Rough contact sports?
Arguably permission slip.
Eating an Oreo?
A mother in Pennsylvania seems to have stirred up a teapot-sized tempest over one teacher’s having gone the extra mile in the great CYA-race (note that her tweets are protected, and only visible to confirmed followers):
Insanity. I have to sign a permission slip so my middle schooler can eat an Oreo. @FreeRangeKids pic.twitter.com/v71v64OFQD
— Main Line Housewife (@mainlinewife) March 23, 2015
A copy of the letter that was sent home is available here, at Reason.com, courtesy of Lenore Skenazy.
I understand the revulsion at this. I really do. But I think that calling it insanity is probably going too far. Just because your opponents on an issue are (or seem to you to be) insane does not thereby make everything that they do correspondingly nuts. I don’t think it’s crazy to check with a parent before giving their kid something to eat, particularly not when you’re acting in your official capacity as a teacher and a representative of the school. Because you can be damn sure that if some kid had an allergy, forgot about it, and died, that the school and the teacher would be in world of… doublestuff.
As it happens, the tool that the teacher has for making this sort of check-up with parents is the permission slip: it provides documented proof that the parent consented. Could there be a more elegant solution? Sure.
I’m a huge fan of so-called “free range” parenting — although I tend to recoil a bit at the name, because kids are not chickens. But whatever. I’m sympathetic.
But at the same time, I had a conversation with a very good friend of mine a few months ago about this — about how when we were teenagers (I’m only a little older than she) we had a lot of freedom that our students — this friend was also in graduate school at UCLA — don’t seem to possess. So you could all pile into the back of your friend’s pick up truck and just head up to the lake to hang out. No seatbelts, no helmets, no nothing except the radio and good times.
But that sort of freedom came with a cost: every year or so, some kid would die doing something ill-advised. It was like a tax — an offering to the Gods of freedom so that the rest of us could enjoy ourselves without care.
You can have a worry-free school where the teachers hand out Oreos willy-nilly, where people just go with the flow, and where students are able to leave campus for lunch without saying where they are going. You can have a childhood without bike helmets, without seatbelts, without car seats for 7-year olds.
But there’s going to be a cost. And picking one side or the other of this trade off isn’t “insanity”. And wanting to get a permission slip before distributing Oreos — however silly and fussy it may seem — isn’t quite madness.
It’s just Pennsylvania.