Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias It�s been noted here before that some of the prominent news stories of the day seemed to be strangely linked.

A top national story hitting newspapers and the airwaves right now is an announcement by Southwest Airlines that obese people, namely those who can�t properly fit in one seat, will have to pay extra if their posteriors requires two seats.

Seems fair. I mean, think about the last time you flew coach on an airline. Would you really like to be stuck in an airplane sitting next to a person whose posterior was taking up all of his/her seat and actually encroaching on yours?

In other words, would you like to be sat on during your flight? I didn�t think so.

It�s ironic then, that, while watching the news before turning in for bed last night, I learned that an institution of American children is at risk.

The principal of Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, CA, Pat Samarge, banned the children�s game of tag � for reasons that included issues of self-esteem � from the playground late last month.

To critics, Samarge is the latest example of political correctness run even more amok than usual in a city sometimes referred to as �The People�s Republic,� for its reputation of excessive governmental regulation and bleeding-heart attitudes.

To be accurate, Samarge didn�t invoke an outright ban on tag at the school. The issue arose May 27 when Samarge informed parents via a weekly school newsletter that tag would not be allowed.

But tag and other chase games are still played on campus, but under the supervision of physical education teachers.

The new prohibition only applies during the lunch recess of the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school, when there aren�t enough adult teachers and volunteers on duty to ensure that the game will be safely played, said Samarge.

Is tag a dangerous game? Think back to your own childhood.

Don�t you wish you had a dollar for every scraped knee and banged up elbow you endured while taking part in tag, softball, baseball and other playground activities? Yes.

Did it stop you from picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and getting back in the game? No.

�This is all based on safety,� said Samarge, defending her decision. �It has nothing to do with anything else except to reduce injuries for the kids.�

But there was that statement in the school newsletter that seemed to trigger the debate. In the third paragraph of an article titled �Safety on the Playground,� the piece reads: �The running part of this activity is healthy and encouraged; however, in this game, there is a ?victim� or ?It,� which creates a self-esteem issue. The oldest or biggest child usually dominates.�

Such a connection between tag and diminished self-esteem is a hard sell as far as Deborah Stipek, dean of Stanford University�s School of Education, is concerned.

Stipek, who specializes in childhood education, said kids need to burn off energy, and tag accomplishes that goal.

Tag also can help combat the rising tide of childhood obesity, she added.

�As with almost any game like kickball or football, it�s not the game in and of itself, so much as how the game is played,� said Stipek. �If it�s played fairly where everyone gets to be ?it,� and when kids get tagged they aren�t shoved into the wall, there�s no deep psychological concerns lurking there.�

When it comes to safety, Stipek sympathizes with the Franklin administrators.

�I can see where safety can be a problem,� said Stipek. �Kids can get distracted, and certainly in a school where there have been injuries you�d want to better supervise it or find alternatives.�

Better supervision of tag? I guess I�ve never pictured it as a high impact sport.

And banning it to protect a child�s or children�s self-esteem? It doesn�t take an expert in child psychology to determine that prohibiting or limiting the activity poses more risks to our young people than giving them the opportunity to simply be themselves and play.

It�s time to let kids be kids.

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