Art Class is Considered a “Medium Danger” in School. (Gee, Not HIGH RISK?)

Hi Readers — Remember the Military-Industrial Complex? You should, because it’s still around. But now it’s time to consider a new one: the Hysteria-Bureaucracy Complex, whereby any and every potential danger triggers hysteria and bureaucratic intervention, especially when that “danger” has to do with children. To illustrate this, allow me to introduce an article from the Courier Mail in Australia. (Australia SEEMS like it would be the land of cocky kids wrestling crocodiles in the classroom. It’s not.)

The article says that schools down under are now required to conduct a safety assessment of all potentially dangerous activities. But as there are so few truly dangerous activities at school (unless you’re at Hogwarts), the bureaucrats seem to have cast around for incredibly safe activities they could pretend to consider dangerous and Bingo! (Or perhaps Dingo!): They found 134. These activities include tag (called “tiggy” in Oz), and ice skating and…art.

“Teachers are told the use of toxic material in painting and drawing activities, including glues, pigments and solvents, require them to document controls or complete a curriculum activity risk assessment…

’Consider obtaining parental permission,’ teachers are told.

Parental permission for ART CLASS? Maybe teachers should obtain permission for letting kids use dangerously sharp implements, too — like pencils! Piercing projectiles that just happen to aid in writing: Why do they get a free pass?

And how about the risk posed by notebook paper? Do no one realize how easily a paper cut can get infected and how easily an infection can lead to amputation? And let’s not even talk about those pink erasers. How do you erase CHOKING HAZARD?  You can’t!

It’s not like a totally safe classroom is so hard to create. Kids could just come in, sit on the floor (so they don’t fall off their chairs), listen to their teacher (who should probably wear a mask, so she doesn’t spread germs) and record their lessons on a slab of wet organic clay (thus avoiding toxic inks and such).

When it’s time for gym they can roll around on the ground for exercise, so no one trips. As for recess, they can slither outside (a belly to the ground prevents running, which prevents falling) and take turns on the jungle gym: one at a time, with an adult holding them by the middle. (And another adult making sure the first adult isn’t molesting them. And a third adult making sure the first two aren’t in cohoots.)

Of course, if it’s raining the students should stay inside. Duh!  And if it’s sunny, you’d want them to avoid the threat of skin cancer. And if it’s cold, there’s hypothermia. Heat: Hyperthermia. But they can always go out if it’s 66-75 degrees and overcast, so what’s the big deal?

After school they can even stay for enrichment classes, like music. They just can’t play the violin. (Who needs a bow in the eye?) And of course piano’s a no-go: They could get locked inside, if it’s a grand. And uprights tip over.

For more active kids, there’s statue soccer: It’s just like regular soccer, except instead of running, you don’t.

By the time kids get to high school they should be soft, sweet blobs of absolute safety, the human equivalent of marshmallows. Which reminds me: If your kid wants to toast one of those, the Canadian Girl Guides consider this a somewhat risky activity and ask troop leaders to submit an activity plan, including the list of participants and supervisors with the appropriate child-adult ratio, as well as an emergency response plan, two weeks in advance.

And I wish that was part of my snarky, made-up list of precautions, but it’s not. Those are the real rules, according to a Facebook comment on made about the S’More Safety post a few days ago.

Welcome to the Hysteria-Bureaucracy complex! – L

Those poor, endangered kids!


56 Responses to Art Class is Considered a “Medium Danger” in School. (Gee, Not HIGH RISK?)

  1. Warren November 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the top priority for all schools should be student safety, which is why CARA guidelines existed.

    That is funny. I would have thought that the top priority would be education, in a school system.

  2. mollie November 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    My recollection of metal shop makes art class look like a soft-padded cell.

  3. Dave November 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    I was going to try to write something profound but this situation is to stupid to even respond to. Art class really? Are we afraid children will eat the paint. I don’t want the school to protect children from art supplies I want then to teach the children how to responsibly use them. If the teach needs permission from parents I question their ability to teach. I assume that an art teacher knows how to use art materials and can teach my child to use them. Teach safety don’t remove all possible danger.

  4. Maggie November 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Love this! But you mixed up hypothermia and hyperthermia. Hypothermia is low body temp, therefore a risk in the cold weather, and vice-versa.

  5. Warren November 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    These are supposed to be education professionals, with some form of higher education themselves, right?

