Thoughts & Views: When child’s play isn’t

10-7Op_webToday’s column was prompted by a news item out of Washington State.

Last month, the Mercer Island, Wash., school district tried to ban students from playing “Tag” at recess, supposedly “to ensure [their] physical and emotional safety.”

Running around and tagging other children was apparently deemed too dangerous to body and mind.

However, students’ parents and other community members raised a hue and cry, and the prohibition was rescinded.

Now those of you who know me are probably expecting me to make mock of the school dictum. Au contraire. The more I thought about it, the more aware I became of the negative attributes and dangerous influences of classic children’s games.

Consider, for example, “Ring Around the Rosey”: Does its rhyme not end with, “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”? Why hasn’t that been banned? How many youngsters have been injured in these falls? Also, I suspect that “ashes, ashes” is actually an attempt to subliminally promote smoking.

Speaking of rhymes, there is this, used in jump-rope: “(Girl’s name) and (boy’s name) sitting in a tree, k-i-ss- i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes (girl’s name) with a baby carriage.” Is this part of any sanctioned sex education curriculum?

“Blind Man’s Bluff”: The name itself is offensive and politically incorrect. By rights, it should be called “Visually Challenged Person’s Bluff.”

“Hopscotch”: Initially, I was concerned merely with the linguistically erroneous “scotch”; the correct name would be “Hopscottish.” But then the full implication hit me. The game’s creator intended to say “scotch.” Combined with “hops,” the title cleverly celebrates beer and whisky. Absolutely inappropriate for children.

“Follow the Leader”: As noted on Wikipedia, “Any players who fail to follow or do what the leader does are out of the game.” In other words, children are conditioned to blindly (sorry) obey the commands of an unelected dictator. Who created this one? Stalin?

“Ringalevio”: Played by two teams, each of which is trying to capture members of the other and put them in “jail.” It involves no Miranda rights, no bail, no trial, and indeterminate sentences. Completely unconstitutional.

And, the worst one of all, “Farmer in the Dell”: To refresh your memory, in this circle game, one child, the “farmer,” is permitted to choose a “wife,” who chooses a “child,” who chooses a “nurse” — and so it goes through “cow,” “dog,” “cat,” “rat” and, the lowliest, the “cheese.”

Think of the harm being done to all these young egos as they wait and wonder when or if they will be selected. And woe to the “cheese.” The game ends with the circle closing in around that unfortunate child and all the other children clapping their hands over his/her head while mockingly chanting, “And the cheese stands alone/ The cheese stands alone/ Hiho, the derry-o/ The cheese stands alone!”

The “cheese” is an outcast.

This game is nothing less than en masse bullying, and yet it is condoned and even encouraged.

I suspect that children who are too often chosen as the “cheese” eventually turn to crime. Either that or a career in politics.

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