John Roskam on Cotton Wool Culture

John Roskam on how kids have had all risk sucked out of their lives:

It’s true that today’s youth are more affluent than in the past, but if Daube thinks youths have more freedom then he hasn’t been to a school, or a children’s sports event, or a playground lately.

Belgian Gardens State School in Townsville banned children doing cartwheels and handstands in the playground – even if they did them on the grass. According to the principal, “gymnastic activities” were classed as a “medium risk level 2” in the Queensland Activity Risk Management Guidelines.

Mount Martha Primary School in Victoria banned children from touching each other after some students suffered playground injuries. The school said a ban on students playing tiggy and doing high fives was “not an overreaction”. A student at the school who put his arm around a friend who was winded was punished by being forced to walk around the school grounds with the teacher on yard duty.

He follows up with examples that point to the disturbing trend in some places to eliminate winning and losing from kids sport. See also: the cracking down on government-unapproved youth entrepreneurship. As he goes on to say:

These are not isolated examples. Some are extreme, but they’re all representative of how society and the government now treat children, regardless of whether they’re in primary school or are teenagers. Supposedly for their own good, children are wrapped up in metaphorical cotton wool and are protected from the risk of physical harm or psychological distress. The inevitable result is that children lose the capacity to experience a sense of adventure or responsibility or self-control. Social media and binge drinking are some of the few opportunities for self-expression young people have left.

I have seen this in some of what I am involved in. While the ethos and goal of Scouting is for youth independence and risk-taking (an ethos embraced by every leader I’ve met), there seems to be great pressure pushing back against that. Some of it stems from concerns about insurance but it also comes from parents. Basically male leaders cannot have physical contact with kids at all and I have gotten into trouble because parents complained to the powers-that-be (I don’t know who exactly because I just got a phone call from a Commissioner in Perth) that I would muck around and rough-house with the boys. I never hurt any of them and I would never be alone with them but still, joining in gently with the most natural way young blokes have fun is a big no no.

What’s worse is what I have seen going on in my church as of late. There has been a big drive to implement Safe Church practices in our church. Fair enough – churches need to be careful that the numerous kids in their care are looked after. I initially thought that these changes might be coming down from government onto churches but I was assured that it was a voluntary thing.

One of the first steps was having sign in sheets for the creche. Sign in sheets make some sense when you are dealing with strangers’ kids and you mightn’t know if there is a custody battle you don’t know of that ends with a parent who is persona non grata picking up a child they’re not supposed to see. But in a church where everyone knows everyone, the parents are not 50m away in the auditorium and we’ve never had a problem? ‘What a waste of time’ I thought but it was someone else’s call and obviously they were happy enough to keep going even with this absurd requirement.

Sadly the situation has escalated to the point where the creche for 1yr and 2yr olds had to be shut down. The sticking point I was told of was the requirement for first aid officers. Apparently, if the church was to run a creche during the service, there needed to be a first-aid qualified person in the room. Not in the building, not in another room, not outside the door – in the room at all times. Even though if there was a problem, you could obtain help from one of dozens of people if you run 2 secs down the corridor, it wasn’t enough so the creche had to be shut down and little kids have to sit in on the service. What serves the needs of both parents and kids living in a community of others is playing second-fiddle to ridiculous rules created to ‘protect the safety of children’.

This trend of micromanaging the lives of children and burdening those who look after them with needless rules is truly lamentable and IMHO our society will pay a high price for it. Thankfully, there are some fighting back against this awful trend.