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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Live Free or Die...But Don’t Play Tag!

By Peter DeWitt — October 16, 2013 4 min read
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Perhaps Angela Lee Duckworth and Thomas Hoerr are right when they talk about how our children need grit. I often prefer the word resilience, but a few recent stories make me feel otherwise. However, it’s not the children that need grit...it’s their schools.

In New Hampshire, motorcyclists can ride around without helmets on motorcycles with license plates that say “Live Free or Die.” NH is big on personal choices and individual responsibility. Unfortunately, kids at one elementary school cannot play tag. Apparently, tag is much more dangerous that riding helmet-free on a motorcycle down a highway.

According to Fox News, “Charlotte Avenue Elementary School Principal Patricia Beaulieu posted a letter on the school’s website last week informing parents of the school’s safety policies. In the letter, she said while “tag” may seem innocent enough, it has been banned in many schools because of injuries.”

Kids get hurt. I get it. I once had an insurance adjuster come to my school and look at the open field where kids run free at recess and say that it provided a lot of opportunities for kids to get hurt. It was an open field! He said kids could run into one another.

It makes me think of signs, signs, everywhere are signs! There are so many rules! And now schools are banning tag! It’s not just a New Hampshire school that is using blanket rules to prevent injuries....

No Balls for You!

In Port Washington, NY there is a school that bans balls. Balls! According to CBS News, Superintendent of Port Washington Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Maloney said, “Some of these injuries can unintentionally become very serious so we want to make sure our children have fun, but are also protected.” Protected or sheltered? Seriously, kids can get hurt doing just about anything. Perhaps instead of banning we should teach them how to play correctly.

CBS News went on to report, “The ban at Weber Middle School in Port Washington, N.Y. will apply to footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, lacrosse balls or any other equipment that might harm a child or school friends. Students will be allowed to play with softer Nerf balls.” Thank goodness that soft Nerf balls are still allowed! They go far!

No Chance for Good Sportsmanship!

If you think that is crazy, schools in Kentucky are thinking of banning the post-game handshake. That’s right kids...no more practicing good sportsmanship! Alexander Abad-Santos wrote, “The decision to nix the handshake came because, apparently, kids are too violent, and couldn’t keep from attacking one another during the post-game gesture of sportsmanship.”

Abad-Santos went on to write, “Sportsmanship in Kentucky is obviously dead: anyone who’s seen a Louisville-Kentucky basketball game knows this. So how long until a state fully bans sports because of the lack of sportsmanship during the game?”

I understand his anger. When I was growing up I had coaches who expected their athletes to act with respect whether they won or lost. If someone beat us in a race we congratulated them because in the long run (no pun intended) it was about our personal best, which included how we acted before and after a competition. Banning a handshake takes the onus off of kids and coaches to do the right thing. It provides the expectation that they will always do the wrong thing because a small percentage of people acted badly in the first place.

Let’s start to have expectations for excellence instead of banning.

Seriously Ridiculous Time in Society

Kids who actually get to experience recess, albeit without balls or tag, should consider themselves lucky because some schools are banning recess for more academic time. It makes me feel that we have truly come to a sad time in society when some schools ban activities at recess or states think about banning a simple handshake after a game.

Too often kids get blamed for being coddled when it is the adults around them that are doing the coddling. We are living in a time of great accountability, and complain about all of the rules being imposed on schools by the state or federal education department. And yet adults who work in those schools think nothing of imposing rules on students.

Was tag really so dangerous? Or was it a small percentage of kids that made it dangerous? What about all of the kids that do the right thing? Why do they have to miss out? It’s tag!!! If a school has an open field let them play tag. What is so dangerous about TV tag???

It seems as though we have come to a place where some school officials have sucked the fun out of school for so many kids. We push academics, which we should because we are a place of education, but now we have schools that ban balls, cartwheels and tag at recess. That’s like a commissioner cancelling PTA sponsored town hall meetings because he didn’t like the questions that parents asked.

We need to swing the pendulum back to some common sense, where kids learn how to play with one another instead of banning playing all together.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.