Tag Archives: education

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.


Scary Stuff


It must be something in the water out there. After judging the term “early-school-leaver” to be a more appropriate (re: sensitive) label for the high school dropout (a slur, said they), the Calgary School Board has taken another giant step into the Dark Ages.

Two of its elementary schools have banned scary costumes, including weapons, violent imagery and masks of any description, from in-school Halloween celebrations. In fact, the staff have neatly hijacked the occasion from its relatively harmless pagan origins, and recast it as a “caring” assembly. Lo!

Don’t get me wrong, caring is important, but if they were going to shoehorn it into an occasion, surely Valentine’s Day or Family Day would have been more appropriate. Or they simply could have chosen a day at random during the school year. What difference would it make, unless you are a crackpot whose veins are coursing with politically correct righteousness?

I’ve met the type before. Some years ago, parents and staff at my daughter’s private school petitioned to ban witches and ghosts, because they promoted the occult. That mob even objected to black crayons in the classroom—the preferred colour for all things evil. It was our cue to rescue our little one from the clutches of PC evil.

But you don’t have to look very hard to find comprehensive studies showing that children are not only attracted to all things “scary,” but in fact use the experience of being scared to help them develop into sane and sensible adults. In other words, we need to be scared as part of our early development. It’s not for nothing that the horror genre, in all its mediums, is most popular with young people. As adults, we already know how frightening the real world is, so we lose interest in it, as a stimulus—substituting red wine to dull the fear.

If a boy dresses up as King Arthur, wearing crown and sword, is he promoting violence or honour? Evil or chivalry? If a girl dons a witch’s costume, is she accepting or promoting the occult, or is she is merely dressing up? Is the Fairy Godmother’s star-tipped wand a weapon? God help the poor child who wants to be Spiderman for a day!

It’s only the grownups who read more into it, which is a shame for those Calgary children who will be denied the opportunity to celebrate Halloween, and forced instead to talk (or listen to talk) about “caring.” Once again, the public school system demonstrates that it knows little about education, or children. A little superstition might just help these school leaders stop over-thinking things, and permit the children, one day a year, to be children. The real “scary” stuff is misuse of political correctness.