Ask any politician why kids today are in trouble, and he or she will spout off a list of reasons: violence and sex on TV, pornographic Websites, engrossing video games, a lack of parental supervision, poor education, disruptive clothing, loud music, easy access to drugs, tobacco and alcohol, etc.
Many of these things are negatively affecting children, causing them to behave poorly and grow up to be maladjusted adults. Others are used as an excuse for parents who don't have the time or money to raise their kids, and a society that's incapable of handling the leftover responsibility of doing so.
Instead of improving schools, promoting educational and artistic ventures in the media and sponsoring community activities for kids, politicians seek a quick solution. This week, it's political correctness.
The BBC recently reported that the U.K. government had fallen prey to the lure of being too PC. The government created a committee which conducted a survey, then hired an author to write a booklet.
The topic? Musical chairs.
Remember that game from your childhood? A group of kids walk around a line of chairs while music plays in the background. When the music stops, each child sits in the nearest chair. The child left without a chair loses and the game continues, removing one chair each turn.
Sue Finch, the author of the "Towards a Nonviolent Society" booklet, says the game of musical chairs is too violent and should be banned from all nursery schools.
Banned. But why?
Finch says children should be taught to cooperate, and musical chairs only teaches children about competition and violence.
Now I'm all for creating a less violent society. But does that mean we should prohibit such simple games from children's lives? Where would such banishment stop?
Let's find out. Here's what happens to games when you look at them from a PC standpoint:
* Hide-n-Seek: Teaches children to sneak around.
* Cops and Robbers: Encourages criminal behavior. Idealizes the use of guns and violence. Promotes an Us and Them mentality.
* Pin the Tail on the Donkey: Urges cruelty to animals.
* Monopoly: Enforces the "greed is good" mentality.
* Hot Potato: Promotes an avoidance of responsibility.
* Barbie: Leads to bulimia, anorexia, the belief that women should be judged by their looks and the image of the ideal woman is a sex object who should only be interested in the latest fashions, a hunky blond lifeguard and a pink Corvette.
* Miss Mary Mack: Hints at profanity.
* Telephone: Promotes gossip.
* Ring Around the Rosie: Regardless of whether the lyrics refer to the victims of concentration camps or volcanic eruptions, this game teaches children to think lightly of death.
* Cowboys and Indians: Shows Native-Americans as an inferior race that should be eliminated. Promotes an Us and Them mentality.
* Duck, Duck, Goose: Supports conformity (being chosen as a duck), but picks on the individual (goose)
* Team sports: Teaches competition and winning at all costs, and enforces a caste system of haves and have nots.
* Individual sports: Doesn't teach team spirit.
* Blind Man's Bluff: Mocks the visually impaired.
* G.I. Joe or toy soldiers: Sure to induce feelings of violence and machismo.
* Old Maid: Discriminates against single women.
In the battle between political correctness and childhood, every game is bound to be inappropriate for some reason.
Instead of spending the money on a study of musical chairs, the British government might have promoted the positive elements of games. It could have hired Ms. Finch to visit various nursery schools to learn which games appeal to children, and teach valuable lessons. Then she could have written a booklet to suggest these games, rather than urge the banning of others.
What the PC police forget is what it's like to be a kid. Kids are born without prejudice, without hatred and usually without violent tendencies. They see games as enjoyable activities, rather than behavior modification exercises.
Yes, games can also teach children how to count, how to win, how to become good losers and how to play fair. But that's not why kids play them. In truth, kids just want to have fun. If we take away everything they do for fun, what's left? A PC world of bored children constantly affected by all the problems listed at the beginning of this column.
Kids enjoy such a brief time in life, where their only purpose is to go to school and to play. Let's give them the chance to do both without all the restriction of political correctness.