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Monday, October 18, 2004

Who broke the daisy chain?

Story in today's National Post: Teachers relearning how to play hopscotch: Old-fashioned games intended to combat obesity among kids

The latest effort in the campaign to combat obesity among schoolchildren revolves around instructing teachers across Canada about how to play hopscotch, four square, skipping and other traditional playground games.

The launch of the nationwide program aimed at getting children moving...

What's going on here? Teachers never taught these games before. Kids passed them on, grade to grade, like they did schoolyard nursery rhymes quite independent of adult influence. Who broke the chain? Mircosoft? McDonald's? The kids themselves? Teachers and administrators? Child safety advocates?

Note the list in that quoted paragraph and the last phrase "other traditional games." Will boys be allowed to play Cops and Robbers? Cowboys and Indians? King of the Hill? Snowball fights? How about the unnamed war game I was involved in during my first year at school? (Actually very serious stuff for a kid in grade one. We had our own Troy-like battle that seemed to be going on forever involving kids all the way up to grade three, including a Helen-type creature named Vicky who--so it was explained to me by my older brother in grade three--was the cause of it all. The "war" only ended when the grade fours attacked everybody. I can still remember turning in the heat of the battle--my struggle was with some grade two monster--to see the charge of the REALLY BIG KIDS coming down the hill to get us, gallumping through the early spring slush one gray afternoon recess, and the instant and total sense of unity among the previous warring factions as a larger threat loomed. Cue Ride of the Valkyries.)

Yes, you can blame the X-box, TV, junk food, and any other number of other inanimate objects, or evil corporate executives for making these things--lead us not into temptation--for childhood obesity, but I think teachers, administrators, parents and even some sports coaches share some of the blame, stressing safety, cooperation over competition, gender-neutralizing everything, stifling the life out of kids--boys and girls--with their "everybody has to touch the ball before you can score" rules and regulations.

I actually saw that "everybody has to touch the ball" rule being applied in a game of soccer during a gym class some years back when I was doing a school story for the now-defunct Alberta Report. All the kids looked utterly bored. I was bored. The only person who seemed to be getting any exercise was the teacher who was yelling her lungs out, stressing cooperation like a 1970's era Sesame Street Muppet on Benzedrine. Full disclosure: that teacher was overweight.

Posted by Kevin Steel on October 18, 2004 in Sports | Permalink


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Grade school recesses and lunch hours for me were filled with stirring games of "killball", in which the particpants would mob the lucky recipient of a rubber ball bounced off the school wall and attempt to wrest control of said ball from him or her by any means necessary, thereby winning the honour of being the next to try to avoid a thumping while whipping the ball off the wall, and so on. Ah, memories...

Posted by: Alan | 2004-10-18 10:27:34 AM

Funny how school shootings seem to have increased, rather than decreased, while all these "Sesame Street" co-operative games were going on, huh?

When I was young, school shootings and violence were just surreal, satirical, allegorical movie fantasies (...if, Heathers, Rock and Roll High School). And our games could get pretty rough.

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle | 2004-10-18 10:45:36 AM

Uh, hello? Why the hell isn't this the job of the PARENTS? I figure the teachers handle the three R's, and my wife and I handle the rest.


I'm really going to have to look into home-schooling if this is the kind of pap I can expect to have shoved at my daughter.

Posted by: Sean | 2004-10-18 11:09:58 AM

We're looking into a small, private Catholic school here in Toronto run by the local enclave of conservative Catholics. Don't know their schoolyard play policies - it's a shame there have to be such things - but there's no teacher's union involved, so...

I'm still reeling from the concept of "playdates" - when I was a kid, you gulped down breakfast and hit the street, made a quick lunch pit-stop and headed out again till the sun was going down. No adult supervision at all, as far as I can remember. And we're all, as far as I can tell, still alive.

Posted by: rick mcginnis | 2004-10-18 11:21:13 AM

I was too embarrassed to ask what a playdate was the first half dozen times I heard about them. I too remember just running outside and goofing around "until the street lights came on" (or more often, just playing in my room by myself, not getting shuffled to activity after activity; my mother took me to a Brownie meeting but I was so terrified I hid in the bathroom the whole time. Awwwww...)

And look how I turned out! ha ha. Seriously, today's parents seem to think introversion is a disease.

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle | 2004-10-18 12:56:06 PM

Anybody want to start a pool on when the first "The teacher taught my kid hopscotch and she turned her ankle" lawsuit comes forward, I take two months.

Posted by: Tach | 2004-10-18 1:10:41 PM

The neverending game of Grade 7 football spliced together over countless recesses and lunch hours...

Sure am glad I wasn't born in the most recent 20 years.

Posted by: lrC | 2004-10-18 1:18:02 PM

Hopscotch is culturally insensitive, at least if you call the top, rounded segment of the track the "Moon" (which my sisters assert is the proper way, but my wife denies it). Hopscotch is therefore a grave affront to Islam, a mockery of the Prophet's Night Journey as serious as the Apollo 11 landing. Will CBC be the first to expose this hostile anti-Islamic animus, this Crusader agenda, spreading hatred in Canadian schoolyards?

Posted by: Charles MacDonald | 2004-10-18 7:20:29 PM

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