    I am wondering if those in position to make these rules and judgements are the first major wave of adults, that were raised by overprotective helicopter parents?

    If this is just the start, we are in serious trouble.

  6. Sarah in WA November 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    Are there similar regulations for chemistry class? I seem to remember kids purposely mixing things they knew they shouldn’t when I was in high school, and yet we all survived. What about wood shop? Kids have access to, like, actual power tools and stuff!

    High school art class for me involved all kinds of paint and tools, and I didn’t think a thing of it. Sure, some people screwed around, but I never felt my safety was threatened.

    Besides, how can we expect graduates (that is, young adults) to go out and get jobs and be safe in their workplaces if they’ve never even so much as been around a pair of scissors? 😛

  7. Jim Collins November 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    In third grade Art Class (1973) we scoured copper discs with steel wool and then glued powdered glass on them. When they dried we put them into a small kiln at about 2100 degrees F to melt the glass. We put them in, not the teacher. We were supervised, but we did it our selves. We would pull them out with tongs and then take a steel pick and swirl the glass around to get the design we wanted and then put them back into the kiln until the glass flattened out.

    I shouldn’t even mention fourth grade, where some of us used to go in early (walking) to play with the Electrical Science Kit, where we could catch paper on fire with a 6 volt battery and some Ni-chrome wire. If that happened just toss it in the steel trash can until it went out.

    I wonder how they would treat soldering in Metal Shop?

  8. Jenna November 21, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Gee, I remember carving, with an actual knife, a sculpture out of a chunk of ivory soap when I was in about 2nd grade. I can’t believe they let me wield a knife when I was only the ripe old age of seven!

  9. maggie November 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Lenore! Think woman! Slithering outside on your belly could cause carpet burn or splinters, depending on the floor type. They must mandate cork floors!

  10. Kimberly November 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    When I worked for the Children’s Art Museum, a coworker from the Fine Arts Museum freaked out of me because some paint was labeled Cadmium Blue. I had to point out that it was kids paint with the AP symbol, not actual Cadmium Blue which is poisonous.

    There are certain advanced arts that use potentially dangerous materials, and teachers should be highly trained. Just like a shop teacher needs to be highly trained.

    I worked for a museum that specialized in Ceramics. They had a ceramics studio on site, complete with a hood like you find in a chem lab for mixing glazes. We had kids take classes. Their parents were informed that there were dangerous chemicals in the studio and students of all ages were required to follow safety procedures.

    We even had upper elementary to HS aged students participate in making Raku Ceramics. You take red hot work with molten glaze and put it in a fire pit with combustible materials. That catches fire. The resulting finish has fantastic colors. (Yes we often had s’mores, hot coco, and hot cider at these events).

    The only problem I know of was when a student complained about an instructor kicking another student (me) out of the area where you mixed glazes. The instructor did just say “Kimberly I don’t want you in here”, and didn’t explain to the other students why.

    The reason was he was present when I had a violent allergic reaction while the floors were being sanded and stained in another part of the museum. I also was excused from helping paint walls after exhibits, because of a history of reactions to latex paint (I took care of other jobs while the galleries were being painted) He had meant to talk to me before, but got caught up other details and forgot.

  11. Eliza November 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Unfortunatly the people who make these decisions, such as education ministers, do not necessarily have a background in education and have no experience in the classroom since they left school. Luckily this is not is required in my state in Australia, although we need to proof that toxic material are not in easy reach of children. As a teacher of 5 year old kids these bureacrates will be amazed that my students can pour their own paint and glue into paint trays. Can use sharp sissors and then pack up and clean everything and wipe down tables without getting too dirty and without hurting themselves.

  12. Chris November 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    Sorry, this is another Free Range Kids sarcasm overload. The wording of the four(!) lines of text you quote indicates that some art projects can use toxic chemicals. This is true, and they should be avoided as there are alternatives available. If that is not possible, parents should know their child is working with hazardous materials. If a school is going to teach oil painting for example, there are common solvents that are not safe for anyone of any age. Glues – there are epoxy resins that can damage your lungs for life if uses improperly. Silica dust can kill you. There are rigorous material data safety sheets required for university art buildings and public art facilities for this purpose because the risk is not a joke.

    So you can mock about kids being saved from water color paint and Elmer’s glue but I think you are writing from a place of ignorance here. Be careful to not react to the perception of over protection, just as people shouldn’t over react to the perception of danger.

