Kids face dangers every day. They may not be as insidious and perverse as people tend to believe, but they’re there: inattentive drivers, for instance, or nighttime refrigerator monsters just waiting for a delicious child to get up in the middle of the night and get a glass of water in the pitch dark. Of all the things that threaten kids, though, it’s hard to make the case that whistles are one of them. You know, whistles? Those little metal or plastic things you blow into and a shrieky noise comes out? Those.
Yet that’s exactly the conclusion one school in the U.K. has come to, apparently, since teachers are no longer allowed to call in their students from recess using these veritable torture devices.
The whistles have been banned at St. Monica’s Catholic Primary School in Milton Keynes, where teachers are now expected to get kids’ attention by raising their hands in the air. The school serves students between 3 and 11 years old, which, in case it’s been a while since you were that age or had a child that was, is prime “ignoring the hell out of teachers on purpose” age. It’s also prime screaming age, and it seems like this move could pretty easily result in nothing but headaches for teachers who are stuck silently and frustratedly stabbing their hands heavenward at a bunch of kids who won’t notice them, maybe by design.
The shrill little child torture devices have been banned because the school fears that the “aggressive” noise of the whistle will scare children. And hey, they might. But some kids are afraid of the sound of toilets flushing, so you can’t protect them from everything, OK?
Whistles have been used to corral bunches of loud, rambunctious kids for a long time because those bad boys work. They are literally Pavlovian devices, ingraining the urge to salivate in dogs and to stop whatever you’re doing in humans, which is why they continue to be used in things like sports ball games and wacky police chases.
Schools continue to swing the banhammer at things like whistles and tag and staring all because there’s a concern that borders on paranoia for kids’ well-being, but there comes a time when we have to admit that it’s all going too far. Schools are social agencies as much as they are educational ones, and learning what it’s like to be left out or a little uncomfortable or annoyed by a whistle and then how to deal with those unpleasant feelings is another important aspect of learning. Should stern glances and the bells that signal a class change go next?
At the end of the day, as tempted as we all are to write off these kinds of blanket bans on ridiculous items and activities as “wow, schools have lost it, amirite?” parents have to take some responsibility too. We’re the ones who started treating kids with kid gloves, and once we finally take those off, schools will probably follow suit, since the threat of a parent charging into a principal’s office on a crusade about the dangers of hopscotch and midmorning snack will have been eliminated.
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