It’s not the school’s fault if your kid is a lazy wuss

The halls of your local middle school are likely riddled with posters, banners and bulletin boards, all containing supposedly “motivational” and “informative” messages. If you can block out all of the horrible 12 year olds psychologically and physically tormenting each other, middle school hallways are very encouraging places.

There’s the poster with an image of an athletic young woman riding a bike, or climbing a mountain, emblazoned with the word “GOALS” or “ACHIEVEMENT.” There’s the perfunctory “DIVERSITY” banner, adorned with different colored hands clasped together across the globe.

Then there’s the requisite “Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars!” poster. It should be noted that this one, although commonplace, is reckless and horridly inaccurate from an astronomical perspective. Trust me, kids, if you shoot for the moon and miss — God help you. The people in Apollo 13 followed this advice, and look what happened to them. If you don’t land on the moon, you will NOT be “among the stars.” You will be approximately 90 MILLION MILES away from the nearest star, the Sun, and TRILLIONS of miles from the second closest, Proxima Centauri. Either way, you’re not even close.

And now you’ll be doomed to float aimlessly in the black, dead, vacuous abyss. Haven’t you seen Gravity? Eventually your oxygen will deplete and you’ll die slowly, alone, out in the unforgiving nothingness of space. If you’re lucky, a space rock will fly by, rip a hole in your suit, and your face will explode. At least then your death will be quick, even if it’s unimaginably painful. So, if you shoot for the moon you damn well better hit that thing. This is the real positive message for the youth: “Achieve your goals or die alone in the darkness.” Someone put that on a bumper sticker.

In any event, worse than this scientifically implausible cliché is that one motto that’s hammered into our heads from the time we take our first step, until we breathe our last breath: “Safety First!”

Safety first. Think about this. You’ve heard it a billion times; have you ever actually considered the implication of this deranged saying?

Safety first? FIRST? Safety before everything? There’s nothing more important than being safe? If that’s true, then we really shouldn’t be, like, doing anything. Ever. I saw a TLC special about a guy who lived by this mantra. He was a paranoid OCD schizophrenic; he locked himself in the bathroom for three years, washed his hands 400 times a day, and had food given to him under the crack in the door. Say what you want about the dude, but you can’t accuse him of putting anything but safety first. He was safe. His life was also miserable and pointless, but at least he succeeded in prolonging it.

I wanted to go skydiving a few years ago, so I started researching places online. I found a reputable skydiving business and perused it’s website. Sure enough, right there, front and center on the homepage: “Here at ____ Skydiving, our motto is ‘Safety First.'” I suppose this is meant to be soothing to potential clients, and, certainly, I want to do my skydiving with professionals who care about safety. But if you really put safety FIRST, wouldn’t you refuse to take anyone skydiving at all? The only thing safer than safe skydiving is not skydiving. In other words, if you’re skydiving, safety is not your top priority.

Safety should always be a consideration, but I’m not sure that it should ever be your primary concern. Yet we’ve increasingly adopted this catchphrase and it’s had exactly the sort of impact that you’d expect. “Safety First” is the most damaging exactly where it’s the most common: in the realm of child-raising; in the schools, in the daycares, at home. Gone are the days of teaching children to take healthy and rational risks; of encouraging them to run and jump and climb trees; of embracing their rough and tumble nature, particularly among young boys. Instead we’ve put Safety First, and now we have a generation of lazy, gelatinous couch potatoes — but at least they’re safe!

The latest from the Safety First front has the internet in quite a tizzy today: Weber Middle School in Long Island joined the War on Recess, and they’re coming out with the big guns. They’ve instituted a ban on footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, lacrosse balls; any sort of hard ball that might bump a precious child and cause a small bruise or skin abrasions of some sort. They’ve also outlawed tag and cartwheels, unless supervised. (Side note: somebody please start an indie band and call it The Supervised Cartwheels). The emergency room director at the local hospital has endorsed the move. He claims that he’s seen an uptick in “head injuries, bumps, scrapes.”

This, of course, leads one the following question: Who the hell brings their child to the emergency room for a bump or a scrape? We like to blame the schools for this sort of madness — Lord knows, I’m never hesitant to assign them their portion of the guilt when they deserve it — but the schools generally aren’t the ones shipping kids to the ER for a scraped knee. The schools also don’t sue themselves when Johnny falls off the swing and sprains his wrist. The schools aren’t instituting these policies because they want to; they’re doing it because the public forces them into it. Why are those kids brought to the hospital for minor dents and dings? Because Mommy and Daddy see an opportunity to turn a profit. It’s the same reason someone goes to the doctor for “whiplash” after a minor fender bender. They’re building their case for the impending lawsuit.

It’s hard for me to stomach some of the “let my child play dodge ball at recess!” hysteria, because we all know that half of the people screaming it wouldn’t hesitate to contact a lawyer should their pumpkin come off the dodge ball court with a broken nose. I’ve spoken to many daycare providers, and almost all of them have banned most forms of physical exertion among the children they supervise. Why? Are they conspiring to make our kids fat and slow? Or could it be that most of them also have horror stories about almost losing their home and business after some kid with litigious parents accidentally fell and bumped his head during Activity Time?