  13. Bose in St Peter MN November 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    “Hysteria-Bureaucracy complex”

    great phrase, Lenore… please keep pushing it and developing it.

  14. Earth.W November 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    I think all Australian schools use only toxic free paints and yes, Australian schools have lost the plot with no running, no tag, no going outside the classroom when it’s raining, etc but they are now encouraged to dob in to the teacher their classmates no matter how small and silly the rule break is. How silly is that?

    Not helped with parents regularly inspecting the school grounds desperately searching for any ‘danger’ that could harm their precious little munchkin.

    In the State of New South Wales(NSW), a teacher is not allowed to touch a child. If a child falls over and breaks a bone or knocks out a tooth, just holding the injured child’s hand to offer comfort is a child sex crime. Just how perverted is this society to view the offering of comfort an injured child as the sneaky way into for molestation? And yes, I’ve had people tell me that they might molest the child.

    Lucky for me, I keep my hair short stopping me from pulling out my hair from all this idiocy.

  15. Earth.W November 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    The kids can no longer run around during recess and lunch to let off all that built up energy and the teachers complain about children who won’t settle in class. Go figure!

  16. Earth.W November 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Reply to, Sarah in WA; I am of the belief that many Australian high schools only teach theory in science now. Any experiments are performed only by the teacher, not the students. Don’t know how many schools are like that.

  17. Earth.W November 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Queensland’s Minister for Education is a Dentist.

  18. Emily November 21, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    @Lenore–It’s called Girl Guides in Canada (and pretty much everywhere except in the States, but yeah, you got everything else right. There’s a “colour” system for risks–green is “safe,” yellow is “moderate risk,” and red is “most risky.” Roasting marshmallows is considered to be a “yellow” level activity.

    @Earth W.–Really? I briefly majored in Education in Australia, and although I was studying to be a music teacher rather than a science teacher, I thought the kids did experiments in science class. In any case, when I took science in high school myself (compulsory for the first two years), lab experiments were the best part.

  19. Earth.W November 21, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    @Emily – Came from some article I read highly criticising how science has become to be taught where there are schools that have banned all practical science experiments for safety. That would have sucked for me as I don’t learn well from theory. I need to do physically do it.

  20. Emily November 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    @Earth W.–When I was in Australia, some of the science majors used a computer app online that simulated lab experiments, but that was more for convenience than for safety. I had a friend who majored in physics, so I know from her that the labs were DEFINITELY open for doing “real” experiments.

  21. Emily November 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    P.S., My friend who majored in physics was in university, not high school, but she didn’t mention anything about not doing practical experiments in high school, so I assume she did.

  22. mysticeye November 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    There’s common sense when it comes to potential dangers, and then there’s absurdity. I have a friend that’s teacher in the US and they’re required to have on hand the MSDS sheet for any chemical brought into the school. This includes the dishwashing soap the teachers bring it to wash their own dishes in the staff room.

    Sure, if you’re going to have solvents in art class then everyone needs to know how to use them. But more than likely the instructions and warnings on the label are sufficient. If you’re doing a risk assessment on tempra paint and elmer’s glue then you’ve lost the plot.

  23. Holly November 21, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    I honestly think a lot of the safety hysteria is courtesy of the American media. We’re able to access all our American TV shows and American News through TV alone, not to mention the internet. Sadly, Australians are falling victim to the American mind-set of worst-first thinking as perpetuated by Media outlets.

  24. Eliza November 21, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    @EarthW you would be happy to know that in South Australia running and active play is not only allowed, but encouraged. As for high school science, i can only go by what my brother tells me (he is a science teacher). His school conducts experiments. The school my daughter will attend allowed her to do asimple experiment in their new labs on her transition visit. As for parents most of them are very sensible about risks at school. During my 10 years of teaching ive only dealt with very small amount of over bearing, protective parent.

  25. Warren November 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm #


    Really? You would consider art class a med. risk?
    Dude, get a grip. Just because there is a MSDS on a material, doesn’t mean it is hazzardous, or deadly. I have seen MSDS sheets on distilled water. The use of the MSDS system has become like an overprotective parent. Hell if someone ingested something at work, it would take a novice an hour to flip through the thousands of pages, to find out what to do.
    Hell I just received my tire mounting compound. It is linseed oil soap, and they sent a MSDS with it. For soap.

