PC silliness puts the squeeze on common sense
This just in from the Has The World Gone Mad files: in Western Australia last Thursday, it emerged that a 12-year old girl had been given detention from a state primary school because she breached the ban on hugging fellow students.
The report read as follows.
“Amber Rove was punished at the Adam Road Primary School in Bunbury, south of Perth, for giving her friend a quick hug after the school bell rang. That violated the school’s no-hugging policy, a blanket rule which was brought in last year.
The WA Education Department confirmed the school’s policy. It was introduced after “excessive hugging” left some students with bruises and others feeling left out.”
It is hard to think of a sillier rule, nor one which so depressingly synthesises some of the key trends of the age when it comes to our treatment of kids. It has elements of cotton-wool molly-coddling, in that it’s an absurd over-reaction to low-level rough-house conduct where some of the kids have been giving each other boisterous bear hugs. It also suggests a degree of squeamish political correctness about the appropriateness of kids giving each other an innocent hug, creating an atmosphere of paranoia about sexualised conduct, which has the effect of confusing kids who are just being affectionate and kind to one another.
Sadly, this Western Australian school is alone in introducing such a rule. A couple of years ago the Largs Bay primary school near Port Adelaide banned year six and seven students from taking part in what it called “mixed-sex consensual hugging”, which is such an awkward jargon-laden description that it makes something innocent sound strangely explicit. Some of the parents contacted the media over the ban, which was apparently introduced after what was amusingly described as an “outbreak” of hugging when students were reunited after the two week school holidays. The hugging equivalent of the Ebola virus.
There was similar foolishness at Mt Martha Primary School in Victoria earlier this year when a ban was introduced not just on kids hugging but also high-fiving and even playing tag. In NSW, a school in my old suburb of Drummoyne banned hand-stands, somersaults and cartwheels, prompting heroic local mum Rebecca Chown to collect more than 250 signatures for a petition politely asking for the restoration of common sense.
The problem with all of these blanket bans is that they not only make mountains out of molehills, they also end up confusing kids about the appropriateness of perfectly normal behaviour, be it running around and getting the odd scratch on their knee, or putting their arm around their bestie. Surely the aforementioned schools would be best off taking action against individual students who are too rough, or senior primary kids who are genuinely overdoing it in the hugging department, rather than bringing in these ham-fisted PC rules which turn normal human behaviour into something undesirable.
I am certainly not having a crack at the individual teachers, and can even see how some principals end up feeling so paranoid about their duty of care, or so obliged to act on a complaint from an overly-protective or paranoid parent, that the end result is this kind of heavy-handed schoolyard regulation. For teachers their own conduct can often be misinterpreted and misconstrued. A mate of mine who is a teacher told me that he was politely admonished by a colleague for calling a young girl in his class “sweetheart” when she was upset about something and he was trying to cheer her up. It does seem overly paranoid, and suggests that teachers probably feel they should err on the side of caution by dramatically limiting their affection, even if a kid is sad and crying out for a friendly arm on their shoulder.
The paranoia goes beyond the teaching community and involves the parents themselves. A good workmate of mine had her girls’ sports day the other day, as did mine, and we were talking in the office about how her school had advised the parents that they were not allowed to walk around the oval taking photos of their children if they were in groups, but were to take them aside for individual shots. Pretty soon all the mums and dads in the office were rabbiting on with their own stories of how they really wanted to video their kids at their first swimming class, or similar, but felt like it was too dicey and didn’t do it.
This is a strangely paranoid age and is best summed up by the mother of young Amber Rove in Perth. The very level-headed mother of three Heidi Rome said she had no general complaints against the school, which she describes as excellent, and says that her daughter Amber is a bright young kid who is doing well academically and has a nice little circle of friends. These facts have left her all the more baffled by the rule, and her daughter’s punishment.
“Schools should be a comforting place for kids and be all warm and fuzzy,” Ms Rome said. “Hugging is a development thing and a social skill.”
“Why not teach children appropriate behaviour instead of banning hugs altogether? What is that teaching the children - that hugs are inappropriate and wrong?”
“It’s a really good school that’s just got a silly rule that I want to try and change.”
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…