Tag, You're a Victim

Santa Monica school has banned the game so as not to endanger kid's self esteem

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: June 29, 2002

Tag, You're a Victim

A Santa Monica Elementary School principal banned the children?s game of tag during lunchtime for several reasons including issues of self-esteem. In a letter sent out to parents, under ?Safety on the Playground,? section, the piece reads: ?The running part of this activity is healthy and encouraged; however, in this game, there is a ?victim? or ?It, which creates a self-esteem issue. The oldest or biggest child usually dominates.?

Hello? The older and bigger kids go to the NFL, NBA. or WNBA. The easily tagged kids with the biggest self-esteem issues become bleeding heart school administrators and members of the ACLU.

The game appears to me a mirror case study in Social Darwinism, a theory that points to the proclivity for the strong to survive. This theory seemed true for many years until the revolution, when everybody suddenly realized that nerds started becoming billionaires. Schoolyard bullies -- renowned tag experts -- become plaintiff attorneys, consumer watchdogs and INS agents.

If I remember the game correctly, the objective is for the person who is ?It? to somehow transfer the ?It? by tagging someone else. The goal of the game is not to be ?It.?

Tag, to me, has always been an important learning process that rewards those best at eluding capture. The skill of being able to maintain one's freedom has always seemed to be good thing for Latinos, especially in the wake of racial profiling by police who oftentimes also think that they are ?it.? The ability to elude capture has served America well by attracting the brightest and most courageous Latinos to the USA from Mexico, Central and South America. For some reason there is no sport in chasing Canadians. They just let them in uncontested so they can host TV game shows.

The new prohibition only applies during lunch, when there are not enough teachers or adult volunteers to supervise, making sure that the game will be safely played. I am fairly confidant that Catholic schools no longer allow priest to referee and or play the game themselves.

Since when did kids need a referee to play tag? Will they install instant replay and have parent conferences arguing over a tag or mis-tag? What about hopscotch umpires, or jump rope judges?

There have been tag-related injuries during the last school year and school officials say that the students hurt aren?t necessarily the ones that are playing, rather innocent bystanders. For this reason flag football is forbidden during peak times as well. I see a parallel here between schoolyard tag games gone bad and police car chases on the local news. There seems to be a morbid curiosity about watching a chase, with some viewers hoping for the good person to win, others for the outlaw to get away.

If tag is banned, then my favorite roughneck game, ball tag, is certainly a school yard taboo. The objective of that game was to throw the ball at someone; being hit eliminates you from the game. The objective is to hit the other person in the most embarrassing spot as hard as possible as to render them a useless and a laughing stock the rest of the school day. However, I went to a broke-down, raggedy urban elementary school, so normal kids may play differently.

In ball tag, there is an intrinsic bias against overweight kids who are bigger, slower and easy targets. That is just the way of the world. There an advantage to the small skinnier kids avoiding getting hit because of their size, speed and, in my case, fear. But speaking as the latter, the ball hurts a lot worse when you don?t have enough padding.

Deborah Stipek, dean of Stanford University?s School of Education, and quite possibly a tether ball champion, is concerned. She said, ?Kid?s need to burn off energy. Tag accomplishes that goal. It also combats the rising tide of childhood obesity. As with almost any game like kick ball or football, it is not the game in and of itself, so much as how the game is played. If it?s played fairly and everyone gets to be 'it' and when kids get tagged they aren?t shoved into a wall, there?s no deep psychological concerns lurking there.?

Tag. Your it.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos Hernandez prefers dodge ball.

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