We can’t run around looking to sue everything that moves, and then become indignant when everyone around us starts to take a bit of a defensive posture. I just read another story recently about another school removing their swing sets. The parents and students rallied around the forsaken playground equipment and accused the school administrators of being Joyless Scrooges. Notice, they didn’t direct any of their ire at the people actually responsible for the travesty: the parents who sued them for having such a “dangerous” apparatus on their property. Are the schools supposed to risk bankruptcy for the sake of recess games and playground furnishings? I wouldn’t. I believe in standing on principle, but I’m not going to sacrifice my livelihood just to defend the honor of kickball. Sorry.

As with most cultural problems, we look for a simple way to explain why so many kids are mushy wimps by pointing at the easiest scapegoat. In this case, it’s the school system. But the school system has no vested interest in stopping your child from having fun. In fact, I’d wager that most teachers would prefer if these hyper sugar-fiends could work off some of that energy and come back to the classroom docile and rundown.

Their hands, however, are tied. If a kid gets hurt at school, somebody will file a lawsuit. That’s the way America works, and we all know it. How do you expect them to respond? There’s a sickness in our society, and it’s turned many of us into exploitative, whiny, manipulative opportunists. All of our institutions reflect that reality, and they all have to protect themselves from the hoards of lawyers and carpetbaggers who are just waiting for a lucrative accident to occur.

Besides, if you want your kid to run and leap and wrestle and play, he’s still got plenty of time for that. Take his computer and video game system away; send him outside to discover the wonders of the great outdoors. How many parents who complain about the lack of physical activity in school, then turn around and allow their kids to sit in the basement all weekend with their Xbox? If your kid is lazy and overweight, it’s not his teacher’s fault. It’s yours. Give Jimmy a carrot, shut off his smart phone, and make him go dig a ditch or move some rocks or rake some leaves.

They say you can’t have it both ways. Well, in our case, we’re looking to have it about 40 different ways at once. We want the children to play games at recess, but we don’t want them to get hurt (or we’ll sue), but we don’t want them to be fat, but we don’t want to take their video games and cell phones away, but we want them to get a lot of exercise, but we don’t want to enforce that rule at our own homes. We don’t know what we want, but DAMN THE SCHOOLS FOR NOT LISTENING TO OUR CONFLICTING DEMANDS!

Yes, the schools! Blame the schools! Blame somebody! Blame Big Foot! Blame… anyone! Anyone but us! That’s our mantra; second only to “Safety First.”

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170 Responses to It’s not the school’s fault if your kid is a lazy wuss

  1. Lori says:

    Reblogged this on LoriCamper.Com and commented:
    Then there’s the requisite “Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars!” poster.
    With all the gunphobia (especially in the schools), I’m surprised they use the word “shoot.”

  2. We definitely do live in a generation of pointing fingers. Have the guts to say, “Dang, maybe it’s my kid’s fault for getting bad grades and not the teacher’s fault…” How sad it is that we live in a sue-happy society.

    • Danielle H says:

      I honestly could not agree with you more. I was just having a conversation with someone recently about how people these days will see and take any chance they get to make a quick dollar and then complain when the “fun” stuff is taken away because of it. “sue-happy society” is exactly right!

    • AZAJ says:

      Maybe it’s the PARENTS fault for not TEACHING their child responsibility. Kids are kids. And they need to be TAUGHT responsibility. And that is the parent’s job. Not the kid’s just because they didn’t automatically figure out what responsibility is just because they got older. And sometimes it is the teacher’s fault. I’ve had at least 2 teachers in high school and 1 in junior high who never took the time to tutor. I asked my geometry teacher to go over something with me. His response, “Well, that is why we took notes.”
      So yes, it was ABSOLUTELY his fault that I failed his pop quiz the next day.

  3. kbf4 says:

    Okay then if it is not the school’s fault if my child is a lazy wuss, I would also like it to not be the school’s fault if my child is a fatso. I get the school lunch program because for some kids that might be the only decent meal they get in a day ( I still think it is okay if that meal includes a pudding or a cookie, but I get it). I even get, but do not love, the banning of birthday cake, cookies, candy and anything that might actually constitute a celebration. But what I do not get is the school being able to dictate what my child can bring for his own self-provided snack. My child was recently told he should never again bring his Little Debbie fudge round because it was CHOCOLATE. My child is 8 years old and barely weighs 50 pounds, he is in the 7th percentile for height and the 20th percentile for weight. His favorite food to order at a restaurant is a salad. He plays flag football, baseball and basketball and likes to run just for fun (not at school of course). How can the public school tell me what he can and cant eat. I just don’t get it.

    • Cyberguy64 says:

      They obviously know how to raise your child better than you can via using their one-size-fits-all solutions. Please try to keep up with how progressive society is now. Otherwise, you;ll be left behind, and therefore be an idiot.

