Kids get a pretty bad rap these days as spectacular little snowflakes who can’t handle any real adversity. And when schools ban things that sound pretty silly, we’re bound to see that as proof positive that the next generation will grow up to be barely sentient, hyper-fragile porcelain dolls.
When people hear that an Australian school recently banned clapping, they’re bound to add this to their pile of proof that kids these days are the worst. But honestly, maybe we’re all a little too quick to judge.
The school in question has started having kids do a “silent cheer” or punch the air as a show of approval when they come together as a group. Partly, the all-girls school told the community, because it reduces fidgeting. There’s another reason, however, for the change, and that’s that the new quiet applause will “respect members of [the] school community who are sensitive to noise.”
Sensitive to noise? Who on Earth isn’t, right? Who is so sensitive that kids are being robbed of their fundamental right to clap their little hands together? Outrage! Well, here’s a short list of people who may be so sensitive to noise that the applause of a few hundred kids might suck especially for them: kids on the autism spectrum, children with fibromyalgia, kids with synesthesia, people with schizophrenia and a person with PTSD. There are more, of course, but sensory processing disorders are part and parcel of the lives of people handling the challenges that come with it.
Is it possible that the school banned clapping as a misguided attempt to become a kinder, gentler place or to make a relentless sprint toward being the most politically correct ever? Maybe. But also, maybe not. We’ll probably never know, because it’s not really any of our damn business.
If there are kids or even adults in the community that have difficulty or go into sensory overload when the clapping starts up, it would be vastly irresponsible for the school to say that. Can you imagine that email? “Well, since someone in Mrs. Johnson’s class has autism, none of us gets to clap at assembly. Thanks a lot, Jessica.”
That would be beyond crappy. Equally crappy would be to have that person sit out every single event where their particular special needs would have them on edge or in full-blown coping mode. A lot of countries and states don’t consider exclusion like that crappy; they consider it illegal. So a compromise is struck. It gets a little quieter, and everyone can participate.
Schools make decisions that are supposed to be in the best interest of their community. All the people in their community. Sometimes they’re successful, and sometimes they aren’t. But there are situations that we’re not going to be able to make sense of without knowing all the facts, and other situations where the privacy of a child will circumvent your need to feel like kids are sucky human beings who are ruining everything with their Snowflake Syndrome.
Maybe some of these bans and policies are worthy of applause, even if you have to do it quietly.