Cartwheels soon to be extinct

Handstands, cartwheels and somersaults blacklisted.
Handstands, cartwheels and somersaults blacklisted. 

This week, Drummoyne Public School has banned three of the last remaining ways to have actual fun in the playground. Handstands, cartwheels and somersaults have all been blacklisted except under the supervision of a gym teacher. At this stage, rolling down hills and whizzy dizzies seem to have come out unscathed, though it is only Thursday.

The move to ban outdoor activities that children actually enjoy comes off the back of Black Rock Primary School’s decision to ban all ball use, presumably because some kids choose to use their faces to catch them and hence have nasty bruises. According to the rules set in place by that school, “many children get hurt from balls.”

Evidently, hospitals are overflowing with children who have come a cropper because of balls, cartwheels, somersaults, handstands, speaking too loudly, drawing with crayons and carrying their school bags. Whilst it is possible that these injuries are the result of bodies weakened by too many computer games, it seems more likely that the new rules are a reaction to litigation gone mad.

In the past twelve months, Australian schools have been sued for an eye bruised playing tennis, burns resulting from fainting into a campfire and, of course, the crowd favourite: not getting into law school. With compensation amounts tallying more than $7.5million over 3 years, we might forgive schools for treading carefully, but it is at our children’s expense.

What it boils down to is our lack of faith: faith that our kids will make good decisions without us, and faith that as adults we will see reason.

We are the last generation of people to play in the street and eat ants from the sandpit, but as adults we are generally fearful and quick to paranoia.

We are the last generation of people to play in the street and eat ants from the sandpit, but as adults we are generally fearful and quick to paranoia. The media tells us there are dangers lurking around every corner, but instead of teaching our younglings how to deal with them, we remove them. As a society, we give them little reason to learn any survival techniques at all (buying things on the internet with mum’s credit card is not a survival technique!).

I am loathe to think about what our mollycoddled sons and daughters will be like as grown-ups. Offices will be lined with soft landing pads; everyone will drink lukewarm coffee from plastic mugs. Supermarket trolleys will have bumper bars and reversing signals. It will be like The Jetsons, but without Astro because by then everyone will be allergic to him.

We can pin down the exact moment at which childhood jumped the shark: baa baa rainbow sheep. This turned out to be something of an urban myth (or at least a misdirection) but it said a whole lot about the state of play in our schools at the time. Miscommunication. Misunderstanding. Fear. Reluctance. Litigation. Anger. Confusion. At some point during this time, we decided it was more useful to decide what we should teach our children not to do, instead of encouraging them to explore and make the world their own.

Thankfully, cartwheel fans may get some relief from Belmont Primary School principal Mark Arkinstall, who today said: “… you’d never get out of bed if you took that attitude.” His students will continue to go head over heels for playtime, and he’s determined to keep it that way. Perhaps we, the parents, can give our own children’s schools reason to do the same.

What do you think? Have schools gone too far? Leave your comment below or discuss on the Essential Kids Forum.