. In fact, one school district in England has banned touching between children altogether. The only time students in Bracebridge Heath Primary School are permitted to touch is if another child has fallen and needs help up off the ground. But the school also banned all “unsupervised play,” including games of tag, so there is little danger any child will be falling on their derrière.

Parents complained, “Children have been playing games for centuries,” and “children will never learn how to play together under the new rules.” But their comments fell on deaf ears. Head mistress, Mrs. Tuck, said “Our children thrive in an environment in which every child is made to feel happy and secure.” But how any human can feel “happy” or “secure” when denied the use of one of their senses is beyond comprehension. What’s next? Perhaps it will dawn on Mrs. Tuck that if she supplies students with ear plugs and blinders they will never have to hear or see any evil either.

Now if you think this is the most idiotic school policy ever implemented, I would agree. But don’t think absurdity in the name of protecting our children is limited to England. Meridian Ranch and Evans elementary schools both banned tag and dodge ball in 2005 “in favor of alternatives with less physical contact.” The stupidity of the ban even made it into Jay Leno’s opening monologue, fortunately he only made reference to a school in Colorado.  While I don’t remember the exact joke, it went something like this: now instead of kids being upset because another kid said “You're it” they will have to live with the humiliation of everyone saying, “You're fat!”

Oh, but it gets worse!  On March 6, two 5-year old Denver students were reported to the child-welfare department because they kissed on the playground. Kissed! Call the cops and place them both on the sexual predator list. Heaven knows this is the only way to protect society. Denver city councilman Doug Linkhart said, “It’s getting to the point of ridiculousness where we’re prosecuting kids for kissing.” No kidding. But only a few days before the kissing incident, Denver police and social service workers were investigating a 6-year old boy after he told a girl in his class that she had “a sexy booty.”

As a society we may want to examine why a 6-year old has even heard the term “sexy booty,” but I don’t believe it warrants calling the police. What injury did the little girl actually incur? Did the teacher think to merely take the boy aside and tell him such words are unacceptable in school? Did anyone think to call his parents?  No, instead teachers, principals, and superintendents across the country are willing to sacrifice common sense in the name of security for our children. Making me wonder, is a school’s function to educate children, or to act as an extension of our ever-growing police state?

Heaven knows what will happen to those males with raging hormones in middle school that can not resist the temptation to snap a bra strap. In the past, the girl took care of the problem herself by turning around and smacking the boy. Today, that could land them both in a juvenile facility, her for assault and him for sexual abuse. Their lives would be destroyed, but at least school officials could righteously claim they are protecting our children.

While humans hate to think of our close connection to the animal kingdom, it cannot be denied. Like puppies, children need to play in order to learn how to socialize. And unsupervised contact play lets them learn how to interact with one another. Children’s feelings will be hurt, sometimes they will be bullied, and sometimes they will be the bully. It’s all part of growing up.

I understand Columbine forever changed America’s school system, but adults can not expect to protect children from all the perils of childhood, nor should we want to. Playing tag, dodge ball, king of the hill, and other such games teaches children important lessons they will use as adults. And if a child doesn’t learn how to deal with a bully on the playground, they will never know how to handle one in the workplace.

As a parent whose children have become adults, I can only express my sympathy for those of you who have children just entering school. While I urge you to meet your child’s teacher and principal and ask them to phone you should your child have any problems, it may not be enough. You can also try speaking to school board members and ask them to restore the school system to a place where children are free to play, thus learning how to socialize with one another, but honestly, I have little confidence that will accomplish anything.

So for now, the best you can do is to educate your child before their first day in school. Or better yet, you could consider home schooling.

First published in The New Falcon Herald
Article Copyright © 2008 Bluestack Consulting, Inc.
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