In case you wondered, paternalism and fears of liability for potential injury will trump generalized health concerns about obesity and lack of exercise every time.
Want proof? Consider Weber Middle School in Port Washington, New York. School officials are concerned that kids are getting injured during recess. So, they’ve taken a proportionate response — they’ve banned footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, and any other object that might conceivably hurt someone. Oh, and tag also is banned, as are cartwheels. Presumably, even more violent games, like “red rover” and “smear the queer,” were banned long ago.
How ridiculous we’ve become! Generations of kids somehow managed to survive throwing a football or playing catch during recess. It was a good way to get some fresh air, blow off steam, and have some fun with your school buddies. Kids got some exercise in the process and came back into their classrooms with a little less energy and a little more ability to focus on algebra and chemistry and civics.
The school says it just wants its students to be “protected” in the wake of a rash of injuries. I’m sure that’s it — and there’s probably a desire to avoid potential lawsuits brought by angry parents, too. When I was a kid, no parent would even dream of suing their public school district, and no lawyers would consider taking such cases, either. Falls from the jungle gym and the occasional broken collar bone were just accepted parts of growing up. No longer!
We wonder why we have obese kids? We are so protective of youngsters that we take all of the fun out of play — and in the process make kids less and less likely to get any meaningful exercise. If you can’t play physical games, why not just retreat into your video game world where your digital counterpart can at least have some fun? Our paternalistic society is doing a tremendous disservice to our kids.
And speaking of suburban kids’ games — does anyone play a game called “Smear the Queer” anymore? (I recognize the name isn’t politically correct, but that is what the game was called.)
When I was a kid growing up in the Akron area in the ’60s, “Smear the Queer” was a popular, mindless playground game that was an effective outlet for the gushing adrenalin of growing boys. The only equipment you needed was a ball — any ball would do, although a football or one of those rugged red playground balls were preferred. The only rule of the game was that whoever was holding the ball would get tackled by everybody else. There was no objective to the game, no strategy, and no score. You just grabbed the ball and ran as far as you could until you were brought down by the following horde. As you were getting ready to get tackled you might flip the ball to some other unsuspecting player, so they would get tackled instead, but getting tackled was fun so you tended to hold the ball until you were on the ground and it was wrestled away by someone else. It was not unusual for the game to end when someone was injured; bloody noses, broken glasses, and assorted bruises were just part of the fun.
This admittedly was a rugged game, but rugged playground games were commonplace. Another tough game was “Red Rover.” Two teams linked hands and then picked out someone from the other team by calling out “Red Rover, Red Rover, let _____ come over.” That player then was supposed to run pell mell toward the other line and try to bust through. Either the runner got successfully held back, often by clothesline hits, or the people trying to hold the runner back got bowled over. Either way, someone usually would end up on the ground.
In our modern nanny state, I’d be surprised if kids were permitted to play either “Smear the Queer” or “Red Rover” during playground time. It’s too bad, because both games were fun, and there was nothing wrong with blowing off a little steam before heading back into the classroom.