  26. Emily November 21, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    I just realized that I forgot to mention my own “dangerous” school experiences. In case it matters, I was in the public school system from September of 1989 (kindergarten) through June of 2003 (OAC; which stands for Ontario Academic Credit, which is a year of high school after grade twelve intended as university preparation). Anyway, here goes:

    -Played on the rickety wooden climber in the classroom in kindergarten.

    -Made PBJ’s in class and took them on a picnic in the park (also in kindergarten).

    -Went ice skating and swimming with my class once a week for a few weeks, every year from grades K-8.

    -Slid down natural and man-made snow hills, on crazy carpets, or just on my stomach. Had the wind knocked out of me a few times, but kept on sliding (various years).

    -Ran and slid on patches of ice on the pavement (various years).

    -Went downhill skiing as part of the school’s winter electives program (various years).

    -Used Exacto knives in art classes, starting in grade six or so.

    -Made linoleum tile prints (grade seven).

    -Did overnight outdoor education program that took place three hours out of town, and included hiking and snowshoeing in the woods, exploring snow caves, and playing broomball (grade seven).

    – Made model houses using hand saws (grade eight). We didn’t actually finish, because we ran out of wood, but we did use saws.

    -Did various other woodworking projects with power tools (grades seven and eight). My dad still has the wooden duck I made for him in grade eight shop class, which was actually my second attempt–my first time, I accidentally cut the duck’s head off.

    -Took an all-inclusive technology class that included, among other things, woodworking, metal shop, and electricity (grade nine).

    -Reacted various chemicals in science classes (grade nine).

    -Made soap, plastic, and nylon in science class, using Bunsen burners and hot plates, and fairly potent chemicals. Got sodium hydrochloride (or something) in my eye, but was completely fine after a quick rinse in the eyewash station (grade ten). Actually, the worst that happened that year was when we were making plastic, and I spilled on the hot plate. The classroom smelled like rotten milk for days, but no one was hurt.

    -Sang “Light the Candles of Freedom” with the vocal class, for the music department’s Christmas/winter holiday concert, with ACTUAL CANDLES. Accidentally burned my hand with dripping candle wax (despite the cardboard “wax guards” we’d made in advance), and just kept on singing through the pain (grade eleven or twelve).

    -Sometimes stayed after school late into the evening for various extra-curricular activities, and got myself home, either by taking the city bus, or getting rides with similar-aged or slightly-older friends (throughout high school).

    -Travelled on concert tours with the high school band, to Italy (grade eleven) and New Orleans (OAC).

    -Learned to stretch and staple my own canvasses, with a staple gun, and used various harsh chemicals in painting classes (university). Also, I travelled to and from university via Greyhound bus, which required multiple transfers and layovers.

    Anyway, my point is, life is dangerous. School can be dangerous. I actually remember in our very first shop class in grade seven, I asked the teacher if scroll saws/power tools are dangerous, and he replied, “it CAN be dangerous, if you don’t use them properly, but I’m going to teach you all that, so you can be safe.” I think that’s a pretty sound approach to take, and if you remove every possible danger from school, or from a young person’s life in general, you’re depriving them of the opportunity to learn to do potentially dangerous things safely, which makes those things even more dangerous when they try to do them as adults. After all, you don’t become magically all-knowing and competent on your eighteenth birthday, so the learning process should start early, and happen gradually.

  27. catspaw73 November 21, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    I’m not sure what its like in Australia, but here in New Zealand safety assessments have been done on things like Intermediate (years 7 and 8) and high school art and hard tech (shop and woodwork) classes for years. Sorry but we let them lose with toxic paints, glues, resins, glazes and arc welders (with training, specially trained teachers and supervision) from that age. Sorry but some of the pottery glazes (I do it for a hobby) are labelled do not handle while pregnant for a reason, toxicity is via skin contact and inhalation and the heavy metals build up in your system.
    And there is a huge difference between assessing the risk and putting protocols in place around them to minimize the risk and banning the activity.

  28. CrazyCatLady November 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    In our school district there is no more 7th/8th grade shop, or even home ec (cooking and sewing) classes. The excuse for many schools getting rid of these was that they needed more high tech classes, but now they can’t bring them back because they are dangerous.

    Our ALE has various levels of STEM classes, where kids decide on projects and then do them. Last year the principal was proudly telling everyone of the drip irrigation system that some students were working on, to be put in the community garden. Except, when some school board members came to visit, they were appalled that the students “had been using tools.” Apparently, students are not allowed to even use a shovel. So the irrigation system got moved to a straw bale garden where the community couldn’t see it, but it could be hooked to water (that had to have an inspection – for the hose to the spigot) so that no digging was done.

