Friday, October 20, 2006


You are not going to believe this shit. The game of Tag has been banned from recess at Willett Elementary School in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Sorry more, "Tag - you're it!" Someone might get hurt!

But wait, there's more. Also banned is the popular schoolyard pastime of touch football, as well as any other unsupervised games where kids chasing one another may get injured and pose a liability risk to the school. Our nation of laws is beginning to implode as fear of costly litigation squeezes freedom from us one harmless activity after the next.

I don't know about you, but this trend toward sterilizing our kids' physical activities is a little disturbing. We've already got an obesity pandemic in this country - our kids need to be chasing each other MORE, not less. Why would anyone in their right mind think this is a good idea?

"It's a time when accidents can happen," said Willet School Principal Gaylene Heppe. Her new rule is part of a standardized set of playground rules developed to keep kids out of the nurse's office, and the school out of court. Hey Gaylene - you said it, darlin'. ACCIDENTS can happen.

Sadly, this isn't an isolated act. There's apparently a growing movement against the simple schoolyard games you and I played growing up. School administrators around the country started by banning dodgeball, calling it an exclusionary, dangerous game. But kids were not discouraged, and they quickly found other ways to have fun. But this only frustrated those hoping to crush fun in all of its forms, and led to a new round of regulation overkill. Clearly, kids shouldn't be having fun because, as everyone knows, anything that gives you pleasure is bad for you.

This isn't a regional thing, either. In addition to Massachusetts, schools in Cheyenne and Spokane also banned tag at recess this year. It's out of fucking control. One of the primary reasons cited for buckling down on these activities was the avoidance of litigation. School administrators aren't the ones to blame here. They're merely adapting to a dog-sue-dog climate in which everyone's looking for a slice of free pie. Why is it that our reflex as a nation is to sue the moment something happens to us? Do we not understand what it means to forgive? To accept responsibility for our own actions? to understand that the world is a dangerous place and that accidents happen? People get hurt - and it's not always possible to point the finger and say, "YOU...YOU were to blame for this." And how have we decided as a nation that the best way to say "I'm sorry" to someone is with a checkbook?

If kids are chasing one another on the playground, and one of them should fall and scrape a knee, why would any parent reflexively think to sue the the school where the accident occurred? And how are so many administrators learning to fear a generation of such parents? Better safe than sorry, I guess.

The way I see it, these schools, for how ridiculous some of their bullshit schoolyard rules may seem, are only protecting themselves from the growing monster that is unchecked law. Most people have choices, remember. So if parents don't like these pussy-building playground policies, they can try placing their kids in other schools where physical social interaction is encouraged. If every parent did that, these rules would go away. Unfortunately, there are people who will send their kids to these schools BECAUSE they don't let kids play Tag.

[Dr. Rumsfeld asks: How are we going to power our mighty hegemonic war machine in the future if we're raising a nation full of pansies?]

Scary to think how, when I was a kid, I didn't wear a bicycle helmet. I played tackle football in the snowy schoolyard. I didn't even wear a seat belt in the car. There was a different socio-legal climate back then. We didn't feel the need to legislate every aspect of everyday life. People did what they did and lived their lives and every once in a while someone would get hurt, and we'd learn from that - or we wouldn't. And life would go on. Then the media started getting a hold of us - filling us with fear and stuffing numbers down our throats: all reasons to worry. Today there are laws, and rules, and regulations, and guidelines, and codes, and restrictions, and bans on everything. Practically everything you do is legislated in some way - all in the name of protecting us from, ahem, ourselves.

I don't know about you, but I liked things better the way they were. Men were men and so were boys.


You're it!

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