Concerned about safety and injuries and worried about bullying, violence, self-esteem and lawsuits, school officials have clamped down on the traditional games from years past.
Gone from many blacktops are tag, dodgeball and any game involving bodily contact. In are organized relay races and adult-supervised activities.
At one school, children aren’t allowed to push each other on the swings. Administrators worry about “bullying and potential lawsuits from parents.”
Many see the recess restrictions as part of larger cultural shifts. Schools now must craft lesson plans on responsibility, honesty and violence prevention, Maeola Beitzel Principal Judy Hunt-Brown said. And those lessons, among other things, fit neatly into the structured, organized play so prevalent on today’s schoolyard.
“To some degree, the school has needed to take a larger role in teaching children how to play with each other – the whole taking turns, how to deal with conflict,” Hunt-Brown said.
When I was a kid — OK, I’m about the same age as Beaver Cleaver — children worked these things out for ourselves. Of course, we had competent parents who’d taught us self-control and basic good manners.