Imagination Regulation – The New Business of Schools

No More Cops and Robbers Allowed

piratesWhen you were 7 years old, what were you doing? How did you perceive the world? How did you work through the questions, struggles, and ideas of childhood? If you were lucky, you were able to use your imagination and pretend play to sort through all of your emotions.

For one very unlucky 7 year old boy in Loveland imagination play is not allowed – at least not if it involves any kind of imaginary play fighting. That’s right – this boy was suspended for pretending to be a super hero on the playground. Super heroes are only really needed to fight danger, and when this young boy threw an imaginary grenade into a box – not at any person – he found out the hard way that there is no employment opportunity for super heroes on the playground.

The school cites a list of “Absolute” rules which much be followed, including:

  • “No Physical Abuse or Fights – real or “play fighting”
  • “No weapons (real or play)”

The straight A, church attending, athletic, community contributing, and respectful child I was would have never lasted a day of childhood with these types of rules. I found extreme joy in fighting the bad guys – I even remember turning my parents’ living room into a scene from Daniel and the lion’s den, based on the pictures in our family Bible. My friends and I swung through the monkey bars on the playground trying to escape “the robber” who always had a weapon of some kind. I was a Wonder Twin with my brother and we battled to save the world – just like this 7 year old boy was doing.

Studies have repeatedly shown that when children use their imaginations to sort through the ideas, emotions, and issues that they experience, they are healthier.

This young boy wasn’t even using a toy in his pretend play. Some studies suggest that even using toy guns to wage a war against evil is a healthy way for children to express themselves. Penny Holland from the University of North London goes on to say that we need to remind ourselves that there is an infinitely important difference between imaginary play concerning good vs. evil and play that displays aggression and violence toward actual people. She goes on to say that taking a zero tolerance approach, much like these “absolutes” can leave children less motivated and “marginalized” in their development.

My boys read this story with sadness and a bit of disbelief. And they agreed, too, that they would be caught between a rock and a hard place if they were in those boy’s shoes. Sure, the school isn’t say you can’t use your imagination, it’s just saying you have to use your imagination in a preapproved manner. Is it really your own imagination, then? Give up their imagination or learn to live in the box – a choice no child should have to make. Another reason why I am so thankful we have the choice to homeschool.

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One thought on “Imagination Regulation – The New Business of Schools

  1. We have a running joke at our house, “…and THAT is reason 975 why we homeschool”, as we point at some news story or article. I’m what Time4Learning calls an “accidental homeschooler”. I never intended to homeschool, yet every day my child was in public school it seemed like a little death. Her love of learning, her imagination, her creativity, her independence, the sanity of our house, each of those things took a hit as we struggled to make public school work. Finally, I saw no other alternative and we began homeschooling. All I can say is that I join you in your thankfulness that homeschooling is an option for us. Six years later we are still enjoying the homeschooling journey!

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