Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tag! That's It!

To quote one of my favorite morning radio guys (Talk 910AM) (And I only have 2 favorite morning radio guys and the other one is this guy's sidekick. That being said, this guy is also the other guy's sidekick. They're no favoritism there.), "Goodbye, sweet America." Yep, it's been a good run. We've had, what? 232 years? Something like that? Yeah, it's over. Thanks for stopping by, though. Appreciate it. The cause for this departure? Tag. And the lack thereof.

Kent Gardens Elementary School in McLean, VA, has banned the game of tag. Apparently, all of that running and tagging and the occasional, "You're it!" being shouted was (and I quote), "getting out of hand." How? HOW does tag get out of hand to the point that you have to ban the entire school from playing it? HOW? According to the principal, tag had "become a game of intense aggression". These are elementary kids we're talking about, correct? Like, what, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 year olds? And there are adults teaching at this elementary school, correct? OK, I thought so. Just checking.

Principal Robyn Hooker calls the newly banned game of tag "nouveau tag". She said, "This tag involves grabbing people who do not necessarily know they are playing and possibly bumping them to the ground. Then the kids do 'pyramiding' or 'towering.' They pile on each other. Sometimes they call it 'jailhouse' or 'jailbreak,' because the child has to break out." WTF? "Grabbing people who do not necessarily know they are playing"? Um, yeah, that's called "assault". I can see why "assault" would be banned in elementary school. Is there a reason that there can't be some sort of, oh, I don't know, RULE that "tag" does not involve "assault"? You'd think that there could be. (Hell, you'd think that there would be.)

Fortunately, this hasn't fared well with everyone. Some say it's going a bit too far (oh, do you think?) and that's it undermines the development of children. OK, I don't know about the "undermining" part, but I do know that if you can't control a game of tag with children who are under 11 years old to the point where it is not a game of "intense aggression", then there's another problem. (Actually, that IS the problem, as I just can't see tag in and of itself as a problem at all.) Unfortunately, the tag ban is just fine with others who say that it is best to err on the side of caution. And again, unfortunately, their idea of "the side of caution" is swaddling clothes and a padded wheelbarrow to cart their precious little dandelions around in. Or worse...this:

Gerri Swarm who is the secretary of the school's PTA, said that she was glad that student concerns about being pushed or shoved were being taken seriously. (And while those concerns should be taken seriously, I think she's taking it a bit out of context.) She said, "In this day and age, you can't dismiss this as something not to worry about." No, in this day and age, I can't dismiss YOU as something not to worry about. You and all of the other soft headed individuals out there who think that eliminating something altogether solves everything.

The Fairfax County Schools Office of Risk Management (yes, there is a risk management office for the school district. Great.) keeps a list of all the activities that are banned from any events that are school-sponsored. (I don't know what constitutes a "school-sponsored event", but I guess "recess" is now considered an "event".) So they can't play tag. What else can't they do? According to the list, they cannot bungee-jump, scuba dive, break dance, play dodge ball or play tug-of-war. Wait. What?

Since WHEN was bungee jumping and/or scuba diving even a freaking OPTION in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL?!?! It wasn't in my elementary school (and I went to school in the Bay Area)! But these guys seem to have had issues with scuba diving break dancers attached to very long elastic cords to the point where they had to ban all activities and then some! WTF?! (My question? What about snorkeling?) And now they have grouped tag in the same category as bungee jumping and scuba diving for elementary school children. (And the fact that NONE of those things belong in a category together EVER tells me just how far these people have buried their heads in their own arses.)

Well, since the anti-tag regime, the schools have started what they call a "chasing, fleeing and dodging unit" for the first through fifth grades. (aka, Felon Escape Techniques 101.) The CFDU is basically tag and the variations thereof. (I do not know what a "variation" of tag would consist of because tag only has 3 basic components. You run. I chase. I tag. Repeat as needed. It's hard to have variety with three.) But during the CFDU, the kids are reminded about the rules of the game and how to be safe. Oh, so PE. In school. Novel concept. And that concept can't carry over to the playground at recess because why? Oh, that's right. They don't want to.

But see, here is where the problem lies. The principal was very surprised at the number of parents who were opposed to the ban. "I did not know that tag was so sacred." (Allow me a moment to recover from twisting off.) ::deep breath:: OK. Here we go.

It's not TAG that is sacred. The fact that you think TAG is the issue is really the problem! The problem is that these are children who need some guidance and some rules and when they have those, they should be able to go out and just be kids. When things go awry with children, an adult can step in and mitigate. However, "mitigate" does not mean "ban". "Mitigate" does not mean "coddle". "Mitigate" does not mean "remove all external and interpersonal conflict from their lives so that they have no idea how to deal with anything, at all, ever." It doesn't mean that at all. You set the rules, they play by them. If they don't, they don't play. That's not to say that they ALL don't play. The ones that don't play by the rules don't play. Get a spine. Grow a set. Whatever you folks need to do over there, please do it. And hurry.

If stuff like this continues, what will happen is that kids will be growing up without a single clue as to how to resolve anything on their own. Their perception of conflict resolution will involve just removing the source of the conflict from their lives completely. And that will work just fine until the day when the source of conflict cannot be removed from their lives completely and it is up to them to do something about it. The problem is that they won't have any idea how to do anything because they've been coddled and shielded from anything difficult or uncomfortable their entire lives! Don't you GET IT?!?!

Again, I quote the very wise, kind of wacky (but clean-shaven again, thank God. You were starting to look like a 70s porn star for a while there), Joe Getty, when I say, "Goodbye, sweet America." I miss ye already.

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