Monday, 5 October 2009

Adventure kindergartens [update 2]

Safety-obsessed New Zealand may not be ready for rugged no-nonsense “adventure kindergartens” – described in yesterday’s rag as “a radical preschool movement that advocates toughening up the little darlings with a back-to-nature approach, including turfing them outdoors in all but extreme weather.”  Story here: A really wild way to grow kids.

But the guy in the story who says New Zealand “may not be ready for it” teaches in Aro Valley, Wellington, so his opinion can be safely discarded. New Zealanders of the old school should embrace this, if they can beat back the bureaucratic bastards who will undoubtedly try to stop it.

There’s nothing “radical” about taking kids out of cotton wool and letting them see the world as it is. About letting them learn about taking risks, and to take responsibility for their own choices. That’s simply how the world, or at least New Zealand, used to be – and should be again.

It’s not all that a good education should be, but it should certainly be part of what a good one looks like.

UPDATE: Sean Fitzpatrick says:

    “To me the interesting issue is not the proposal in itself – it is the idea that such a measure is seen as somehow ‘novel’.
    “To anyone born before the mid-seventies, a childhood full of falling over on concrete covered school-yards, getting stuck up trees or trying to fetch one’s soccer ball from a gorse bush was all par for the course.  It provided us with life experiences, choices to be made and consequences to be handled.  It prepared us all for life.”

Dead right. To paraphrase that much quoted line, the end result of banning risk is to fill the world with molly-coddled fools.

UPDATE 2: Opinionated Mummy has further thoughts:

“We are now so used to thinking in terms of preparing for the very worst and the least likely scenarios, that that we do not realise how overbearing and ridiculous our safety measures have become. We are so concerned about safety that we forget what we are giving up for our children: freedom, resourcefulness, learning the value of hindsight and using common sense, or believing that common sense has any value at all.”

Exactly.  We substitute the possibility of physical damage with the certainty of mental and spiritual damage – and since children grow up unable to properly assess risk for themselves, the strong possibility of physical damage at some unspecified time in the future. Read Risk paranoia for more.


  1. Well said. Too many people - even grandparents - are now so concerned about safety that they have forgotten what it is they are giving up for their children: freedom, resourcefulness, and using common sense. Or even believing that common sense has any value at all and instead deferring to state regulation/intervention to protect their children, which by it's veyr nature will default to the no-danger maxim. When, in fact, the best education a child could ever get is learning what their limitations and strengths are, and having the confidence to build on the limitations - something which children are hard wired to do on their own if left to their own devices.

    I suspect, though, that this will be regarded as a radical idea by many. From personal experience, even taking a child with bruises on their face to the supermarket draws interfering safety nazis to the trolley. It rarely occurs to people that bruises do not always denote child abuse, or that letting a child fall off his bike is not be irresponsible parenting. Instead, the parent is publicly demonised.

    I suspect this will require a shift in thinking that will be hard to effect! But if it can happen, it's for the better. And to cover all bases, perhaps it could be a marketable point of difference for schools etc. I believe there is a private boy's high school in Hawke's Bay (or Auckland? Can't recall) that is marketing itself in this very way.

  2. KG was much more succinct. May I use steal your blog inspiration, PC?

  3. Sean Fitzpatrick5 Oct 2009, 11:44:00

    I agree PC - just commented on this at my blog as well.

    To be fair to the Aro Valley bloke though as I read the article it sounds like he likes the idea but was trumped in the past by his superiors.... you know the type who have management jobs in education but have never actually had to deal with children; just sort of read about them in a book once.

  4. "May I use your blog inspiration, PC?"

    Yes, of course. My pleasure. :-)

  5. How about letting kids (7 or over) play on their own unsupervised at Albert Park, while their guardian is at the Uni main library? The kids know which floor in the library where the guardian is at, so they can get hold of him/her if they need something urgently?

    The answer is clear cut, which is yes, let them be, but I was disappointed that you didn't see it that way some weeks/months ago, which you should spell it out clearly to the intended person that kids SHOULD be playing on their OWN at Albert Park during daylight (ie, lunchtime) with no fear at all from potential (or imaginary) paedophile. I think that you would say NO, ie, kids shouldn't be playing on their own at Albert Park, which is in direct contrast to your (pro) views on this blog post.

  6. FF

    Too many university types around Albert Park I'm afraid. Lots of molesters there. Better for children to play in the Orakei Domain or somewhere like that.



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