22/8/2007

The Cost of Safety

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:14 pm

Maybe not an unprecedented rant on my part, but still… the same video study is focussing on students’ use of a ‘balance beam’ to learn about proportional reasoning.

Someone asked the question “But isn’t this stuff pretty intuitive for students? They play on a seesaw1 , so they know that if there’s a heavier kid they need to move in closer and a lighter kid needs to be further out.” And the guy doing the presentation said “Well, they took all the seesaws out of playgrounds about 10 years ago, and these are 12 year olds, so they’ve probably never played on one.”

OK, the seesaw in my primary school was an 8″ by 2″ slab of splintery old wood about 12 feet long, with metal handles in the shape of an upside-down ‘U’ at each end and half a car tyre buried in the ground under each end. And sure, sometimes the kid on the other end would jump off and you’d land hard on your butt. And sometimes a big kid would get on the other end and bounce you. I’m sure some kids got splinters and a few got bruises. But is the loss of learning equivalent to the saving of a few ouchies? I guess it’s possible for someone to break their leg or their neck on one, but it never happened at my school.

I’ll say it again: (a) perfect safety is an illusion and (b) safety isn’t free. We need to think very carefully about what it costs.

  1. Or ‘teeter-totter’ for our Nortamericano friends

2 responses to “The Cost of Safety”

  1. Dawn says:

    Great post, it goes so well with my post of yesterday, titled “It Was An Accident”. You will get a kick out of it and will be familiar with some of them. I didn’t write the on involving one of your family members, the friends finger, the long nail and the scratched eyeball. Things can happen without see saws, or trampolines, or bikes just as easily as they can happen with and for sure, there is an element of education lost in banning such things.

  2. Bravus says:

    Yeah, nice international synchronicity between our posts, for sure. I think we probably share the belief that in many cases bruises are education rather than catastrophic.

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