      *Rolls eyes*

    • volleygal says:

      I totally agree with you! I have always had this problem with our school too! What’s next? Are they going to go through my kid’s lunch boxes and tell them what they can and cannot bring for lunch? Or better yet, are they going to FORCE my children to buy school lunches? Just another way to control the masses, because they know what’s better for my child than I do!

    • Jacquie says:

      It sounds absurd I know, but I am going to give the school the benefit of the doubt and wager a hunch that it has something to do with food allergies. A lot of schools around me have “peanut free” areas and one school that I visit occasionally added a “gluten free” table next to their “peanut free zone”. I’ve never had allergies- thank G-d! Likewise, it still is hard for me to fathom that allergies are becoming so prevalent and severe that being in the same room and breathing in the particular trigger food can be toxic enough that general policy is made to ban that item for the safety of all of the kids- and perhaps possibly faculty too. However, that may explain the snack prohibition.

      • Adrianne Sylvester says:

        My kids are celiac, and their school is “nut-free”…which means if they bring a gluten-free peanut butter sandwich, it’s treated like something that should be handled by a CDC worker wearing an “Outbreak” suit, and they are forced to sit at an isolated table to eat it. Meantime, the kid next to them at the “nut table” is goofing off and sprinkling his wheat-bread crumbs onto my kid’s lunch and smearing his greasy gluten fingers all over, but nobody says a word about it. Freakin’ ridiculous – just teach all the kids to be responsible for their own needs and quit being so damn overprotective! The world is not safely nut-free and bubble-wrapped – deal with it! 😉

      • Tara Sottil says:

        Wow, Adrianne Sylvester. Last time I checked Celiac kids could not DIE from simply touching a gluten product. Nut-allergy kids can. You say, “Deal with it.” No child or parent should have to worry about their own/child’s life bc someone “needs” to eat a peanut butter sandwich. Nut-allergy kids are taught to watch out for their own food choices but it is people like you and your kids with their “greasy’ peanut butter “fingers” that are the problem. Educate yourself before making such ludicrous statements.

    • PHicks says:

      This actually happened to a friend of mine a year or so ago. Her daughter was in Kindergarten or 1st grade so her “lunchtime” was pretty early. She had packed her daughter’s lunch with breakfast type food. The teacher wouldn’t let her eat it and MADE HER buy a school lunch which she then didn’t eat. It’s absurd really.

    • Caitlin says:

      I taught in elementary schools for awhile until I decided to move on to another career path, and let me tell you, NO ONE in any of the schools I taught at wanted those rules. The principal, the teachers, the lunch staff… It is such a chore. I had to stand in line with my students and make sure that they all picked at least one fruit or veggie cup with their meal, only to watch them throw those in the garbage when they finished “the good stuff.” I, and those students I’m sure, would much rather have the funding for “healthy snacks” be applied to school supplies, better technology, etc. because those kids usually don’t want to eat those snacks and they end up in the garbage. Yes, a healthy diet is important. But requiring kids to take fruit and veggies was a waste of money and food.

      But it’s because of nit-picky parents who think their needs overshadow the needs of everyone else that cause these rules. The rules in the lunchroom are due to parents, not schools. I had a parent complain to me once that little so-and-so was bringing chocolate snacks to school and it was making THEIR precious child beg for those snacks at home. What I wanted to tell them was, “So suck it up and learn to say no to your child. If you don’t want them eating chocolate snacks, don’t buy them for your kid.” But of course, I couldn’t, because everything is the teacher’s fault.

      But its those nosy parents who want schools and teachers to do everything for them rather than accepting responsibility, and those parents are the vocal ones who will throw a fit and cause a great deal of problems for the school. So the school obliges and bans chocolate. Just as Matt was saying in this post, if you trace the source of a problem back far enough when it comes to annoying school rules, you almost always find a demanding parent at the beginning of it all.

      It is also interesting to note (though I know this is not always the case), that most of the parents that gave me problems about the “needs of their child” were also parents barely present in the child’s life. When I’d ask about home life and routines, it was very clear that many of them relied on day care after school and other sources to care for their child. That, or they left their child at home with a sibling barely older than them until they returned from work. As you can imagine, I was less inclined to take their “suggestions” on the “needs” of their child seriously when I spent more time with their child than they did. Now that is not to say that some parents who work are not at all present or do so by choice. I understand that some needed to work or had perfectly legitimate reasons why they were not around much. But it was also the parents with actual reasons who tended to be less demanding.

      And unfortunately, Jacquie, I do believe allergies are becoming more prevalent. There seems to be a higher occurrence of severe allergies than when I was in school. I remember reading something awhile ago about an increase in allergies, but I don’t remember the source, so don’t take what I say as fact. I actually did have a couple students whose nut allergies were severe enough that if another student had peanuts they would go into anaphylactic shock. So the school had a very strict “no nuts” policy. Annoying, but necessary.