    This year STEM students can only make plans for their projects. If they want to do the actual project, they have to do it all at home.

  29. Jill November 21, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    Hey, Lenore… I need to point out here that Girl Guides of Canada requires “troop leaders to submit an activity plan, including the list of participants and supervisors with the appropriate child-adult ratio, as well as an emergency response plan, two weeks in advance.” for pretty much ALL activities, except for unit meetings and the equivalent. Cooking on a fire IS moderately risky and getting burnt while doing so is very common, especially with marshmallows. I’ve seen it several times.

    Whether or not the extent that GGC goes to is reasonable is definitely something we can argue about. I tend to think many of the things I’m required to do as a leader are overkill and simply unnecessary, but you are implying here that it’s marshmallows that cause all these unreasonable requirements. It’s not.

  30. jwgmom November 21, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    So in my state the child care regulations state that children may be allowed to go to the bathroom by themselves if they can handle the whole process without help. This pretty much means kids 4 or 5 and older. Now the local licensing folks have ruled that you cannot leave the liquid hand soap in the bathroom. The kid has to come out and have the adult dispense the soap. This is all because the kid might put the soap in his or her mouth. Putting aside the unlikelyhood of this happening, if it did the child would spit it out quickly and the small amount would do no harm. But the office seems to be going for zero risk, a really scary concept.

  31. AW13 November 22, 2012 at 12:32 am #

    Regarding the MSDS: I work part-time in retail, and I deal with returning damaged goods to the supplier. I have to scan and prepare them for shipping. Every time something potentially hazardous comes back, I have to take specific safety precautions. So I’ve had to stamp packages containing items like bleach, solvents, spray paints, etc., which makes sense. I’ve also had to stamp packages that contained lipstick, toothpaste, deodorant, compressed air and (tonight) nail polish and cat litter. So, as far as I’m concerned, there’s toxic, and TOXIC, and we need to be able to distinguish between the two to assess the risk accordingly.

  32. Emily November 22, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    @jwgmom–I’d get around that by sending my child to day care with his or her own hand soap or sanitizer. I used to do that all the time when I knew I’d be in a certain building on campus where the women’s bathroom never had any soap.

  33. LTMG November 22, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    1970 to 1973 I spent in the high school electronics shop. Very advanced new high school. We were constantly working with unshielded high voltage since it was vacuum tube days. Also learned to fix TVs. Once poked myself with 25,000 volts from the high voltage section of a color TV (very low amperage, so it got my attention but didn’t damage me) and learned not to let that happen again. A few others made some mistakes and learned from their experiences, too. Nobody got burned or injured. Nobody ever had to actuate the emergency power off panic switches.

  34. Andy November 22, 2012 at 3:08 am #

    @Emily I always hated science labs in school. They seemed to me like a big loss of time – you need three hours of lab to find a conclusion that could be told in 5 minutes. Plus, I had a habit to read the book in advance when I was bored, so I usually knew the supposed conclusion anyway.

    The book actually described the experiment step by step. Build this, mix this, see it will end up like this. “Ok, I believe you, why should I waste time doing it?” Whenever we could, we would skip experiment steps and only write the report :).

    I wonder whether it is personality thing or your school system just had them done in a better way then ours.

  35. Marion November 22, 2012 at 4:28 am #

    Y’know, every time I read one of these kind of posts, I get a sudden flash of something out of ‘Tom Sawyer’, ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and ‘The Yearling’ and I wonder what Mark Twain and Marjorie Kinnan Rawling would’ve said about this kind of idiocy.

  36. linvo November 22, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    A risk register is pretty common practice in any public workplace in Australia. It is partly driven by concern for employees safety and partly by the threat of insurance and compensation claims. Personally I don’t think it’s possible to get an overview of where the real risks are that should be fixed to protect employees from serious harm (like dangerous machinery or construction workers not wearing helmets) without being exhaustive. “Bumping into other people” was on our risk register a few years ago. It gave me a big laugh, but it was there for the sake of completeness and no one ever suggested that it was necessary to take measures to protect clumsy people from running into eachother. Back then they made every employee sign a declaration that they had read and understood that exhaustive risk register, which I am pretty sure was mainly driven by fear of liability claims. But that only happened once. They still have the register, but it is just a tool for management now.

