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Tuesday, April 15 

What's Wrong With America, Party 67512

An elementary school in Virginia has taken another giant leap in protecting Teh ChildrenTM by outlawing "tag" at recess.
The principal of Kent Gardens Elementary School in McLean told students this month that they are not allowed to play the game of chasing and yelling "You're it!" at recess after determining the playground pastime had gotten out of hand.

Principal Robyn Hooker said she noticed that tag was sending too many students to the nurse's office. She hopes to restore tag — as well as touch football, which also is on hold — after administrators review recess policies.
Tag? Seriously?

We as a society are swiftly becoming a nation of pussies. We are so risk adverse that we want to outlaw any and all activity that may possibly result in someone having any sort of accident. Personally I blame this on our litigious nature coupled with too many parents who have forgotten what a fun childhood actually looks like.

I wonder what other activities are banned. Let's take a look.
Fairfax County public schools' office of risk management has a list of activities that are prohibited at any school-sponsored events. Besides bungee-jumping and scuba diving, students are not permitted to break dance or play dodge ball or tug-of-war.
Tug of war? Break dancing? Apparently these administrators didn't go to school in the 80s, because this sounds like a typical day in middle school for me, along with rap battles in the hallway during lunch, and your typical gang fight after school. Of course those were in High School, but you get the point.

Look, it's a fact of life that kids get hurt. No one wants to see their child in pain, but sometimes you have to burn your hand before you learn to leave the waffle iron alone. (Yes, that happened to me) In the course of my childhood I broke every one of my fingers (not all at once), my nose, and one of my arms in 6 places. There was not a thing that anyone could have done to prevent most of these injuries, because they were freak accidents. Okay, that's no entirely true, because I broke my arm by falling of a set of monkey bars and landing on a large rock. Obviously the government is to blame for this, because I was playing in a playground located in government housing that had no type of material that would cushion a fall and no one was tasked with ensuring that foreign objects like rocks were clear of the playground. So, one third grade hand slip later I'm in the emergency room with an arm that looks like it was run through the old wringer washer. We probably should have sued. I mean, this was obviously gross neglect on the part of the government to not ensure a safe play environment for an impressionable child and I'm sure it affected me in ways I will never fully understand.

Hell, maybe I should get a lawyer now.

We have become so risk obverse that we refuse to accept the proposition that some accidents are okay. The most popular phrase is, "If it saves just one life, it's worth it." Well, I hate to break it to you, people, but if it only saves one life, than it probably isn't worth it.

I work in information security. We work on a simple risk based model. What is the cost per occurrence, what is the frequency of this occurrence, and how much does it take to prevent the occurrence. (Cost per occurrence x Frequency) - Cost of Prevention. If the cost to prevent it is significantly higher than dealing with what happens, we are willing to accept that risk and move on with our lives. The same method can be applied to everyday life.

Look, some kids are going to get hurt playing tag. Everyone of us has been pushed down at some point in our lives. How many of you adults spend time today crying about the scraped shin you got in fourth grade because the 13 year old behemoth who had been held back a few years pummeled you with a dodge ball and knocked you down in front of everyone? Hopefully not many of you. If you do, you probably ought to stop reading now, because I'm about to call you names.

Everything we have been doing the last few years to "protect" our children, in my opinion, is hurting them in the long run. Schools are moving away from grades because they don't want to make anyone feel bad because they didn't score as high as someone else. Sports leagues stop keeping score at games, because it's not fair that one team has to lose. At the end of the season everyone gets a trophy and is told that they are all winners. Hell, you can't even bench kids who refuse to play. Everyone has to have equal playing time so it's all "fair".

You know what's fair? Teaching kids that they have to work to succeed. If you spend the first 20 years of someone's life teaching them that everyone is the same, regardless of effort, just how equipped are they to deal with the real world? You know, where you actually have to compete against other applicants to get a job. Then you have to actually perform in your job and earn your way to promotions and raises. And here's the really ghastly part, some people working in the same office as you may actually get larger raises and bonuses than you do because they work harder than you.

How do we teach our kids this when we won't let them play games like dodge ball, or teach our kids that there is no winner in a sporting event, even though the other team clearly played harder, scored more, and kicked out butts. But hey, you got a pretty uniform and a nice trophy out of it, and everybody is special.

You know what kids need to hear? Sorry Jimmy, but you're not that special. You don't run faster than anyone, you don't score higher on tests, and you suck at dodge ball. But that doesn't mean you can't work hard, study, make good grades, get a good job, a sports car and a trophy wife. Then when that punk down the street that kicks your ass at every sport known to man is sitting in a bar twenty years from now, old, pot bellied, reliving those glory days, you can rub his smug nose in the fact that you're a multi-millionaire.

Now isn't that something worth shooting for?

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