      • jmw340590 says:

        Amen! Completely agree with you!!

      • Cae says:

        I read a study recently that said within 6 years of genetically modified foods being introduced to the market, hospitalization for food allergies increased more than 200%. There you go!

      • JCal says:

        There’s also the “disease du jour” parents. I saw an article where a guy could tell when a person was born based on what “disease” they had. ADD, x time frame, peanut allergy? y time frame…and it’s true. Yeah, those problems legitimately exist, but they are also abused. I found a study done a few years back that went through a ton of kids who “have peanut allergies” and found out that 80% of them had no such thing. The kids were never medically diagnosed with peanut allergies, their parents just decided they had them. Then those parents are uneducated and make guesses on allergy safety. To die from inhaling peanut dust has to happen in 2 very specific circumstances: 1. You are in a closed off room with little to no ventilation with a significant amount (significant being way more than a handful) of peanut dust or 2. someone blows it directly in your face. Even then the rate of death by allergy is 150-200 people per year in the entire United States, including ALL food allergies, not just peanuts. Very rarely has that death occurred in a school environment, even before the bans.

        I’m not saying severe nut allergies don’t exist, but it’s not near as cut and dried as some parents have made it out to be. I say this as a person who has MANY allergies, food/environmental/medication (including one that WILL kill me) and bothered to educate myself on how they affect me.

      • Exactly! -a fifth grade teacher

      • Allie says:

        That’s because our food supply is one big science experiment. Kids ingest chocolate or cheese coated chemicals and because their bodies are still developing and no research was done prior, more and more children are developing life threatening conditions.

    • Call the school and let them know your displeasure and that your child will bring his snack cake, that you paid for with your money for him to enjoy.

      Oh and chocolate is good for you, there are studies that show it:)

    • AGAIN…this is a result of too many people “blaming” and the school’s/society’s reaction to the blame game! Can you blame them? WAIT…I guess we CAN! Just like they poor kids can’t bring COUGH DROPS b/c it’s SELF MEDICATING, or ibuprofen or tylenol. It’s become beyond crazy.

      • haplessone says:

        Zero-tolerance ridiculousness. my daughter got in BIG trouble because she shoved her morning multivitamin in her pocket when I wasn’t looking. She tossed it into her classroom trash can when she thought the teacher wasn’t looking. The whole school went nuts! Seriously?

    • H0BB1T says:

      It’s ok, I was told my son could no longer bring an apple…APPLE…for his snack because it is to messy. So snacks like pretzels or crackers would be better. I personally would rather him eat an apple, especially when that is what he ASKED for. Ugh. I will be Homeschooling next year.

    • Oh boy do I agree! I was so mad to find out that the only choices for my kids are low/no fat foods. My boys are RAIL thin, 10th percentile, eat-like-horses-with-tapeworm kids. And they get foods that don’t actually fill them up? Bull. Just bull.

    • Becca says:

      A year or so ago in a school near me, a little girl showed up with a turkey sandwich, a bag of chips and an apple. This lunch was confiscated because it wasn’t “a balanced meal.” But the school couldn’t let the girl starve, so she was provided with chicken nuggets. Because she was SO much better off eating frozen, then microwaved chicken nuggets.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Thank you! I now know that I’m not the only one in America that feels this way! Thank you for your honest writing and for giving me the hope that there are others!!

  5. Chris says:

    Yes, the lawyer “hordes” are just waiting to sue the school for a lucrative case that involves a scraped knee. Oh, wait, what’s the dollar value on a scraped knee again? About $0? Schools removing playground equipment, etc. are the exception, not the rule, and a prime example of poor leadership, not a litigious society. If things were truly that bad, there would be no playgrounds anywhere. But that’s not the case, is it?

    • Katie says:

      Chris, not sure I understand what your point is. He is writing a blog post about one particular school, is he not? That one school has become unreasonable, has it not? And it could set a precedent (even if we think unlikely)…could it not? The dollar value on a scraped knee is minimal. I think it’s called hyperbole. If you could convince the jury that the little princess’s modeling career would now be ruined or that she would have nightmares and require lifelong counseling because she was afraid of blood or that other unspecified trauma related to the scrape would prevent him from playing football in high school…it COULD get ridiculous. Again, hyperbole.

    • Going to have to agree. It probably has a lot more to do with school boards then lawyers.

    • Timothy Duerksen says:

      Reread the article.
      All of it, this time.
      He doesn’t denounce lawyers, but the parents whose first recourse is always to go to those lawyers. He denounces the society where ambulance-chasers have jobs, and aren’t starved into legitimate cases, like, say, 90% of the legal system?