    So I reckon this is similar. They list all the potential risks so they can then go through the list, rate them and assess if there are any that can be fixed to prevent a real risk of injury. The others are just there for the sake of completeness.

  37. Emily November 22, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    @Jill–I don’t think Lenore meant that marshmallows were the cause of all of the Girl Guides’ safety requirements; it’s just her writing style–Lenore likes to use a lot of metaphor, and this time, she compared sedentary, overweight kids to marshmallows, and then segued into the comment about roasting marshmallows being “dangerous” in the eyes of the Guides. Actually, she ran a similar story recently, about the Girl Scouts of America hosting a sing-along with “safe s’mores” made with Marshmallow Fluff instead of doing it the real way, so this is nothing new.

    In any case, the “green” safety category does give some options. For example, swimming in a pool or at a water park, ice skating at a facility that’s NOT a frozen lake or pond (so, man-made ice at a park is fine), tobogganing, playing in the snow in general, hiking on trails in public parks that aren’t too far out of the way, making and flying kites, cooking in a regular kitchen, field trips to various places in the community, and craft projects that are more “involved,” but not dangerous, like tie-dyeing T-shirts, are all fairly “adventurous” activities that kids will enjoy doing, but all of these activities still fall into the “green” category, as far as I know. That’s not to say that I think it should be “all green, all the time,” but I think it’d be doable–ask the girls what they want to do for the year, then plan the “yellow” and “red” activities with enough run-up to check all the boxes safety-wise, and then fill in the rest of the year with things that are “safe” by GGC standards, but still fun by the girls’ standards.

  38. JP November 22, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    seems to be a little bit of confusion here about designations of “child at risk.”
    An elementary school child vs high school…….
    Somehow, I prefer to not think of a 16 year-old behind the wheel of a moving automobile as a “child” exactly.
    By the time I was middle school age (12) the only time I was ever referred to as a child was when I was acting particularly “childish.” (The motivation of course – was to discourage the behaviour.) Imagine that.

    We used to have soap box derbies in our neighbourhood. Every kid in creation was busy throwing themselves into disturbingly dangerous behaviour. Hammers, nails, saws, pliers, screwdrivers, paint. Young drivers, pushers, haulers…
    not a crash helmut in sight. We all survived the bumps, scrapes, bruises splendidly.

    But hey, technology will be the saviour here! Why not virtual education, sports, exercise?
    We’ll just create virtual academies – where bubble-wrapped kids are wheeled in, strapped into padded chairs, wired up to death-defying experiences galore, until they resemble the space-shipped denizens that take a Wall-ee and Eva to “save.”
    They’ll love it, folks. And y’all will, too.
    Only litigation lawyers will go broke. Boo-hoo.

    Part of human existence includes a fundamental acknowledgement and response to the concept of “danger.” (whatever that might be.)
    That this is not a basic part of the typical growth of childhood to adult – is an abomination of failure to guide, teach and properly raise a child.

    In the grand old tradition of patriarchal control – knowledge is power. To withold knowledge is to retain power and control. Marvelously tyrannical, I’d say.

  39. Havva November 22, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    I see and respect lots of the comments about the actual dangers available in art class, wish my schools had activities that awesome. I also agree that it is very much the job of the teacher to know and prepare the students to handle these things safely. However, it is worse than a moderate inconvenience to go looking for and documenting everyday nothings (eg. Harmfull or fatal if swallowed paints that no middle school kid would put in their mouth anyhow, people bumping into each other, etc). This doesn’t enhance safety. It does one of two things based on the person receiving the information. It enhances fear, or it desensitizes people to warnings.
    I caught the some of the safety madness in the late 90’s. I still remember the day in 8th grade when my middle-school banned our scissors and markers. (Supposedly if we had the means we WOULD hurt someone, because kid are incapable of thought and naturally violent.) Earlier they had forbid a friend to bring soap (the school provided none.) My high school was infinitely better, in 10th grade we had chem lab. The lab book had a list of required safety equipment in a big black box for each experiment. Our first lab “experiment” was to slowly boil water. The text book listed goggles under required safety equipment, as hot steam could theoretically burn our eyes. Our lab teacher thankfully had the good sense to tell us that the first lab was to familiarize us with lab equipment, and the goggles were not necessary. Further he would let us know when safety equipment was necessary. We respected him for that. Later we used actual chemicals. The chemicals were kept locked in a back room and brought out to us in small quantities. No minor explosions occurred as we did not have access to such supplies. This Chemistry teacher was soon forced out for “being too old” and resisting administrative direction.
    Then I went to an engineering college and did some industrial internships. I’m glad my college had the good sense to tell us the despite previous BS warnings, it was time to be alert. That in industry you will get one warning, if any, and you would be wise to follow it. Further don’t handle unknown substances as there is a high chance those are dangerous. They weren’t kidding either, one day at work I was told to fetch some filters out of a bucket. I went and the filters were in a blue liquid and covered with blue crystals. I went back to the chief engineer and asked. “What are those blue crystals? And should I be wearing gloves?” He looked me up and down, and said “Oh right, you might want to have kids someday, I’ll get it.” What a night and day difference from being told to use goggles to boil water.

