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The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Schools Go Too Far in Protecting Kids

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School administrators have gone to ludicrous extremes to protect children. For instance, school districts in Wyoming, Washington state and California have banned the game of tag during recess.


Far from the TV. lights and big stadiums and sludge investigations, children have their own games. But whether they're allowed to play them is another matter. Here's commentator Frank Deford.

FRANK DEFORD: In the growing American realm of no child shall be left behind in this real world, comes word that more schools have banned - if you can believe this - tag. Yes! School districts as diverse as Cheyenne, Wyoming, Spokane, Washington, Charleston, South Carolina, Santa Monica, California and Attleboro, Massachusetts have decreed that the game children have been playing, well, forever and ever and ever is too dangerous to either the physical health or the mental well being of our little 21st century darlings.

This, of course, comes on the heels of the attempts to ban dodge ball, another movement which has enjoyed great success in taking the spontaneous fun out of growing up.

But tag? Ban tag? What's next? Not letting kids sell lemonade because they don't have a commercial license? In the immortal words of an elementary school principal in Attleboro: recess is a time when accidents can happen.

What a revelation! Why, a little boy or girl might actually even scruff a knee or scrape an elbow. But a professor at Eastern Connecticut State University finds tag so baleful an experience that he has placed it in the physical education hall of shame.

All this at a time when we have an absolute epidemic of childhood obesity in this country. But for goodness sake, don't let kids play games at recess. They might bump into each other. They also might burn up a few calories. Would you rather have your child running around or sitting on his fat rear end playing video games?

But for the pompous protectors of our youth, it's not just that somebody playing tag may have to put a Band-Aid on. No, it's a debilitating emotional experience as well. Educators refer to tag as an elimination game, which means it can be upsetting if you get put out.

The trouble is that the kids who are the slowest and the least athletic are likely to be losers. Duh! Nobody's good at everything. All life is a pecking order, and you might as well find out where it is that you peck.

In music class, I was the one who was only allowed to play the triangle because I was so un-rhythmic. Hey, I sucked it up and got on with it.

I hate to say it, but that's the way it works in every phase of life. Please, I'm not trying to be Darwinian, but sparing children from their deficiencies is delusional. There are a lot of us who think that kids would be a lot better off if adults would just butt out and let children be children and play children's games. I'll bet you this, too. I'll bet you the spoilsports who are trying to eliminate tag were the ones who were themselves always it at recess.

I'm Frank Deford, and I approve this message, because somebody has to call the grown-ups who ban tag enemies of childhood.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Mr. Deford joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

And this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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Sweetness And Light

Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light

The Score On Sports With Frank Deford