Friday, 7 August 2009

Organised sport

has never appealed to me. My family is not particularly sport oriented. I doubt my father could name a single footballer. He knows who Don Bradman was. He probably remembers the Chappell brothers and he might be able to name a member of the present Australian cricket team but I rather doubt it. My mother took a little more interest and encouraged my sisters to play team games like basketball. She liked to see them win.
I think that may be part of the problem. Parents like their kids to win. It is not just about it being nice for the child to win. It is nice for the parent for the kid to win. If the kid does not win then it is not nice for the parent. It is worse for the kid.
Then there is the whole other issue with organised sport. It means that kids are being watched by adults. It means they have to ‘play’ according to the rules laid down by adults. It means that they are ‘safe’ and they are conforming. This is a 'good thing'. We cannot have children who are not safe and to have them not conforming would be unthinkable.
What happened to the negotiations over building the treehouse and all the physical activity that went with it? What happened to making the ‘billy cart’ and the thrill and exhaustion of using it? What happened to learning new ‘skipping’ games from your friends and beating your best friend at the new hopscotch design? What happened to role play games?
No, we could not possibly have any of that. “Play” now has to be sterile. It has to be adult supervised. It has to provide adult approved learning skills. Kids have to be seen to ‘participate’ but only in politically correct activities that are not deemed to be a ‘waste of time’. Negotiation skills are ‘taught’ in the classroom under artificial rules imposed by adults – even where the children believe they are deciding the rules for themselves. Anything is much too dangerous and radical. I have heard teachers discussing how to design activities to teach children 'negotiation' skills which will ensure they 'know their rights' - but only in ways that the teachers deem to be 'politically correct'.
There is no real room for negotiation here at all. Independent thinking is not encouraged. The child who tries to do this will be told that 'we are not discussing that now' , 'that is not in the rules we decided on' and 'that is not the way we are going to do it'. Child learns s/he is 'wrong'. Authority is right. You do not think for yourself. You think as you are told to think. You can rebel over some things but you cannot rebel over the way in which you learn to non-negotiate.
All this has to be learned within the context of apparently learning to negotiate along politically correct lines. It is a fine line and a confusing one. It is essential to ensure that children are well occupied out of formal school hours or they may learn undesirable negotiation skills. They may be politically incorrect and exclude others from their group. They may harm themselves or others physically and psychologically - perhaps irreparably. Growing up is an incredibly serious issue that cannot be left to chance. Things were different in the past!
With the emphasis on the constant supervision and control of children we are denying them endless learning experiences – and the right to be themselves.
I think I am glad I grew up when I did. I would have been left right out of organised sport.

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