    Now I have to occasionally deal with hazard analysis. We don’t assess anything that might possibly remotely cause harm. We assess and rate hazards on a two axis scale (probability and consequences). The hazards we actually care about will kill, maim, or cause millions of dollars in damage. They are not obvious to the operators, require mitigation, and have at minimum a moderate probability of actually happening in the next 30 years. We DON’T eliminate these risks, because we have a mission to perform. So we put up some warning signs, perhaps add info to the training, maybe install shields. Then we pray that we don’t get a cocky operator who doesn’t believe us.
    So require the teacher to be knowledgeable in the supplies used, and have access to proper safety equipment. Require the teacher to occasionally brush up on appropriate first aid. But don’t go documenting remote risks as though they are meaningful, and warning parents. This is the factory of what engineers call the ‘better idiot.’

  40. Chihiro November 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    This is insane. I don’t understand why people go nuts when supposedly ‘toxic’ chemicals are around kids.
    These people would be frightened out of their wits if they saw MY art class. Scissors and saws hung up on the wall, for ANYONE to use? The teacher regularly uses the power saw to work on her own art? Not to mention…free access to all the paint and ink we want! Dear god, we be poisoned! The horror!
    No, the worst thing to happen so far this year is that we carved linoleum blocks and we all managed to cut our fingers about a dozen times each.

  41. EricS November 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    When you make something out of nothing, that’s when you see ALL possibilities of negativity. The birth of worse case thinking. And we all know where that has lead to in the last 20 years.

  42. JP November 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    aw, one more crack:
    Perceived (or imagined) dangers due to “toxicity?”

    Out there somewhere on the North American continent is a well-protected child who has reached the age of consent, (barely) the age of reason, and the age of university entrance. (almost, but not quite adult.)
    Somehow, they happen to be rather bright.
    They finally figured out that the suburban elementary, middle and high schools they attended, all within close access to multiple freeways, arterial roads, strip and full size malls, power centers – and all the attendant automobility that goes with it – produced a shocking result.
    The alarming upsurge in asthma and other respiratory illnesses, diseases and ailments statistically can be found to have been contributed to by…..what?
    The total amount of toxic effluent coming out of every single one of those tailpipes they were exposed to during childhood.
    We have farmed off most of our heavy industry and manufacturing pollutions – and replaced them with petroleum-based toxins.
    Which we dutifully ignore and put up with, as best we can. (to drive and drive and drive)
    Yet God forbid we allow the activity of a Van Gogh anywhere near a child….they might lose an ear.

  43. Metanoia November 22, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    “Tiggy” is Queensland slang. Most states of Australia have their own slang. We called it “Chasey”. QLD is like a whole other country away from my state!

    As for the post, personally the sarcasm went a bit overboard for me. This post is more over the top than the article… time to wind it back and talk more positively about what we can do to help effect change back in the right direction than just poke fun at the cotton-wool brigade.

  44. Martha Orlando November 22, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    One of the saddest and most frightening things I’ve ever read. U.S. is right down that road. What are we doing to our children? More importantly, how can we change this “politically correct” direction?

  45. VJ November 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    Many years ago art teachers in my district were given a list of materials that considered toxic and banned from art class. Powdered tempera, rubber cement, permanent markers, waterbased markers that smelled like fruit or candy, chalk unless it was dustless….I can’t remember the rest but it was three columns that filled a page. As far as I know this was never enforced. The biggest problem I ever had was a second grader who cut her shoe strings with a pair of Friskars scissors. The mother was very upset that that the students were allowed to use scissors with metal blades. I explained to her that they were rated safe for 4 year olds. She insisted that her child was to use only plastic scissors.

