Too safe

Children learn to cope with the world through outdoor activities, writes a British educator. But adult fears are restricting children’s ability to explore the world. And they’re not any safer as a result.

No environment will ever be completely safe and risk-free, and even well-supervised children manage to hurt themselves. But by speculating on what can possibly go wrong rather than on what children might learn from experiences, we are in danger of creating anxiety in some children and recklessness in others. Children who are fearful will not be able to learn, and those who are overconfident will be unable to make sensible judgements about risk, because their learning environment has become sanitised and over-managed.

. . . Aside from the obvious benefits of taking children into the countryside – the greater awareness of the natural world and our place within it – outdoor and adventurous activities are ideal vehicles for many of the types of challenges and learning opportunities that are necessary for their development. These activities are physically active, and depend upon shared understanding, cooperation and trust. They also force children to draw upon their inner resources to address real problems, presenting children with challenges and perceived risks, and providing a framework for coming to terms with them.

The British have been more likely than Americans to send students on adventure trips — until recently, when “safety first” has made school a lot duller.

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Comments

  1. John from OK says:

    The Brits have become so uptight lately that one school even banned videotaping children’s singing performances because the tapes might fall into the hands of pedophiliacs.

  2. While I understand the concern with removing all danger is probably overdone, look at it from the other direction.

    There is no doubt that exposure to (slightly) more hazardous situations will result in more dead children. That’s why they are called hazardous and why they’ve been removed.

    Could you tell a parent that their child is dead because it is necessary for other children to get a wider experience?

    In the end, the schools have moved in the direction that society wants them to move. We’ve decided that the only people with a right to place a child in an even remotely hazardous situation is the child’s parents.

  3. Tom West wrote:

    Could you tell a parent that their child is dead because it is necessary for other children to get a wider experience?

    Come on Tom, it happens all the time. The rate of sports-related deaths is low but it isn’t zero and sports programs don’t (usually) get shut down because a child dies.

    Parents clearly feel that a sports program is important and to the degree they don’t simply rationalize the danger away, they’re willing to accept the danger.

    Besides, you’ve chosen an inflammatory and prejudicial way of responding to that question. Little Tommy wasn’t wantonly sacrificed so that the other children could learn teamwork and get a rosy glow on their cheeks.

    In the end, the schools have moved in the direction that society wants them to move.

    Yeah, but there are other players here as well.

    For school administrators sports is a ticking time bomb.

    When the bomb inevitably goes off whatever value that accrued from the program is gone and all that’s left is to try and avoid the repercussions. And, provided the episode is survived, to make sure it never happens again.

Trackbacks

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  2. Read This Or Your Child Will Die

    Sheila links to Tim Blair, who links to Joanne Jacobs, who in turn links to this article by Richard Bailey on the culture of fear in child-rearing. Bailey speaks most specifically about the issue of taking kids on adventure outings,…