  6. Peggy Anderson says:

    Excellent blog post! As a retired teacher ( I started teaching in 1974) I have witnessed firsthand how solving societies problems slowly has become part of the school’s mission, often taking time away from what we should be teaching our students. Because society doesn’t do a good job teaching sex ed, schools were charged with doing that. Society has a drug and alcohol problem? Let’s take time during the school day for the DARE program. Kids are fat and don’t eat well or get enough exercise, so the schools must change their lunch menu and ban junk food, otherwise society will accuse schools of exacerbating the problem. If society was doing its job ( that includes parents), schools would not have to worry about these things. But schools took on these programs because we want to help kids. The kicker, though, is if something then goes wrong and a student gets pregnant or uses drugs or gets fat, society is quick to point the finger at schools for doing something wrong or not doing enough. Law suits for student injuries, those due to kids just being kids, have forced schools to protect themselves by making stringent, often ridiculous rules. Society has forced schools to be in the position of being involved in things they should not have to be. It is up to society to take the responsibility into their own hands and let the schools do the job they were originally charged with.

    • “But schools took on these programs because we want to help kids.”

      I don’t doubt the desire of teachers and administrators to want to help kids. However, one of the keys to the success of any organization is maintaining a sharp focus on the stated mission. Once we lose sight of our primary objective our efforts become diluted. Instead of pursuing our primary goal with excellence, we expend our energies on activities outside our area of expertise and, not surprisingly, achieve disappointing results. The politicians, parents, and activists who insist on continually increasing the scope of our schools’ mission need to realize the detrimental impact they are having on education, all in the name of “helping kids.”

  7. Lisa says:

    Thank you, I haven’t read about the latest removal of playground equipment. I thought it was bad enough when they removed sand from the pre-school & kindergarten play areas from our local elementary school. So much for developmental playtime.

  8. Ted says:

    Your nauseating smarminess is so offensive I can’t get past it to even care about what your actual opinion might be. Maybe you should deflate your head 10 or 12 sizes before writing.

    • Ted,

      If you find Matt’s writing so nauseating why subject yourself to the torture of reading it, and why subject the rest of us to your whining? Try offering up some MEANINGFUL criticism that will spark healthy debate or find a blog that is better aligned to your personal taste and sensibilities.

      • Katie says:

        Yes, find a blog you like! With the following he has, I doubt he is going to read your comment and say, “You’re right. Enough snark for the next 20 years.” Personally, I am wildly jealous of bloggers like him and People I Want to Punch in the Throat. Relentlessly positive blogs don’t get read nearly as much. They just don’t. There are more sunshiny, puppy-and-kitten blogs, modeling blogs/ fashion blogs, photography blogs, foodie blogs, look-how-cute-my-kids-are blogs than you could shake a stick at. And I don’t know of anyone who writes about real issues AT ALL who is not sarcastic from time to time. Just sayin.’

    • Well, He’s gathered so many readers with his “nauseating smarminess” that I think I’ll adapt my own writing in my blog. I find Matt’s writing witty and engaging and off beat enough to keep me engaged. Common sense isn’t common anymore; most of our nation lives in a semi-daze of distraction with our techno-bobbles while the left wing elements of our society controlling most of the media, TV & Movies paints make-believe cause and effect relationships for us to champion. I find Matt to be firmly connected with real humanity, real cause-effect, real life. Political correctness is nothing more than an attempt by the few to force the many to make choices in life as if left wing delusions were real… to speak of things as the left wishes they were.

      • Outdoor Mommy says:

        Since when is childrearing a partisan issue? It shouldn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you sit on. If you take an active role in your kid’s life, play with them, teach them, listen to them, discipline them… Which side of the political spectrum you subscribe to shouldn’t really matter. There are free-love-and-acid hippies anointing their little baby “Cornflower” in patchouli oil, just like there are deep-south-moonshine-swilling-rednecks beating the snot out of little Bobby-Joe III. Good parents and good people can be found on the left and the right.

        As Matt said, the real problem is people who sit in their thrones of self-riteousness blaming society’s problems on everyone else. So please stop making a fool of yourself by pointing the finger at the other side.

        -A Centrist

    • Nofirst Nolast says:

      Here, here. He is so enamored with our society (and himself) and critical of those who defy its aspects. Your child is a “lazy wuss” if they are depressed or deal with other issues often overlooked. Full of wit? Something that rhymes is far more accurate. Smarmy is the word to use here, plain and simple. The guy wants it to be 1970 again, with stay-at-home moms galore and every kid doing the same thing and having the same aspirations. These people are bored, blind sheep who want to point a finger at those who they claim to point fingers. This guy is like every blowhard down the street who thinks he is enlightened enough to not have to keep his mouth shut for every small-minded thought he has.

      • Heather says:

        I don’t get that impression at all, and you sound pretty bitter. Just like TV, if you don’t like what’s on it, get up off your butt and change the channel.

      • I doubt that Matt wants it to be 1970 “again” since he is probably too young to have been born in the ’70’s. His is not some misplaced nostalgia but rather a recognition of what is truly valuable in this life, which transcends any particular era in history.

