Politics Run Amok

Gotcha! I bet you thought I was going to blog about Rob Ford smoking crack. Nope, even though it would be fun. Nor am I going to blog about our dishonest senators and the chief puppeteer, Stephen Harper. If I did though, I could make many pithy, cutting statements. After all we know who these people are and the damage they are doing to the country. Instead I am going to go after something far worse and more insidious.

The school principal has a lot of power in their little fiefdom. They are in charge of the students, staff and faculty of their institutions. They are the arbiters of decency and morality in their schools. Most principals, I suspect, are benevolent dictators with a modicum of critical thinking skills. They understand that children develop at different rates and know that a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective. Principals who are secure in their ability to lead can give students and teachers the space needed to learn and grow; they understand that children need to learn to problem-solve for themselves without adult intervention. They further understand that unstructured play is one of the ways that children learn. Real world consequences on the playground[1] like hurting someone’s feelings because you played too hard or not being allowed to play if your peers think you are cheating are all important life lessons that teach children self-control and self-governance. Not allowing children to play in this manner is doing them a grave disservice; it means that children will be looking outside of themselves for the answer instead of figuring it out for themselves. Translate this to a young adult and you have a person with a serious deficit moving into the adult world of work.

I introduce to you, principal of Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School, Barbara Dayco, in Aldergrove, BC. Citing “a little bit of rambunctious play that resulted in a few incidents where there were some children getting hurt,” the school has banned play that involves children touching each other.[2] Stephen Quinn,[3] from On The Coast, interviewed Dayco yesterday afternoon. Dayco presented as someone who had little or no ability to think critically. When asked about the ban she said that they didn’t feel the children had the skills to play successfully and safely so they banned games like tag and imaginary fighting games until, such time, as they decided the children had ‘learned’ how to play. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t play something we all intrinsically know how to do? I can remember being a child of 5 or 6 outside with the neighbourhood kids and we would set up a game of whatever, agree on rules, negotiate, give and take and then play. It didn’t matter what game we dreamed up we played together hard. Sometimes feelings got hurt and of course there was the odd injury that rarely required more than a band-aid and a hug from a parent or nothing at all. According to Dayco, the plan at the school is to teach children how to play. Currently during their structured physical education time, teachers are instructing the students on how to play tag. Since when does playing tag require instruction? It is a pretty simple game that most kids learn with their siblings and family. Pedagogically speaking are there elements and complexities of tag that I am missing? Sure some games may require some instruction and adult supervision like musical chairs as it requires things adults control like furniture and music.  Dayco has said they will allow ‘touch’ games to happen once they feel the children have learned enough skills to do it safely and successfully. She was unable to say what this would look like.

I feel bad for children stuck in Dayco’s school. During the interview with Quinn she kept repeating herself like she was reading from a script that had been pre-approved by a lawyer. During the interview, Quinn was attempting to get her to discuss the nuances of the ban and play in general and Dayco didn’t have a clue; like an automaton she just carried on with the party line.

As our world grows ever more complex we need people who have critical thinking skills in position of leadership. We also need children who grow up learning lessons on their own from their interactions with their peers. If children can’t solve their own, age-appropriate issues, how on earth are they going to cope in this world?


[1] Note, I am not talking about bullying.

[2] The school had also initially banned passive acts like holding hands and hugging but has since said that is ok.

[3] Click here to hear the interview.


One thought on “Politics Run Amok

  1. Well said. Were I a parent of a child unfortunate enough to be enrolled in this children’s boot camp, I would remove said child immediately. This ham-fisted principal does not seem to be aware of even basic educational mores, and if she is so out of touch about the need for children to learn to settle petty playground issues of Kindergardeners, how does she handle the real issues elementary school children face, like bullying, self esteem, divorce, learning disabilities, health issues, parental alcoholism, abuse, poverty, and the list goes on. Maybe Barbara Dayco should look into another line of work. Prison guard? Army drill sergeant?

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