When I was knee high to a grasshopper, it was perfectly normal to spend recess, or even 5 minutes before the teacher came into the room, playing stupid little war games with nothing more than my imagination and whatever vaguely useful objects happened to be in reach–well, when we weren’t chasing each other around the playground, tackling each other, throwing snowballs at each other and just generally doing what, you know, kids’ll do. I mean if you’re 6 years old and bored enough, a cardboard box can just as easily become an airplane as it can a fort, so it could happen that a couple kids decide to have themselves a shootout with nothing more than pencils for guns, and imagination for ammunition. People thought next to nothing about it 20 years ago. And why would they? No one ended up hurt, and when it was actually time to get down to the business of being bored to death for the day, things–eventually–calmed down and the teacher had the class’s mostly full attention. Today, pencilguns are every bit as illegal as their much more dangerous, much more real counterparts, and a kid with a pencil and an imagination is a kid with a suspension from school for such extremely imaginary violence. Because kids today don’t think in terms of cowboys and indians, or cops and robbers, you see.
That, in itself, would be news to me. But trends don’t get to be called trends for staying still and not gradually moving from the stupid to the braindead. So let’s take the imaginary shootout situation, and stick it in a back corner of your mind for 10 seconds. A kid shows up to school with a very much not imaginary knife. He takes to bullying another kid, ends up pulling the knife on him. There’s a third kid, we’ll call him Briar MacLean, with a front row seat to the happening. Now, Briar’s one of these kids who’s parents had the good sense to give a backbone–remember I mentioned that earlier? So rather than do the stupid thing and ignore what’s going on and go about his business, or the expected thing and run away to tap the teacher on the shoulder who was on the other side of the room doing something that was not, in fact, breaking up a situation and beating the crap out of a kid dumb enough to bring a knife to school in the first place, Briar steps in and gets between the two. And for his troubles, he gets himself a nice little slap on the wrist and a don’t do it again. Not, I’m assuming, that he’ll actually listen to the warning considering it wasn’t his first, but that they’ll try, repeatedly, to train kids out of doing things like that should probably be seen as slightly more of a problem than the folks making the decisions seem to want to pay attention to. Telling a kid that putting your foot down is highly inappropriate and that they should instead be running and hiding behind someone else, who’ll be more than happy to put their foot down on that kid’s behalf, ends up creating adults who would much rather tattle to someone else and have them speak up rather than handle a situation on their own. Which, in turn, comes with a whole host of its own issues that the folks behind these zero-tolerence policies don’t seem to have been made very much aware of. And yet, they’re still popular.
Also popular, but not nearly as much yet–they’re trying, I’m sure–is the zero-tolerence policy from the other direction. take, for instance, a school who’s kindergarten class is not allowed any physical contact of any shape or form, at all. Holding hands? Not allowed. Playing tag? Nope. But at least no one’s being threatened with suspension for breaking the policy. that, as it turns out, is left to other schools–who have no problem picking the ball up and carrying it along. Which, as you’d expect, results in a 6-year-old being suspended for kissing a girl on the hand, or a highschool kid being tossed for giving his teacher a hug. All things that come extremely naturally to *most* kids, if they haven’t been given a very good reason not to look for such things before they’ve gotten to school–see also: every kid who’s ever had physical contact used against them. And the school’s saying not unless you want a kick in the ass.
So now, you’ve got kids not allowed to use their imaginations, or stand up for themselves–or anyone, really–or generally do things that any normal human being, be they a kid or otherwise, would do and expect the people they’re around to do. And folks wonder why kids, teens, young adults and the like grow up with some of the issues they do? It’s human nature to touch, and be touched. And I’m not even talking sexually–a pat on the shoulder, a hug, whatever. That’s normal, I always figured. And now you’ve got people in positions of authority telling your kids, if you touch this person, even playing, or even in comfort, you potentially get to sit out the school year–or, at least, a couple days of it. And you have it stuck on your record, as hand-kisser did, that you’ve been called out for sexual harassment. So now, the kid who’s done the deed has it in his mind that it’s inappropriate, even if the other kid is perfectly fine with it. And you’ve got it in the other kid’s mind that it’s not appropriate to want such things to begin with.
And when these kids hit their teens, and start doing all the things teens do that everyone knows teens do and no one knows how to stop, these same people get concerned when little missy so and so decides screw you, he looks cute and I’m damn well gonna sleep with him. Or you’ve got someone putting a hand on someone else’s shoulder, like you do for support and all that, and the touchee turns around and screams sexual harassment (could happen). And this is somehow the fault of either the person doing the touching for expecting things to be just fine, or the person being touched, for flipping out–when in all likelyhood he/she has been taught to do exactly that.
Kids grow up with anxiety issues, social disorders, whatever. They grow up desensitised to things that any normal person would consider, well, normal. Natural, even. And they take it to either one extreme–it’s only sex, it’s not like I want a relationship with him/her–or the other–don’t touch me, don’t hug me, don’t come near me, don’t put yourself anywhere near my personal space–and the natural instinct for these people is to shame the first extreme or slap around the person who unintentionally happened to offend a person sitting on that second extreme. It’s not, say, to maybe take a look at where these ideas would come from, or how a kid could come to the realization that any amount of physical contact, be it intentional or otherwise, is somehow supposed to be offensive to the sensibilities. Instead, people create policies that enforce ideas like that, and then are shocked–shocked, I tell you–to learn that the kids who were most likely to run into that rule are probably now the adults most likely to develop at least a small handful of issues in at least a small handful of the areas those rules hit on. The idea of someone you’ve known for years hugging you is uncomfortable? Probably goes back to something you were trained out of as a child–unless that person happens to be a grade A creeper, but then you probably wouldn’t have known them for years. You have absolutely no idea what to do with a physical, slightly intimate but nowhere near sexual connection? Probably because you’ve had your hand slapped growing up for even daring to entertain such horrid thoughts.
Physical contact is normal. Perfectly so. Hell, they didn’t pull the thing about Italians giving even friends they haven’t seen in a while a kiss on both cheaks out of thin air, you know. People cuddle together for warmth and survival in emergencies, sure, but also because, hell, it’s more comforting than just wrapping yourself up in a blanket to stay warm if you just so happen to have the option. It’s human nature. And when there are no rules, when there are no expectations that people know how to turn that off, where there’s no one playing monitor to make sure all of that stays as far away from the situation as possible, those behaviours are going to show up. It makes no difference who disapproves, or how many school policies come to play and try to shut that off. All those policies do is screw up our kids. And when our kids grow up to be equally screwed up adults who wouldn’t know what to do with a significant connection to another person if you handed them an instruction manual, policies like that–in schools, in workplaces, in society in general–will more than likely be the reason. Not, as it turns out, that it will prevent people who figure they know better from pushing for more and thus proving my point.
We all screw up our kids in our own, unique ways. This is true. But I’ve yet to hear a parent giving their kid hell for hugging his/her sister, or friend, or cousin, whichever until they’ve stopped being upset. I’m actually surprised I’ve not seen anything yet about a school suspending a kid for doing the same–again, with their sister, or a friend, or whoever. But the way things are heading now, I wouldn’t expect it to take all that long for something like it to show up. And that, more than just about anything a parent can legally do, will screw the kids up but good. And all of that, in the name of political correctness. Score one for the good guys. the rest of us, however, will be over here picking up the pieces if you need us.