Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Child's Play


CHILDREN have to be tough these days to survive the often ham-fisted efforts of their parents to raise them.

I offer as proof the following evidence.

Down in Orange County, home to Goofy, among others, fears of childhood obesity have led schools to discourage and sometimes even ban birthday cupcakes, according to published reports.

"They can bring carrots," said Laura Ott, assistant to the superintendent of Orange County's Saddleback Valley Unified School District. "A birthday doesn't have to be associated with food."

Meanwhile, officials at schools across the county have banned kids from playing tag, touch football and any other unsupervised chase game during recess for fear they'll get hurt and hold the school liable.

Recess is "a time when accidents can happen," said one principal, who approved the ban.

Many school administrators have also taken aim at dodgeball, saying it is exclusionary and dangerous.

So if I read this right, at a time when teachers and parents have declared a holy war against junk food in the name of combating childhood obesity, we are our telling our kids to take a seat because they might scrape a knee.

Talk about a mixed message.

In a world gone mad, banning birthday cupcakes is low on my list of things to do. Mankind has celebrated life's little milestones with special food since the dawn of time. And while I believe we should steer kids away from a diet of Krispy Kremes, I also favor teaching moderation over culinary fascism.

My hat's off to the Texas Legislature which passed the so-called Safe Cupcake amendment, according to the Los Angeles Times, which guarantees parents' right to deliver unhealthful treats to the classroom - such as sweetheart candies on Valentine's Day and candy corn on Halloween.

Rep. Jim Dunnam sponsored the legislation after a school in his district booted out a father bringing birthday pizzas to his child's class.

"There's a lot of reasons our kids are getting fat," said Dunnam, a Democrat from Waco. "Cupcakes aren't one of them."

Besides, wouldn't a kid burn off the calories in a cupcake during a typical recess? Sure, if he or she was allowed to play.

Right here in Santa Monica, Franklin Elementary school banned tag because, as principal Pat Samarge says, "Little kids were coming in and saying, `I don't like it.' Children weren't feeling good about it."

Well, when I was a kid, I wasn't always "feeling good" about tests, cafeteria food and dancing with girls (a stigma I learned to overcome). I don't recall anyone suggesting we ban those activities to soothe my self-esteem. Dealing with it was part of growing up.

Of course, somebody could get hurt. But how badly hurt can you get by being "it"?

And dodgeball? Apparently, we're told it promotes bullying, victimizing and isolation for those who drop out of the game. Which sounds like a pretty good primer for adulthood to me.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education, which represents more than 18,000 teachers and professors, has consigned dodge ball to its "physical education hall of shame" where it joins musical chairs, red rover, and duck, duck, goose because they require children to chase each other.

Soon, we will be dressing our kids in haz-mat suits and they will spend their recesses playing video games. Oh, yeah, carpel tunnel syndrome. Bad idea.

For me, learning about winning and losing as a kid was a lot easier than experiencing it for the first time as an adult.

Even worse, as Jay Leno said of the tag ban, the last kid who was tagged at a school would be "it" for the rest of his life.

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