Note to School: Grow Some Balls


Now that public schools have reduced gym class to 15 minutes per week of Wii Sports® (any longer and they could be promoting carpal tunnel syndrome), now that schoolyard playgrounds have been dismantled due to falling/bumping/pinching dangers, now that schools have eliminated all opportunities for children to burn off pent-up energy except for hallway bullying, they have now taken away the balls. Yes, no more balls for the kiddies.

Yes, there were “incidents.” Children are spazzy, which is why we give them things like balls to toy with; it promotes bodily coordination and muscle control. And, of course, it burns off pent-up energy that would otherwise manifest itself as a classroom disruption or hallway bullying. But people were getting hurt. Students, teachers, parents. One mother received a concussion after taking a ball in the head. This is serious. We are only now realizing how dangerous concussions are. My deepest sympathy to that woman, and anyone else who has suffered from a ball “strike.” Perhaps there could have been better supervision in the schoolyard. Perhaps the blow was intentional (boys sometimes have a strange idea of what “fun” is); who knows?

But here’s the thing: the world is filled with misadventures. Accidents happen all the time, everywhere, to all sorts of people, indiscriminately. There is no way to prevent accidents from happening. By confiscating the students’ balls, is Earl Beatty Public School a safer place to be? Doubtful. There is an innate need in children to launch things into the world. If not a ball, maybe a rock, a stick, a shoe (some other kid’s shoe), anything that can be kicked, thrown, spit, swung, lobbed. It gives them easy satisfaction, teaches them the principles of physics, makes kooky splotchy patterns as the strawberries mom packed for lunch strike the brick wall.

If you ask the school administration, they will tell you it’s in the interest of safety, this castration. They brought it on themselves, those spazzy, uncoordinated kids! Above all, we must protect the children from all potential harm, at any cost, no matter how silly or misguided our actions. In other words, they wish our children to grow up and venture into a world where they are afraid of everything. Afraid because they’ve been padded and helmeted and coddled to such an extreme, they have no idea what pain is. Falling down and scraping your knee is as integral to the learning process as kicking a ball or throwing some other kid’s shoe. If you have never felt pain, you can have no empathy for other people’s pain (including pain you might cause). Pain can teach a child where the limits of safety and common sense are. And this pain is most often inflicted during play time, during a physical activity; something modern day children sorely lack, through no fault of their own. It’s natural for them to want to see how fast they can make the merry-go-round spin before they lose their grip and get flung willy-nilly to the cold, hard ground. Never mind the grass stain or torn jeans: they risk a broken collar bone. So be it. Now they know, and probably won’t have to explore that question again. Lesson learned.

And that’s the point of education, isn’t it? To learn their lessons? There has to be a better solution than taking away the balls. If the staff sit down and think about it, they will discover a better solution exists. The fact that harried teachers are no longer motivated to do anything beyond the minimum requirements (thank you corrupt school board and unreasonable, angry helicopter parents), and the fact that the school administration is more afraid of liability than anything else (except more budget cuts), it’s no wonder they’ve taken the easy road. Take away the damned balls. It’s not really about safety, or at least not about the children’s safety. It’s about getting the phone to stop ringing ringing ringing.

Children need balls (and not just the boys). They need to be given the chance to play ball, with all its inherent risks, if they are to grow into sensible, sane adults. As opposed to cowering ninnies, peeking nervously out from behind their living room curtains at every hooting owl and passing bicycle. All this ball-taking may be good for the future of the therapy industry, but it’s bad for the kids.

Wake up, educators, and smell the rubber.

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About Mike Morey

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4 responses to “Note to School: Grow Some Balls

  • Dave Lake

    Mike, when my oldest son was in grade three he and his friends played mini-sticks hockey on the playground. There were two or three other boys in the group who played a bit too rough, knocking kids down or into the wall of the building.

    They cheated too!

    Well we told him that kids are kids and want to win so that’s the cheating stuff taken care of.

    As for the bullying, well stand up for yourself we told him OR tell the teachers as a last resort.

    He was mortified that this was even suggested.

    His logic… remember he was in grade three at the time …. was that instead of dealing with the bullying going on that the teachers/principal would merely ban all mini-sticks games.

    Psychic that he was, they eventually banned all mini sticks games, and those few kids went on to bullying kids on the soccer field.

    Why deal with a few when you can punish them all!

    Really though, a few bumps here and there are certainly not going to ruin these kids. many of them …. if they aren’t playing in organized sports … aren’t playing at all because we as parents/educators/adults take this away from them. SOMEONE MIGHT GET HURT.

    Then we complain they don’t exercise enough.

  • Dave Lake

    Can’t edit my post, he was mortified by the “tell the teachers” not the “stand up for yourself” which he learned to do in short order.

  • Brittany

    I don’t know you, but my friend posted your blog on facebook.
    I want to say THANK YOU for writing this and really helping me feel the perspective of the chaos in my son’s life now.
    He is 3 1/2 and I have had such difficulty finding a proper daycare for him where the staff doesn’t freak because he “pushes” another kid or doesn’t yet understand the nuances of positive social interaction in some situations.
    The sad thing is, he is such a lovely kid. He is a boy with lots of energy; he is adventurous and curious and loves all kids and animals and people.
    I am a teacher myself and I work with at-risk youth; my work is quite challenging at times but I love it. It is my vocation and I am dedicated to helping my students persevere past their obstacles.
    And yet, when I would pick up my son from daycare, I would get all these “concerns” about his physical “impulsiveness” which I hardly ever see when my husband and I are caring for him. All I can say to people, (as he is our only child) is “Isn’t this “normal” for a preschool kid??”
    But yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head: liability. Sometimes I resent our culture…fear….extreme safety measures….exiling little children who need our GUIDANCE to grow and mature socially and emotionally….as if we can protect against our own human vulnerability.
    I am so fed up, I might just end up taking a leave from my own job, my own students, because no one else seems willing to mentor my own child in the development we are supposed to be guiding!!
    I have worked in other countries where children call their teachers endearing names like “auntie” and offering a child physical affection, hugs, kind pats on the back, are part of your duty as a caring teacher. Here, we have even vilified the physical “nurturing” of our positions with all the liability crap….all I can wonder is, who are the ones that are ultimately suffering in this society we have concocted?? Yes….the ones we seem to be trying so bloody hard to “protect”!

  • Mike Morey

    Thanks for the comment, Brittany. Between liability and political correctness, the whole system fails and the kids suffer. And, of course, boys have different “energy” than girls. As for physical contact, many schools these days do not permit “touching” of any kind, except to assist someone who has fallen down. Sad, really.

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