Johanna begins her first year of school next week. She grew up fast, too fast. Did I just say too fast? It seemed like yesterday I was counting seconds. She begins kindergarten at Sundance Elementary in Beaumont California. Jolene was combing through the rules and regulations of students. Specifically she was looking at the Student Behavioral Expectations pamphlet. One of the rules state that “tag/chase is never permitted.” Running is also not allowed. Additionally you can never touch another student. Not just in the no-no area, but at all. Johanna loves to hug. I’m prepared for the phone calls already. What really bugs me though is that tag is not permitted in schools.
Years ago I heard that dodge ball was no longer allowed in schools. It never occurred to me that tag would be something that would be outlawed in schools as well. This is the specific line in the Student Behavioral Expectations pamphlet that I am referring to.
Now, in a class room I can see where it may be a problem playing tag. However, this policy extends from the classroom as well as recess. Telling a child that you can’t play tag is like telling them, “guess what children today you can run but not touch other children.” Oh wait a second, they can’t run either.
One in five children are considered obese in the United States. Schools who create restrictions like these wonder why we have so many obese children. I realize that food plays a vital part. However, exercise is very important. Johanna’s school is suppose to have P.E. When I was in school half the time we were more concerned about stretching than physical activity. P.E. takes place only on specific days. In regards to Johanna, the rest of the days it is presumed they receive no aerobic exercise if they can’t run. I’m sure they’ll get to do yoga though. A bunch of kindergarteners doing yoga, I can see it now.
Now I realize that regulating children like this at an early age is to prevent marginalizing kids that may not excel at said activity. Lets say 1 in 5 kids may not be as good at tag as others. Suppose 4 in 5 children are actually good at the activity and actually have fun. Suppose one of those becomes a great runner. Suppose one of those becomes a great athlete. Well, in reality schools don’t care because they don’t want to be held responsible for appearing to marginalize anyone. Isn’t it possible to find a different activity for the 1 in 5 students to do?
I remember years and years ago playing tag almost every day at recess. I was one of the fastest runners in my school. Well, in reality I was the fastest running at my school. I ran a 4 minute mile on my track team. My school was small, and I was the only guy on the track team. It would have boggled my mind if someone told me I couldn’t run and play tag. One of my good friends was often bullied because he was overweight. Yes, he was a bit slower. I was often bullied because I was the nerd in the class. From the perspective of a person who was bullied harshly I can personally say that it helped me grow. It also helped me adapt to the real world. I can’t directly speak for my friend, but I don’t think he would have told the teacher to end our activities all together. We can never fully protect children from bullying, and often when we attempt to it only makes it worse. If an activity like tag leads to bullying, isn’t that a problem that teachers should deal with rather than ending an activity all together?
My presumption is that the other side of the coin in regards to tag is that it can get too rough and lead to injury. Writing and typing can lead to carpal tunnel. That’s still allowed. Bouncing a basketball can hit someone in the head and lead to injury. That’s still generally allowed, well without the running. Are schools really concerned about a couple scrapes and bruises? Where are the playground monitors stepping in from letting it get out of hand? I distinctly remember my playground monitor Mrs. Garrett. She had eyes like a hawk and would yell at you from a mile away if you did anything wrong.
My scientific side of me also does not want me to end it there. Exercise can improve memory retention and learning. Running and a game of tag is exactly what children need to excel at school. Over the past few decades I’ve watched the deterioration of our educational system. The United States used to outrank all other countries. Most studies now don’t even rank us in a list of top ten countries. Most educationalist tell us we need to throw more money at the system. That is just a crock. Restrictions like this is what caused this mess. Children need exercise to stimulate brain activity.
Years ago when I was in college I tutored at the lowest scoring school in the state of California. Before I arrived for my first day I expected to see the school being run down. I expected them to be poor. I expected the facilities to be inadequate. Boy was I in for surprise. When I got to the classrooms I found out they had 20 computers in every classroom. They had brand new desks, and brand new equipment. They had activities galore and numerous after school curriculums. After being there for 6 months, I began to realize that the problem didn’t revolve around the lack of money, but rather the lack of efficient or proper teaching standards.
A few years back I used to substitute teach for 6 grade to High School. The principal I worked for told me that the educational system is broken. He referenced a incident that was in regards to a teacher doing horrible things to a child. The specifics I won’t go into. The school instead of firing the teacher just transferred her to another district. The principle told me that it is easier to transfer a bad teacher than to deal with a lawsuit not only from the teacher, but also the union. This game of teacher chess happens all the time and rarely does anyone bat an eye. Now I am not trying to attack teachers. Most teachers are great. However, bad teachers, over regulations, unnecessary rules, and horrific standards make it difficult to educate children on par with other countries. Maybe, just maybe we should peak back a half a century and figure out what we did right in our education system.
Hopefully our educators can take a step back and realize the problem does not lie in money, but in the educators and think tanks themselves. Stop telling children they can’t run at recess. Stop telling them the can’t play tag. Stop telling them they can’t read certain books and censoring their minds. Stop telling children they can’t keep score. Stop giving them participation awards that teaches them mediocracy. Stop telling them it’s okay to be subpar. Stop lowering the standards to graduate from high school. Stop telling children they can’t hug and act as normal humans do. Stop banning dictionaries because of explicit language. Stop banning red ink because God forbid it might trigger a student. Stop banning Valedictorians. Stop banning the American flag and pledge of allegiance.
We as parents need to stand up for our children and to make sure they get a proper education. That may mean we have to pull them out and find a better alternative. I pray I don’t get pulled into the principles office. I went my entire childhood not having to do it, I don’t plan to start now. Mic dropped, Bearden out.
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