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« In Slate | Main | YouTube for the Day »

July 21, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

No more dodgeball? No more tag? What kind of adults are these kids going to grow up to be?



posted by Michael at July 21, 2006


I remember when I was in grade school the boys liked to play a game which involved tying the girls to the monkey bars with their jump ropes. It was occasionally dangerous because those girls would kick and bite. Ah memories...

Posted by: jim on July 21, 2006 7:55 PM

Looks like another clash between common sense and the "lifestyle nannies" whose only existence is to dictate what is "good" for us. Luckily, from the article, it appears many people are already skeptical of the benefits of banning things like touch football (this I couldn't believe) and tag, so there may yet be hope that this is a transient policy.

As for today's children, I'm unsure how they'll grow up, probably restless and itching for mischief after years of pent-up urges to "do things".

Posted by: Andrew Yen on July 21, 2006 11:04 PM

Stories like this make me feel so old. And it's not just games. Back when I was in school, it was no big deal if a couple of kids got into a fistfight. They'd get sent to the principal's office, maybe get detention or a day's suspension, and that was that. Today? A good old fashioned punch-up is now a huge catastrophe. The police are summoned, the students face long suspensions and are forced to undergo psychological counseling, and might get sent to an "alternative" school. We're raising a generation of sissies who have no idea how to throw or, more importantly, take a punch.

Posted by: Peter on July 22, 2006 12:43 AM

And how about bicycle helmets! Did such things even exist when we were kids?

These kids are going to expect adult life to have training wheels on it, that's my bet.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 22, 2006 1:12 AM

Thatnk God there's still Sony Playstation!

Posted by: Neil on July 22, 2006 8:20 AM

Kids never wore bicycle helmets until maybe ~25 years ago. The only people who did were adults competing in races.

Posted by: Peter on July 22, 2006 9:35 AM

Re: Peter's comment: It's not only that we are raising kids "who have no idea how to throw, or more importantly, take a punch;" we're also acclimating kids to the notion that the first (not last) resort should there be trouble is The State and its minions.

Posted by: ricpic on July 22, 2006 10:02 AM

This is scary stuff. What do the oldsters here think: is this a cyclical phenomenon, or is this here to stay?

This is yet one more reason why sending our (soon-to-be-born) kids to the in-laws in Eastern Europe is starting to look like a real nice idea.

Posted by: PA on July 22, 2006 3:43 PM

Thank the lawyers for this one. Dodgeball is being banned due to a lawsuit in New York. Recess in a school district in Massachusetts has been scrapped entirely in response to a lawsuit stemming from “teasing” in the schoolyard. Joe Frost, a professor of education at the University of Texas fields 2-3 call a day from educators worried about potential lawsuits from recess and physical education activities.

So America's children get fatter and fatter from a lack of physical exercise and obesity in our children has become a national crisis.

The cause? Our “representatives” in Washington don't represent us. They are in the pockets of lobbyists and one of the biggest is the trial lawyers. And until we, as citizens, do our duty and hold our representatives accountable, this trend will continue.

And to answer Michael’s question about what kind of adults these kids will grow up to be? Litigious ones, of course.

Posted by: Bob on July 22, 2006 9:04 PM

If the kids get too fat from lack of exercise, we can just sue the food companies.

Posted by: Brian on July 23, 2006 1:16 AM

"is this a cyclical phenomenon, or is this here to stay?"

I'm not an old timer. I'm 30 years old. This has to be cyclical (I hope). All my friends are starting to have kids, and we cringe when we hear about this wussification of America's kids.

I have at least six or seven scars from on-playground and off-playground activity.

Dodgeball? Huh. That's nothing. How about Bombardment -- lining a bunch of kindergarteners up along a bring wall and beaming us with one of those red rubber balls?

Don't blame the lawyers or the politicians. Blame the damn parents!!!

I hope as current crop of 20 somethings and 30 somethings being raising kids, we see a return of these "character building" exercises.

Posted by: Steven K. on July 24, 2006 8:54 AM

Hope I'm remembering this correctly... Back in the mid-80s when my kids were in grade school, "they" decided that kids' game should be non-competitive. So one activity was simply pushing a large (four foot diameter?) ball around the playfield. Seems to me this experiment didn't last all that long.

Besides, there were plenty of softball and soccer leagues out there to keep competitive fires burning.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on July 24, 2006 10:58 AM

Attitudes towards teachers contribute a lot to this phemomenon, as well. When I was a kid (the 70s, basically), parents supported the teachers unquestionably when their kids got into trouble. Today, many (though not all) parents get very defensive when they are called in to discuss their kids' behavior and/or grades.

As for disciplining kids, forget it. You can't touch them, even to drag them apart from each other. I'm not exaggerating. In the school I taught at, if a teacher witnessed a fight, he/she had to call the office to get a sanctioned administrator to physically stop the fight. This is fine if the teacher is a woman or small man, but many of us at the school were fairly large men.

Of course, there are many students that even large men would not want to even try to physically restrain. This is another problem. Many kids ignore the line between teacher and student and will cross it.

What this means for the playground is that the administration must take a zero-tolerance stance because what in the past were petty squabbles can no longer be addressed proportionately.

