Rex Murphy weighs in on the idea of banning hard balls from the schoolyard.

Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode

The Ball Ban

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Would you support a ban on having balls in Toronto schools? Considering the administration of some of these schools I'm hardly convinced a ban is necessary.

This past week, for example, a person accidentally got hit by a rubber ball and the immediate result was a ban on all games that use these dangerous balls in that school - games that have been around this earth since feet could kick, and balls could roll, and children play.

But what a great piece of wisdom this ban is. Imagine earlier days, the horror of growing up in barbarous times when balls were kicked and kids kicked them - in some cases chased them on grassy meadows, batted balls, caught them, bounced and threw them.

How did the pioneer generations cope with the terrors of tennis and ping-pong, the carnage of badminton and football, baseball and soccer? I'll tell you - they lived short happy lives and went to their graves with all sorts of bumps and bruises, cut lips and dented shins, wobbly teeth and shaky knees. It was not a tidy picture in some of the early funeral homes.

But we're enlightened now, especially in Toronto, which is a kind of Shangri-La for "nanny staters" (they tax grocery bags up here - it saves the planet you know). Now for the sake of some parental noggin' getting hit by a stray soccer ball Toronto will ban, prohibit and stay any form of childhood amusement whatsoever that involves motion, co-ordination, anything spherical, elastic and inflated and most emphatically fun!

One year the Toronto School Board ripped up a mountain of playground equipment for fear someone might slide down a slide the wrong way. It's one thing to protect children; it's another to wrap them in regulatory gauze and smother them in utterly risk-free activities; to so "protect" them that they never see life, in any of the random, sometimes even hurtful, manifestations it has. The world is not friction-free and it never will be.

But "consider the children" is I'd guess just a cover for - another cover - in other words the school is protecting its well-padded and utterly shielded bureaucratic backside from any potential backlash, or useless lawsuit, by proscribing against all play activities the children actually like, to protect it (the school) from any legal hassles. Pity. A bit of mild daring might also be a useful example to set the children.

But, if you're going to ban their games, chances are that showing them a little daring is not on the curriculum either. As another sage has pointed out we're only truly safe when we can't do anything at all, and that comforting state usually comes underground and with a tombstone.

For The National, I'm Rex Murphy.