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You're It

by Stephen Lautens


June 28, 2002

Last month the principal of Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, California banned the game of tag from the school playground.

The reason? Well, in addition to the occasional scrape and bruise, the Franklin Elementary School wrote in their newsletter that the game of tag "creates a self-esteem issue" for the children. This is because, they explained, the game of tag requires that someone be "it", which they say makes that child into a "victim."

Silly me - I thought children bringing guns and knives to school made the other kids into victims, not the humiliation of being "it". No doubt if we dig deeper into history we'll find that Hitler, Stalin and Attila the Hun were always being tagged "it" in the schoolyard, and each unleashed their reign of terror to compensate for their damaged self-esteem.

My recollection is that elementary school can be a pretty rough place, with charges and accusations constantly flying about who is "smelly", "ugly" or wears "flood pants", any of which I would have thought were worse than being "it".

I suppose if tag is out, it will usher in a new area of caring and sharing - not to mention politically correct - schoolyard games.

For example, there will be no longer any place for "murder ball" in our schools. Murder ball was always my least favourite schoolyard game. Probably because I was skinny and fast and made a very appealing target.

In the spirit of political correctness, "murder ball" will now have to be replaced with "not guilty by reason of insanity ball". In this game everyone is the victim. The person who is hit by the ball will receive post-traumatic stress therapy and the person who throws it cannot be held accountable since society, drugs, alcohol dependence, poor parenting and an addiction to pixie stix will ultimately be held to blame.

Jump rope will also be banned from school yards, as it makes victims of those children with inadequate hand-eye coordination or a learning disability that prevents them from coming up with anything rude that rhymes with "France".

"Cops and Robbers" cannot be played in schoolyards anymore. It will be replaced with "Protester and Riot Squad Officer who is deeply conflicted about protecting a society he knows doesn't spend enough on social housing". This is played by each person hugging in the middle of the pretend tear gas and resolving to work together to bring down the barriers that keep us from feeling each other's pain.

Hopscotch cannot be played due to the possibility that it will be seen as somehow negatively impacting any school children of Scottish heritage who feel that they may be "hopped" over.

Tetherball will be discontinued entirely, as a ball tied by a rope to a pole to be batted back and forth could be seen by sensitive children as emblematic of the struggle of oppressed peoples around the world striving to throw off the shackles of post-colonial oppression, but chained down by the capitalist pawns of the International Monetary Fund. Plus it's pretty boring.

Finally, picking dandelions and rubbing them under people's chins to see if they like butter will be discontinued in case any of the dandelions in the school yard are in fact genetically modified super dandelions that have been spliced with the genes of dairy cows to provide false positives about a child's actual preference for butter.

If that doesn't go a long ways towards repairing children's damaged self-esteem, I don't know what will.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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