It is noon on a beautiful spring day. From an open door in the back of a school building flow dozens of children onto a large field, eager to be rid, at least temporarily, of the bonds of ideological imprisonment. They want only to have some simple, time tested fun. A score have already established themselves in a cluster, and have commenced an ages old ritual of starting a game of tag. But wait: suddenly, from the vantage point of your average kid, an administrator with an air of militaristic dominancy hastily approaches and disperses the group, declaring the children's behavior as unacceptable and inappropriate. Sounds impossible? Ludicrous? Would you rather read about something else? Of course. So would I. But this is the reality on many playgrounds in the world's remaining superpower.
What hideous crime have these children committed? The apparent leaders of the group, for the game of tag, has deemed a child of lesser status to be "it". For those who are unfamiliar with these terms, (and for those who are, please hold your egos in check) the person who is "it" must tag another child in order to be "not it". This obiously involves chasing others, as staying "it" is deemed to be unacceptable, and can be frustrating if one cannot tag another. This simple, classic children's game has been played for generations, yet only today has it been deemed to be somehow dangerous, the ridicules upon this game have attained enough importance to be on par with the wise words of the Leader of the Free World. Is tag really such a bad game? Why have children of previous generations, maturing in environments devoid of today's political correctness and government regulations not turned into self-hating, bullying masses?
The logic, plainly stated behind the opponents of tag's reasoning is that children, especially those of whom are lower on the social ladder, must be sheltered from activities which could make them feel bad. Self-claimed experts in universities, soccer moms, school administrators, lawmakers who intend to make our lives better: these are the people who are pushing for regulations on a game of tag. Why, sure, tag could be a fun game if there is adult supervision, to make sure that each child feels special. As responsible adults, they must, quote, "emphasize fun play." This is for younger children. As kids get older and progress towards the teenage years, they could only be gently guided into activities that are rougher on both their bodies and minds, a la tag.
Yes. It is okay to throw up after reading that.
To that, I say quoting John Stossel*: Give me a break!
Yes Mr. Researcher, you can sit in your labs and in front of your workstations, but since when was the last time you've actually played in a game of tag? Is it really that life threatening?
Yes Mrs. Soccer mom, you can worry about your children finding porn and doing drugs, but are you seriously that concerned with the much ballyhooed emotional traumas your child is in grave danger of facing every day?
Please, Mr. Administrator. You spend more time worring about getting more money for your school budgets and hoping the latest computer can help alleviate your school's poor performance. Don't tell me you actually have any idea what the kids are doing. When's the last time,
Mr. Lawmaker, you've actually talked to kids outside of your campaign parades? Do you really give that much of a damn as to this nonexistent danger and other issues as you do to how you're going to take a shot at that new Congressional district?
Whose sources do I cite as proof that tag should not be regulated? Why, myself and children I know, of course. After all, are they not at the center of this crisis? I looked back to my childhood and my spending time at a rather ghetto public school. Kids belonged (and I suspect not that much has changed in ten years) in groups: white kids' groups, black kids' groups, the smart kids, the ghetto kids, the gangster wannabes, the wigga wannabes. Yes, it sounds bad. The ethnic divisions. The stereotypes. But in reality it's not. I've experienced such a reality. I belonged to the "nerd" group. But I also played tag, kickball (like baseball, except the ball is a soccer ball and you kick it), dodgeball (you throw balls at others trying to hit them to get them out, and dodging balls thrown at you), and pretty much every popular child's game under the sun. I had fun with everyone. I wasn't the most popular kid. My eyesight was bad and I hated glasses so I couldn't catch very well. I wasn't athletic. Yet most kids still liked me, as I do with everyone else. You learn that when you get into fights, that it's really nothing personal. You learn through games like tag that yes, people are different and some you like more than others. But that's only a microcosm of society, and what better way to prepare children to enter adult society than to let kids learn through real interaction? You can't teach a child this in a classroom. You can't allow a child to understand society inside a sanitized jail.
Have I grown into an suicidal, society-loathing introvert? I don't think I've attempted suicide yet. And indeed I think society is corrupt, but that's only human nature; besides, it's not all bad. But these overprotective, overbearing adults do. Kids don't know better. We must take the big man's burden of sheltering them from things that might hurt them. I agree: indeed, adults have a responsibility for the welfare of their children, but this is not helping them, but rather shielding them from aspects of society that might hurt them so much more should they be sheltered from interactive activities such as tag.
Enough "I's". What other credible sources can I find that will illustrate that tag isn't such a bad thing after all? Today's kids, of course. I asked my sister, who is in elementary school, what games she played for recess. Tag was among those that she mentioned. I asked her if she liked it. She gave an enthusiastic "Yes!". I asked her if she feels bad if she is "it". She replied that you don't want to be "it", so you try your best to be not "it". Point is, the competition makes you want to be the best you are. In addition, tag is perhaps a better activity at introducing children to social situations and society as a whole: you cannot cheat easily, as people are watching the "it" person and his or her target at all times. When I'm picking up my sister from the playground, I see that she has found new friends among kids who were strangers to her when I dropped her off. They are indeed chasing each other, some frustrated, others amused. Yet they know that it's just a game. You do not need some adult making it better for everyone. That's life. You have a positive desire to be all that you can be: you want to excel at what you're doing.
Sanitizing tag according to what experts want is going to take that all away. Children will then understand that, if you can't win, it's okay to walk away without even trying. People more responsible than you are going to give you a cookie and pair you off in fair groups. You are special. So is everybody else.
My God, it's just tag! The children just want to have fun. Please drop the lawyer lingo and your egos and just let the kids play a simple game that lets them socialize. What serious harm other than a bruised knee and maybe temporarily hurt feelings could really result from playing tag?
*John Stossel's site was down at the time that I was writing this, so I have provided Google's cached version instead.