Posted by: the patriarch on July 24, 2006 12:50 PM

My experience is much like "the patriarch's" in terms of teaching, except that at the rez schools, kid-on-kid violence is everywhere while the taboo against even saracasm or yelling from teachers is enforced by firing. Slapping, tripping, punching, and boy-on-girl intrusion is preached against while flowering in fact. One of the favorite tricks of big boys is "swirlies" imposed on little boys: forcing their heads into a flushed toilet, preferably a nasty one.

When I was a primary school child, in the late forties in good old gray Portland, OR, I was a weepy, nerdy loser whom no one wanted on their team and who endured more persecution than any teacher or parent ever admitted knowing about. It didn't make me tough -- only devious.

So far I have no answers about these phenomena, only more questions. Where does that violence come from? How does one stop it? Should it be stopped? I have a feeling that somehow we're creating a nation of sociopaths as well as wimps and that no lawsuit will resolve the problem.

Sometimes I think about the generation of English schoolboys so marked by eroticized spankings and canings that they could only get sexual satisfaction by being whipped. Some of these men became famous people, constructive and brilliant -- but still needing their whippings. Just also needed to keep them secret to avoid social sneering.

Just to complicate things, I hate and despise seat belts. Only got caught once and the sympathetic trooper let me off.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on July 24, 2006 2:37 PM

"In the school I taught at, if a teacher witnessed a fight, he/she had to call the office to get a sanctioned administrator to physically stop the fight. This is fine if the teacher is a woman or small man, but many of us at the school were fairly large men."

I wonder ... rather than being way of avoiding lawsuits from parents, could that no-breaking-up-fights policy be something that the teacher's union insisted upon?

Posted by: Peter on July 24, 2006 8:50 PM

I'm almost certain is was a liability issue. I know it was a sore spot among most of the teachers I worked with.

Posted by: the patriarch on July 25, 2006 10:41 AM

Why, Michael, what a silly question. Of course they'll grow up to be good ol', red-blooded American lawyers who'll sue and litigate anything fun and physical out of existance, and much else besides.

Posted by: Andrew on July 25, 2006 2:28 PM

They've banned recess because of teasing on the playground? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

When I was in first grade, there was a certified sociopath in the second grade. Creepy, big, had been held back at least one year. Innocent as I was, I didn't know about her, and somehow fell into her sights as a desirable "bitch." She grabbed my scarf from behind on the way in from recess, dragged me around the back of the school, pulled down my pants, and started pinching me. I'm tellin' ya, she was a sick puppy. Thereafter, she would follow me around menancingly on the playground. I bargained for my freedom. She'd order me to go play on the swings, and I'd ask if she'd stay away from me if I played on the swings as she'd, ahem, suggested. Otherwise, I hung out by the playground teacher hoping the warden would scare the pervert off. NOBODY AT THE SCHOOL DID A DAMN THING. My mother even finally went in to complain, and teachers sighed and said they knew Cheryl had a problem, but her parents wouldn't acknowledge there was anything wrong with her, so they were helpless. Couldn't do a thing. My whole first grade recess was wadded over by this torture. Nobody sued. Nobody cancelled recess.

Posted by: annette on July 25, 2006 2:52 PM

Bullying can be a big deal, as Annette says. In my junior high school, there were rapes (hetero and homosexual), beatings so severe as to require extended hospitalization, etc. I'm not a big believer that it's character building. Although I did get my nose broken at lunch one day, leading to the (perhaps character building) result that I didn't start any more fights. Broken noses really hurt.

Posted by: MQ on July 26, 2006 3:30 AM

Moderation and common sense are key.

On one extreme there is the Lord of the Flies / prison-style anarchy where bullies torment the weak and in some cases, damage them for life.

On the other extreme, you get the smothering sissification scenario that cripples or at best confuses boys and punished normal kids for being small infractions under draconian no-tolerance rules.

A happy medium arrived by a balancing of values is needed. Compare this to driving. While we find road anarchy unacceptable, we also have a necessary tolreance for a certain level of traffic deaths. If we didn't (as we apparently have no tolerance for any level of schoolyard mischief), we'd have lowered the speed limit to 5 mph on the highway.

Posted by: PA on July 26, 2006 9:34 AM

Some point to lawyers as the blame for this sorry state of affairs, some to teachers and some to the kids themselves. The real blame lies with the baby boomers (of which I am one). Our parents, in serving in the military and in order to muster the resolve to turn back the Nazis and the Japanese, learned the value of self-sacrifice, of doing one’s duty, of following orders and of plain old hard work. In coming back from Europe and the Pacific, they sought to teach us these lessons. And how did we react? We resented it. We rebelled. Hence, the “Sixties.”

And now that we are parents, we continue the rebellion. The “system” is evil. We must fight it. Thus, when presented with evidence that our children are not geniuses headed for Ivy League glory, we attack the teachers. When presented with evidence that our children antisocial bullies, we sue the school district. When presented with evidence that our children are spoiled narcissists, we’re the first to supply the excuses.

Face it. We’ve raised a generation of fat, lazy, sissified kids. It’s the children of first-generation Americans who are taking the prime spots in our most prestigious universities. It is the economies of India, China, and the former Eastern bloc countries that are aggressively moving into the global economy. And they’re doing it while our children work actively to extend their adolescence well into adulthood and passionately discuss the most important topic in the country, “Who will be the next American Idol?”

I really believe that when future historians look back at America, or what’s left of it, it will be our generation that they point to in assessing the blame to our society’s downfall.

Posted by: Alan on July 27, 2006 10:38 PM

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