Are we raising the most coddled generation in American history? If you look at the latest rules to come out of a Long Island area middle school, you wonder if our cultural obsession with safety has entered the realm of psychosis.
How else do you explain a school that would ban footballs, baseballs and basically any kind of item that might encourage vigorous physical activity on campus?
CBS New York reports that Weber Middle School on Long Island has “instituted a ban on footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, or anything that might hurt someone on school grounds.”
What’s next? Are they going to house every student in a giant protective air bubble to prevent all chance of injury throughout the school day?
Back in 2001, Hollywood made a movie called “Bubble Boy” about a young man born with a defective immune system. He had to live his entire life inside a bubble, avoiding all human contact for fear of falling fatally ill. His tightly wound mother did everything she could to keep him from contact with germs, obsessively shielding him from all contact with the outside world. It was an attempt to formulate a comedy around a tragic scenario.
I recall seeing the movie years ago, but I don’t recall it being particularly good. It starred a then relatively unknown Jake Gyllenhaal. It was a box office flop. Nevertheless, it successfully satirized the obsession with safety in modern American parenting–something becoming more evident every day as we read stories like those coming out of Weber middle school.
“Bubble Boy” was actually based on a heartbreaking true story of a Texas boy named David Vetter, who was born with severe immune deficiencies in the early 1970’s. He lived his entire life in a sterile plastic bubble before dying at age 12. Imagine what it would be like to live your entire life a prisoner of your own physical frailty. Never able to run and play outside like other boys, never able to scape up a knee on the baseball field–not really living so much as simply surviving.
Unfortunately, we are now at the point where perfectly healthy kids are being relegated to virtual “bubbles” by misguided parents and educators. A generation’s worth of lawsuit happy trial lawyers, and overbearing public safety bureaucrats have done their share also.
A parent’s urge to protect his or her child is natural. But being overprotective is a risk all its own. It means that children grow up unprepared to face the realities of what is at times a harsh and dangerous world. Legions of so-called “helicopter parents,” are doing their best to shield their kids from danger. But if they are raising wimps, who value security above all else, then what kind of nation will America become?
There’s a gender issue at the root of this story. Bans on rigorous physical play have a disproportionately negative effect on boys. While it can’t be good for young girls either, I fear that this trend toward safety obsession is also part of the overall feminization of our culture, where boys are told over and over that their natural bent toward rough play and risky physical activity is wrong and intolerable.
Sit still. Be quiet. Be careful.
I mean, you can’t even throw a baseball now without someone telling you it’s too dangerous anymore? If it’s wrong to throw a ball, that’s like saying it’s wrong to be a boy.
Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.
(Image Sources: Soccer field by Derek_Jensen/wikimedia commons. “Bubble Boy” screenshot from Touchstone Pictures)