  46. Captain America November 23, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    I remember reading that chemical engineers have been concerned that US high school chemistry classes now are pushing ahead into merely computer simulations of chemical experiments rather than the real thing, in other words SIMULATED chemistry. . . and the engineers feel this is the wrong road to follow.

  47. LTMG November 23, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    California Proposition 65 requires, where appropriate, warning signs with words like these:

    “This area contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm”.

    I have never seen a restaurant or any other business in California that did not have a sign like this near the entrance. I wonder how many people have walked out of a business scared to enter because they saw such a sign? My guess is zero in recent years because every business posts the sign.

    What is the practical effect of Proposition 65? Sign makers have more business. Nothing else.

  48. Captain America November 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I string tennis racquets. Because of the California nonsense about lead, people have an exaggerated fear of lead. . . for tennis, we customize racquet weight with lead tape. SOME customers, young California guys chiefly, seem to think a touch of lead will knock them over.

    In truth, it takes long and sustained ingestion of lead to have an impact on adults. For children, it’s a smaller dose, still over a period of time. For typical home applications, a touch of lead machts nicht.

    But thank God the California legislature has so much wisdom, eh?

  49. Xaisede November 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    Maybe they’re worried about the kids purposely huffing paint to get “high”.

  50. Donna November 24, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    My parents are artists and have health issues due to lifelong exposure to some toxins. I probably would consider a good art class in high, or even middle, school a “medium risk” activity. That said, I have a real problem with art class requiring “document controls or complete a curriculum activity risk assessment…
    ’Consider obtaining parental permission,’ teachers are told.”

    A good art teacher who knows the risks and can teach the children safely should be sufficient. We don’t need to treat art class as a life or death activity.

  51. Yan Seiner November 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    @Chirs: since this requires parental permission, I am going to assume these rules are for minors. Minors are unlikely to use something too dangerous; I don’t see a grade school class using a two-part epoxy paint, for example, or acetone for cleaning brushes (although I certaily did in grade school….) I don’t see kids cutting concrete and breathing the dust; if they were I’d be much more worried about amputations than silicosis.

    We played with lithium, the real stuff, the stuff that bursts into flame when exposed to water. We would regularly and intentionally cause great fireballs from the sinks.

    Heck, we even made a contact explosive, with the help of our chemistry teacher, and spread it out in the hallway waiting for the kids to come by and watch the floor go POP! under their feet.

    I was maybe 14 or 15 when we did this. No, we did not have parental permission.

    Life is risky, and by trivializing this sort of risk, you minimize the education our kids get. Already chem classes are “demonstrations” where the teacher gets to do the experiment, and the kids watch. This is bogus; the kids learn NOTHING. Science and art is all about active manipulation of the environment and skill with tools; you get neither by eliminating the opportunity to use the tools.

  52. Warren November 25, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    I remember being in high school and using a coal fired forge, for working with wrought iron. I would bet my bottom dollar, they don’t do that anymore.

    Anyway, yes some art supplies can cause long term health issues……..but that comes from long term exposure as well. A couple of classes a week, you would need to be using actual lead, and not just lead based paint.

  53. Cara November 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    I remember the excitement of getting to use an exacto knife in the 7th grade for my gifted class when we made bridges and then tested them with weights to see how much load they could carry. In the 6th grade we could only use toothpicks and glue, so it was really exciting to be considered big enough to use the knives and balsa wood in the 7th grade. No one cut themselves. We all had lots of fun. Knife safety was strictly enforced. And we all learned a lot about architecture and safety.

    Sheesh. I hope that these kids still get to do art at all in a few years!

  54. joecrouse November 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    So when we melted lead in shop class to build sailboat keels, Sanded Polyester resin on fiberglass, Superglue, hot Glue, Drill press, Band saw that could and did cut quarter inch lead sheet, Drill Press, Various screwdrivers, Awls, Axes, Chainsaws, Compressed air, and an almost complete set of plans for a nuclear weapon (Shop teacher retired from Oak Ridge Labs and Los Alamos he used to design them and could do it in his head) Not to mention Chemistry class (Mr Caine Used the Anarchists cook book as a teaching tool and is probably on half a dozen watch lists so is the shop teacher for that matter)

    What level of danger would they list them? I mean my shop teacher glowed in the friggen DARK.


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