  9. Lindsey says:

    This is a very good point you bring up. I allow my kids only 4 hours a week to play video games and only if we have time on the weekends. I remember my Mom making us go outside and she never took it upon herself to suggest anything for us to do once we were out there. After the wining and complaining was over we used our imaginations and found something to do. Rain or shine, heat or snow just about everyday she’d kick us outside to play. I do the same with my kids and they are happier for it. I have an awesome neighbor who has this old broken down shed in her back yard and we let our kids play in it. We kind of joke that most parents would think we are terrible for letting our kids play around dust, spider webs, dirt and heaven forbid a rusty nail. Our kids are strong and healthy and they’ve never been hurt in that shed and even if or when they got hurt I actually know how to clean a wound. Holy cow!! Anyway, Just wanted to say I appreciate your perspective. It sounds right on to me. Also there are still a few Mom’s and Dad’s out there who don’t always think about safety first. Safety is great but sometimes it deprives kids of the chance to just be kids. How’s Johnny going to learn how to cross a road if he never does it? How can you learn to get up if you’ve never fallen and scrapped your knee. My kids don’t have swings or Monkey bars at there school anymore, so I get off my lazy butt and take them to places that still do.

  10. ETAY says:

    1. “Shoot for the stars” is a metaphor used to help children understand that trying and failing is better than never having tried at all. So would you rather convey the message to them that if they fail they will be alone in the universe? Very inspiring.
    2. Safety first is also not to be taken literal. Safety is paramount in schools. Educators and staff try and protect students from physical and psychological harm throughout the school day.
    3. I might have read beyond this point had it not been for your inflated language and wide reaching assumptions about the school environment. Take out the attitude and get to the point.

    • TKopchuk says:

      It’s a blog. Attitude is the point. If you want unbiased facts read a news paper.

      • M Green says:

        If you can find a newspaper that actually prints “unbiased facts”, let me know. 🙂 As to ETAY- I’m a school teacher (high school science), and I actually teach my students about how to find good information and evaluate sources based on writing style, intended audience, perceived motivation, etc. Almost all “news” sources today are riddled with “inflated language and wide reaching [sic] assumptions”. People should take these blog posts for what they are- something to *provoke thought*, not to *provide information*.

  11. It’s really hard to take this seriously knowing that you’re the same guy that thinks brats should just be allowed to scream it out in public places. Where the hell is your ‘suck it up, kid’ mentality when the rest of society needs it most?

    • Kelsey says:

      I’m not entirely seeing how this is different from “suck it up kid.”

      If safety isn’t our very first concern, then sometimes kids are going to get hurt. It happens. As long as it doesn’t cause permanent damage, the kid will be fine, and will learn about actions, consequences, and determining risk in the most effective way possible. Similarly, letting “brats…scream it out in public places” teaches them about rules and boundaries in the most effective way possible.

      And I’m 100% with Matt on letting “brats” scream it out, because where do you expect kids to learn about the real world if not IN THE REAL WORLD? Deal with it. If you can’t handle a kid screaming from time to time, buy earplugs.

      • Sandy says:

        I believe kids need to learn how to behave in public (places) and/or at home. Screaming is unacceptable no matter where you are!!!! When I was a child and threw a fit, I was told “if you keep that up, I will give you something to really scream about-followed by a good spanking! (not beating either but a spanking they would remember).
        Wake up parents…it’s your responsibility to raise your children, NO one elses!!! That’s why we have spoiled adults today….no one ever made these kids accountable for their actions when growing up!

  12. Lisa says:

    “I visit occasionally added a “gluten free” table next to their “peanut free zone”. I’ve never had allergies- thank G-d! Likewise, it still is hard for me to fathom that allergies are becoming so prevalent and severe that being in the same room and breathing in the particular trigger food can be toxic enough that general policy is made to ban that item for the safety of all of the kids”

    I would like to address this peanut allergy issue. Some children are so allergic to peanuts that if someone else eats a peanut food and touches a table with their hand and the allergic child touches the table and then their mouth they can go into anaphylactic shock and die. This happened at our school last year. An girl with a peanut allergy sat at a school table after school during a Girl Scout Meeting and ate at a table where a child earlier in the school day had a peanut snack. This girl went into shock and almost died. If this was your child, would you want a peanut free table at school?

    • JCal says:

      No. Because it really doesn’t help. I feed my kids peanut butter pancakes for breakfast sometimes. They don’t always wash their hands afterward. I mean, I tell them to, but they’re kids. Sometimes they don’t. Then out the door we go. Then they hit the cross button with their peanut butter hands, run fingers along the rail, open a door, open another door, touch each other, lend a pencil…Who knows what other parents feed their kids and then those kids go and touch things. That’s what kids do.

      That child isn’t protected by a peanut table. It’s a false sense of security. A parent stupidly tells themselves “oh, they are safe at school”. Sure, if they are the only person ever in that school or wears gloves. That’s the only way that’s going to happen and even then, still not really safe…

      Of course, obviously someone did not wash down the tables at that school, which means the kid eating peanut butter wasn’t the problem, but the janitors that didn’t do their job.

