To the Editor:
I enjoy your paper and read it weekly. I wanted to comment on two articles in the Jan 16-22 edition. Both Michael Lee Pope's article on Revoking Recess stated, “Recess isn’t just playing tag anymore", and Marilyn Campbell's on the Importance of Recess noted,
"Can a game of tag boost preschoolers social skills?" Both mentioned what I think most rational people would consider an integral activity of childhood, namely playing tag.
Your readers may find it interesting to know that in many Arlington elementary schools children are not allowed to play tag. I found that fact astounding when my son, a kindergartener at our school, told me this last year. I can't think of a more cherished childhood pastime that teaches so many life lessons: you can't always win, watch where you are going, if you fall down brush off and get back in the game, etc There has been such an emphasis from the First Lady down on combating childhood obesity that I couldn't imagine anyone would out-law such a stable or early childhood social development that has the added benefit of rigorous exercise without the necessity of any expensive equipment. My wife and I even went as far as to meet with our son's principal to discuss this. We have tremendous respect for his principal as an educator and administrator and greatly appreciate the work she does. She is a principal par excellence whose accomplishments we greatly admire.
However, she confirmed that for various reasons, e.g. injuries, violation of their no-touching policy and (my assumption) over litigious parents that indeed our school has a no tag policy. I've heard other elementary schools in Arlington also enforce this policy but can't confirm if this an APS wide policy. I somewhat understand the safety concerns as our overcrowded school has a tiny play ground which from mid-November to March is 80 percent covered by a tarp to protect the expensive, Bermuda grass (again another policy that doesn't seem to quite fit with our war on childhood obesity...). This leaves little area for the children to run at recess other than blacktop. Unfortunately I feel the general message we are sending is one of fear and over-regulation of a constructive, natural childhood instinct. I'm sure if this policy were revoked that the first day my son would be the first kid to run right into a pole and break his nose. However, I think he'd learn a good lesson and that's sort of the point, isn't it?