Protecting Us From Ourselves

By: Greg C. Reeson

I recently read several articles from online news sources that reported some schools were banning games at recess because school officials feel that the games are dangerous.

Elementary schools in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Spokane, Washington were reported to have recently banned the popular child’s game “Tag,” while a school in Charleston, South Carolina has apparently decided to drop soccer and touch football, all in the name of safety. The news reports claimed that schools in Wichita, San Jose, Beaverton, and Rancho Santa Fe had taken similar actions in the past.

According to the articles, school officials are concerned about “kids running into one another” and causing injury. Isn’t that what kids do? Don’t they run around at recess and expend energy that has built up from sitting studiously in their classrooms during the day? Do we expect our kids to walk around at recess like robots and engage in cordial conversation as they sit around like vegetables? Kids play; that’s what they do!! Now I’m not saying that they should just run wild with wanton disregard for their playmates, but have we really reached a point where tag, soccer, and touch football need to be banned for safety reasons?

But over zealous safety regulation is not just limited to the games our children play at recess. Recent newspaper articles in USA Today and The News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington report that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is looking at ways to address a growing number of fireworks related injuries during holidays such as Independence Day and New Year’s Eve. Citing an increase in the number of emergency room treatments for fireworks injuries over the past three years, the CPSC expressed concern about “…a disturbing increase in injuries and a decrease in compliance with safety regulations.” So the problem is not just that people need to be protected from fireworks. They need to be protected from themselves as well!

On the military base where I live, certain safety regulations have been imposed for those of us that prefer our motorcycles to our cars. To ride a motorcycle on the base, the rider must wear a helmet, long sleeves, long pants, boots that cover the ankles, gloves, eyewear and a reflective strap or reflective vest. While these measures are designed to protect the rider, they fail miserably at their goal. For instance, if a rider wears a long sleeved t-shirt and jeans, two of the safety requirements have been met. But what if the rider falls? What protection will a long sleeved t-shirt or even jeans offer? Hopefully I won’t find out, but I’d bet that it’s not much.

Whether it’s games at recess, fireworks, or clothing requirements for motorcycles, our society has become overly protective in the name of safety. Personally, I think it’s stupid to ride a motorcycle without a helmet and eye protection and I would never subject myself or my family to that sort of risk. My concern is that over regulation of behavior takes away individual choice and responsibility as authority figures and government officials come up with new ways to run our lives for us, all in the name of protecting us from ourselves.

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