Friday, October 20, 2006

Playground Games

It was 11:45 AM on a clear October morning. A group of about fifty children were busy with activities like hop-scotch, throwing a football, chatting and clowning around. A large group of kids had assembled in a circle toward the corner of the black-top surface near one end of the basketball court, so I wandered over.

A dark-haired boy was encircling the seated kids, placing his hand on each seated child’s head.

“Duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, GOOSE!”

And with the word “goose,” the blonde-haired girl jumped up and tried to chase the boy around the circle and tag him before he could sit down at the previously abandoned spot. She missed, so she became the “goose” and the game continued.

“Duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, GOOSE!”

This time, a dark-haired girl with wire-rim classes rose and chased the blonde girl and tagged her. The blonde girl had to stay the goose. On and on it went.

Several minutes later I noticed a small girl with downcast eyes behind large dark glasses with quivering shoulders. I approached her.


“Uh, huh.”

“Are you, OK?”

She didn’t respond. Her shoulders quivered faster. It was clear she was crying and embarrassed to reveal herself in such a state.

“What’s wrong, Sarah?” I asked.

She paused, lip quivering. Her bright blue eyes were full of tears as she looked up at me. “I…. I… I never get GOOSED!”

Sometimes it’s good to get goosed in life. It’s important to feel included, even if there are risks in doing so. It was with amazement that I learned in an editorial from the Chicago Tribune about Willett Elementary School in Attelboro, Massachusetts banning any game incorporating tag.
Principal Gaylene Heppe has approved a ban on playing tag, touch football and other unsupervised chase games, according to The Associated Press. School officials fear that such games make children more vulnerable to injury, thus making the school more vulnerable to lawsuits.
Is life to be dictated by lawyers? What are we teaching our children? Life spent quaking (quacking?) behind the threat of litigation is worse, in my view, than permitting such beneficial social activities and learning the lessons of life.

Unstructured play time is incredibly important for our children as confirmed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Furthermore, the benefits of games like “tag” increases physical activity in our children and helps reduce obesity, too. But beyond the physical benefits, teaching our children what life is about – that competition exists and is part of life – that we cannot always “win” and must learn how to cope when we lose – these are the most important lessons we learn in our formative years, are they not?

I ran today’s Tribune editorial by an expert: my daughter, age 11. “What do you think about this?” I asked her.

“Oh Daddy, that’s nothing. You think that’s bad? Guess what all of our teachers tell us when we want to play Tug-of-War?”

I had no idea.

“We can’t call it that, Daddy.”

“Why not?”

“They think it’s too mean to call it Tug-of-War – we have to call it Tug-of-Peace.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. In our neighborhood, our Great American Public school system no longer condones the term “Tug-of-War” on the playground. The ridiculousness of the re-naming was not lost on my 11-year-old daughter. It is both condescending, patronizing, and disingenuous to her. Unfortunately, it seems “war” now so politically incorrect that we can no longer use the term at our school.

A quick question for our "teachers:"

Are we at "peace" in Iraq?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I do believe that lawyers dictate our lives ... think of how many tests are done - unnecessarily - to keep those malpractice lawyers at bay. And even then ...

About the PC silliness in the schools, it runs a lot deeper than people realize. I became quite disenchanted with our local system when my children were still young, and I took them out and homeschooled them. Looking back - it was the best choice I ever made.