    • Jeanette Dier says:

      Sorry, I subscribe to the Teddy Roosevelt method for dealing with allergies, and weakness.. .fight! And if the poor kid dies in the process, so be it. . .that is the sacrifice one must make to save the next generation from such weakness! Actually, I’ve read that the best way to deal with severe allergies, is to incrementally, in minute quantities, expose your child (under a doctor’s supervision) to the offending allergen, until s/he can be safely be exposed to it. This can be the only reliable defense for your child.

  13. Whitney says:


  14. Sharpie says:

    Reminds me of what have been transpiring lately in America with the anti-bully phenomenon. I guess we can’t tell kids to man up but I do feel American kids need to man the F up!

    • Another E says:

      Or people need to stop being bullies…

      • A good portion is that people need to learn decent conflict resolution. Yelling your being mean isn’t going to do a damn thing. Nor does it mean the other person was actually being mean.

        Yes there are bad bullies out there. But even more, there are hyper sensitive people who get off on the attn they receive if they play the victim role.

    • JCal says:

      I was bullied as a kid every so often. It wasn’t constant because my grandma taught me to handle bullies. It turns out that if you make their nose bleed they don’t like that. If you punch them, they tend to never bug you again. They prey on the weak, so don’t be weak.

      Of course, if the schools would stop suspending kids for defending themselves…..might help.

  15. citramanica says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I used to teach in a middle/high school here in Singapore, and while they didn’t ban football and basketball etc during recess, they made the teachers supervise the games to make sure no one got hurt/ misbehave (like rolling on the grass, because apparently that could give the kids nasty rashes). And yes, I blame the parents since they would come to school complaining about a lot of small things.

  16. Hmm. I never thought of it that way. I’ve always been outraged whenever schools did something stupid like that, but thought that they were… well, I don’t think I ever actually thought of why. I suppose it’s just that I don’t live in a family that wants to sue every time I injure myself. This is probably partially because we have no cash to pay a lawyer with, and partially because we just don’t believe in it. It may also be because I am incredibly accident prone and we’ve just decided that it’s my own stupid fault.

  17. Another E says:

    Number 26 why I homeschool…

  18. Kay says:

    Awesome! We’ve taken away all electronic devises in our home. Kids were getting too grouchy, disrespectful, and were constantly fighting with each other. Now that they have nothing else to do except play with each other, and use their imaginations, things are going much smoother. Kids don’t need all of that crap! Let them play! There was a big billboard on the freeway in Utah County for a long time that said in big letters “Just Sue Em!” It’s sick when this is a companies catch phrase. It’s even worse when people think that it’s a phrase to live by. Kids will get hurt, it’s what they do. Get over it, move on and teach them to move on.

  19. jaimeheath says:

    Sadly, in our school district, school nurses, who are certified/registered, aren’t even allowed to put ANY medication on the scrapes and can’t do more for a bump than ice. The only thing that can be done for a cut is wash with soap and water and a band-aid.

    My daughter got hit on the face twice during a (supervised) flag football session during PE. The culprits were boys who were throwing the belts into the box instead of (being supervised for safety) placing them in so as not to intentionally injure someone. But my daughter’s skin wasn’t broken, there was no injury to the eye, and she was fine in a couple days.

    Let kids play. But TEACH them HOW to play safely. Want to play tag? Let’s teach them not to push each other with two hands from behind. Want kids to play dodgeball? Teach them to aim the ball below the waist, and if it hits above the waist, the offender is out. No biggie. (I refereed recess dodgeball for 5th graders, and it worked, but there needed to be some kind of supervision to keep the kids honest and teach them sportsmanship).

  20. Jason Smith says:

    Bravo Josh. As always, this is right on the money.

  21. Noah Mckenna says:

    In India we have a company known cryptically as Safety NXT…..they manufacture $5 Motorcycle Helmets out of super cheap materials…..and their insignia is a rip-off of the Harley Davidson Logo. Its a hipster helmet.

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  23. I take Legal studies at a University. I can’t remember the textbooks name, but one of them covered the fact that we aren’t any more sue happy now, then we were in say the early 1900’s. People were just as materialistic and grasping in the 80’s but we still had those activities.

    I believe it is something else that is driving this asinine safety first manifesto. Along with the whole we can’t ever have any conflict ever!

  24. childofgod says:

    Reblogged this on Pax Puero and commented:
    Love this, especially the “Shoot for he moon!” thing. 🙂

  25. queenofthebooks says:

    A boy at my son’s school had his leg broken while playing football at recess. The mother (a friend of mine) was very upset because the other boy by all accounts (teachers and other students) deliberately hit her son even though he did not have the ball. The boy was a known bully and though I doubt he intended to break the other boy’s leg he did intend harm. This was a private school and the principal’s response was to ban all activity at recess, but the bully was not punished in any way. This is why my friend got upset. Her son loved football and if his leg had been broken playing football without the deliberate attack, she would have been upset, but understood that it was part of the game. But the fact that the principal’s response was to punish everyone but the one responsible, was not acceptable. Fortunately, the parents had a choice (and this was not the only instance of this principal not handling situations properly), so many of the parents pulled their children out and sent them to a different school. The parents of the bully had made huge donations to the school and so he was untouchable according to the principal.

