Friday, April 18, 2008

No tag, no dodgeball, no running, no playing, etc. 

Kent Gardens Elementary school in Fairfax County, VA has banned tag on the playground announced principal, Ms. Robyn Hooker (why am I not surprised?).

She made her decision because the game has gotten out of hand. This refusal to let kids play because: someone might get hurt; someone plays too rough; someone might lose; etc. is the result of a catch-22 situation educators and parents have developed in the last 35+ years.

Over the past decades, when parents with the perfect child were told their child misbehaved, they began accusing teachers and school administrators of picking on their child. They threatened to sue the school system. The schools, wanting to avoid costly lawsuits, began hiring risk averse administrators, people who would find a way to avoid any conflict with parents, etc. The "perfect" Johnny or Susie learned that his/her parents would excuse their actions and behavior just got worse. Parents abdicated any responsibility for poor conduct by their kids.

Couple this avoidance mentality, "It's not my kid's fault" with the "nobody can lose" mindset, we now find ourselves in a situation where schools cannot discipline and kids can't play at recess anymore. They can't run, can't play ball, can't play tag - just tell me, what is a young child with energy to do? Oh, we put them on Ritalin. Excuse me people. Our schools need to be able to set behavior standards (not feel-good, nobody is bad pabulum) and be able to punish kids who go too far, then provide an environment where normal active kids can run off steam.

Active girls need recess but boys even more. They must be able to release energy, not be drugged to the point where they are zombies. I taught 4th, 5th, and 6th grades for nine years. The real fidgety ones were given extra classroom space. Recess provided all kids with a means of letting off steam and made it much easier for them to concentrate on academic matters.

Heck, if we let kids be kids but give them boundaries and enforce the boundaries, we might even be able to extend the academic school day because we could teach more.