Playground politics


It’s difficult for those who grew up playing on rusty, jagged playground slides that either melted young legs into the sun-heated metal or threw the child at warp speed into the concrete terminus to understand the bubble-encased world of youth today.

Just as middle-agers probably rolled their eyes at their parents’ lamentations about trudging through snow- and rain-covered hills to go to school, kids these days are immune to their own parental war stories about things like dodgeball bruises and the pre-Internet world.

Not all of those generational experiences are good. Some deserved to be jettisoned into the pile of emotional baggage that is usually reserved for intense therapy sessions.

What they accomplished, though, was to show there is a balance in the natural order of things. There is good and bad and without a knowledge of the less-than-desirable, it’s hard to fully grasp the positive.

Yet society continues to embrace ludicrous attempts to create a politically-correct Utopia — and in the process sets up a generation ill-equipped to face the sometimes-harsh realities of life.

The latest of these is starting to make its way through school playgrounds, boosted by individuals and companies that are billed as “recess consultants.”

These consultants — also known as “playground consultants” — are the same ones who devised the trend of scoreless sports games, so as not to single-out children as winners or losers, and have essentially wiped the game of tag off the schedule to avoid hurting the feelings of someone being labeled “it.” Football is forbidden from many recess activities because it is considered too dangerous.

Now, the apparent target is the phrase “you’re out.”

A staple of baseball games since the first pitch was thrown in the mid-18th century, school leaders are being cautioned that the word can create negative connotations for children and damage their young psyches for years to come. Instead, these well-paid consultants are recommending using phrases such as “good job” or “nice try.”

That way, no one has their feelings hurt. Until the pacifier of political correctness is gone and the precious little snowflake runs into the buzz saw of reality.

With apologies to Ernest Thayer, can you imagine the ruckus a poem like “Casey at the Bat” would cause without some adaptation? “Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light; and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; and that includes the land of Mudville — because mighty Casey gave his all and certainly deserves recognition for that.”

Movements like this are going to have one of two extreme results, neither of which is good: Either children will grow up to be unable to deal with life once they are freed from the prison of pre-determined thinking or society itself will evolve into a land of sugar-coated pleasantries in which we must constantly be on alert to shield ourselves from the fact that sometimes people are unpleasant, that sometimes difficult situations arise, that some bosses yell …

And that sometimes, frankly, you strike out.

This editorial first appeared in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier in Illinois, a Civitas Media publication.

comments powered by Disqus