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  27. haplessone says:

    I never indoctrinated my child with the “safety first” concept. Until she became sexually active, that is. Now it’s all I say to her whenever she leaves the house.

  28. vettechmom says:

    My 5 year old daughter fell off the jungle gym last week and broke her arm. (I mean BROKE her arm, radius and ulna, offset and retracted, and dislocated her elbow in the fall). The school performed appropriate first aid, splinted it very well, called me immediately, (calling an ambulance would’ve been nice but apparently they aren’t allowed to do that anymore unless it’s a life-threatening situation)

    They are acting like they are expecting a lawsuit, or trying to avoid one. While the bending over backwards to keep me happy is nice, the principle even went so far as to tell me they would probably tear down the jungle gym so this wouldn’t happen again. I told him I thought that was rather extreme, and he looked at me like I was crazy.

    At the ER my daughter was crying and told me she was sorry she broke her arm. I told her that if no one pushed her and if she wasn’t doing anything stupid she wasn’t supposed to it wasn’t anyone’s fault. This is what she told me happened: “I was swinging on the bar on top of the jungle gym, you know the big yellow one, and Elijah came up to kiss me, but I don’t like him at all anyway, cause he’s really really gross. When I pushed back so he couldn’t kiss me, I fell of the jungle gym, you know the big yellow one, and broke my arm.”

  29. thoughtsnet says:

    Great post! Laughed out loud. Spit was involved. My husband jokes that our child (due to be born in December) will play with sticks and in dirt piles, and do chores as soon as she can walk. I’m all for it.

  30. Ingrid says:

    Matt, you are a breath of fresh air. THANK YOU!

  31. nsg says:

    How did the safety first discussion regarding playgrounds and games kids play turn into what kids can bring to school to eat and what the schools serve for lunch. Totally agree that this country is sue happy and it has really taken away the freedom and fun that kids used to have. We are meant to live life to its fullest sliding into home plate at the end.

  32. melissa says:

    I pulled my kid out of school and home school both him and my preschool age daughter who will stay out of public schooling. So…we don’t really have that particular issue. But I have never been the sue happy type. If my kid gets hurt..good. It means he is being what he is…a KID. They get hurt! In fact if you don’t come in with at least a minor scrape then whats wrong? Go play harder please. And yes if my kids become overweight it is 100 percent MY fault. Kids do not have a “maybe I should eat less crap/watch less tv/play less video games” mindset. They have a “this is so fun!” mindset. It’s up to you as the parent to limit all of it.

  33. dduff says:

    As one of those ER docs who see the bumps, bruises, sniffles, poison ivy at 2 AM, and as a father of 2 middle school girls, I think Walsh hits it on the head here. It is truly a tragedy when a child is severely injured, but that isn’t what usually happens. Injury is a risk of living. We all put ourselves at risk every day – they are, hopefully, calculated and with reasonable safety measures in place. I’m not sure there has ever been a dodgeball death, but I sure see a lot of death and disability from MI’s, COPD, and diabetes caused by poor lifestyle choices.

  34. There was a story on NPR a few years back about how doctors in ERs aren’t seeing kids for broken bones anymore – you know, the type of injury you get climbing a tree or playing outside, which heals stronger than before. Now they are seeing children for repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel, etc. – you know, they type of injury you get from sitting (safely) at a computer or console pushing buttons, which never heals. ever.

  35. dgarsys says:

    Late to the party – but two notes here that are relevant.

    1) Mike Rowe’s “TED” talk on learning from dirty jobs (the whole thing is excellent) has a short bit on ocean vs OSHA. And that in the end, you can train, etc., but safety is an individual concern

    2) SF writer and rocket scientist Travis Taylor who is also in the National Geographic show “Rocket City Rednecks” often wears a shirt that says “safety third”. One of the reasons is that we are all too used to hearing “safety first” and discounting it. Another though that I’m positive he’d agree with if never stated is that if safety was first, he’d never be doing half the stuff he does in the show…

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  38. Becca says:

    I had a friend who was a single mother, living with her mother. She was a little boy who, true to form, fell down, bumped his head, dropped things on himself, etc. She took him to the emergency room once a week or so. She’d wait three hours, and by the time she was seen by a doctor, her son had forgotten he’d been hurt and was either playing, or he was sleeping. It looked ridiculous to any observer, but what they didn’t know was if she hadn’t taken him, her mother would have screamed at her for being a bad mom and caring about her child. The child’s father would have seen the bruise or scrape at the next visitation and would have checked to see if he’d been taken to the hospital, and if not, he added that to his custody case, and claimed that maybe she’d abused the boy. It’s not the school’s fault, but it’s not all about the parent taking their kid to the hospital. A lot can be attributed to society as a whole and how people will point at any blemish on a child and shout abuse rather than considering that sometime kids just bump their heads.

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