Blood on the jungle gym

April 6, 2006, midnight | By Robert Feasley | 14 years, 9 months ago

The dangers of childhood revisited

Running is dangerous — statistics don't lie.

Baseball is more than just dangerous — it is corrupting and insidiously perverse.

Abolish recess. Outlaw the swing set. Tear down the monkey bars — set the monkeys free.

The forces of playground fascism are on the march, coming to a gym, schoolyard or baseball diamond near you.

School boards nationwide now hope to banish such hallowed, all-American activities as dodgeball, Ultimate Frisbee, touch football and gasoline gargling from school yards everywhere.

It's a slippery slope we're headed down. To wit:

Jerry Graziose, a county safety officer for Broward County, Florida, was cited in The Sun Sentinel's June 17, 2005, article, "Authorities are taking `play' out of playground," defending the "no running" policy instituted by the county's public school system. He claimed that running around equipment creates a hazardous environment for children. Furthermore, science has shown through extensive studies that running leads to sweating and poor fashion sense. Witness the adult joggers on the Blair track. Not a pretty sight, but I digress....

The vein mined by high-minded civic do-gooders like Graziose leads directly to Orwellian paradoxes that are as futile as they are ridiculous. Here at Blair, Big Brother wants you (providing you are big and fast enough) to play football. A safe, well-regulated activity, football has been known to cause minor irritations such as nose bleeds, bone fractures, paralysis, death, sweating and, again, questionable fashion sense (you know who you are).

And yet, organized Frisbee is discouraged at Blair for being too "dangerous." According to a January 2005 Silver Chips Online article titled "Ice Hockey, Frisbee clubs cancelled by administration, SGA," the SGA revoked its sponsorship of the Frisbee Club due to "safety reasons." Let me be the first to say: Frisbees don't kill people — 300-hundred-pound linebackers do.

Even America's national pastime is not immune from the death of a thousand cuts visited on it by overzealous guardians of the public good. Mark Lane of Jewish World Review writes in his Dec. 15, 2000, article, "Outlawing Dodgeball," that "Baseball can impart an unreasonable belief that things will always stay the same. It offers the false security of an orderly universe that can be understood through statistics." Considering the Blair baseball team's record, few would argue that the players are permanently damaged by exposure to such traumatic consistency as low RBIs and high ERAs.

Children learn from their mistakes. Even games like dodgeball teach valuable lessons — like how to dodge, dip, duck, dive and... dodge. In their zeal to create a risk-free environment for their children, parents have deprived them of a valuable source of knowledge: pain. Much like the home-school crew's inability to interact socially with people of different creeds, preferences or levels of fabulousness (fashion sense), children today are marooned on an island of over-regulated activity.

This false utopia masks the greater danger of reaching maturity without having experienced real childhood: riding your sled off a cliff, running too fast with scissors, trying to swallow a water balloon. In the playground of adult life, our actions have consequences. If you don't duck, you will get clocked. It's the way of life, the law of the jungle.

We are at a crossroads. Childhood obesity is described as the number-one health risk in our bulging society and yet well-meaning school officials want to phase out unstructured play entirely.

We must choose wisely, for the road to Krispy Kreme is paved with good intentions.

Robert Feasley. Robert is a llamahead. More »

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