Monday, March 31, 2014
Bruce McLachlan, the principal of Swanson School [in Auckland, New Zealand], was concerned that his 500 students were being restricted by too many playground safety rules. His kids weren't allowed to ride their scooters in the playground or climb trees or rough-house because they might get hurt.All of this makes sense to me, especially the decline in injuries: (a) teachers could focus on watching the kids, vice enforcing stupid rules; (b) students had to become more actively engaged in ensuring their own safety; and (c) the latter was helped by the fact that the kids weren't bored out of their minds. Enright also correctly notes that our current fads in child care pose a risk far greater than the occasional injury, when "We ... constantly reinforc[e] in their exploding minds that danger is everywhere and they must protect themselves no matter what."
So Principal McLachlan threw out the rule book. He did away with all so-called safety measures; he let the kids do pretty much what they wanted. What he discovered was startling.
In the first place there were no major injuries. In fact injuries declined.
There was a decrease in bullying and vandalism.
Children were so busy and physically active at recess that they returned to the classroom motivated, not agitated... [minor format edits]
I have been astounded at how widespread and crippling the precautionary mentality is among adults today, but had not really considered the idea that we are transmitting it to our children.
P.S. This column also reminds me of something that seemed odd about an episode of the popular Sid the Science Kid. In that episode, which purports to teach kids about soil, the main characters frolicked about on a rubberized playground -- no soil, anywhere -- before going inside to look at samples in a lab. How exotic!
Today: Corrected two typos.