Tuesday, June 19, 2007

An Ounce of Responsibility for Children

Understandably many schools ban aggressive or threatening touching. This can include gang handshakes and un-welcomed hugs. Kilmer Middle School (outside of Washington DC) has gone so far as to ban ALL physical contact between students. This includes high-fives and sitting with an arm around a friend's shoulder. (Read about it.)

While it might sound ridiculous that a student could get into trouble for minor inoffensive touching, Kilmer Middle School officials want to control the student body with this prohibition. The school cites overcrowding as a major reason for wanting this restriction.

I thought that schools were supposed to be the staging ground for the rest of our lives as citizens. That being the case, it seems outlandish that students should not be able to have any minor, routine, physical contact with each other. How will these students learn to draw the line between commonly accepted physical contact (a handshake, high-five, or perhaps in some instances a kiss on the cheek) and inappropriate contact? How will these students learn to communicate their own physical boundaries if they are never faced with others who are "allowed" to even touch them? How will these students seek comfort for the majority of their time if they're in school but they're unable to ask for a hug from a dear friend?

It is understandable and laudable that a school would endeavor to stop offensive, coercive, or dangerous touching. It is not understandable that a school would prohibit all touching. This prohibition looks more like a school shirking away from its responsibility to teach students more than just the content of textbooks -- why can't this school teach its students about acceptable touching?

If students are supposed to grow up and become productive, healthy, normal citizens, how can they learn to interact with individuals in the "real world" if they are taught that all physical contact is bad?

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