Hi Readers — Another day, another lawsuit, another childhood institution crushed. In this case, back in 2001 a Scout troop in England was playing a game where everyone had to grab a block from a pile in the middle of the room. Get there last and there’s no block left for you. Sounds like musical chairs.
Anyway, to make it more fun, the troop decided to turn the lights out and play by the glow of the “Exit” signs and guess what? A 13-year-old kid hurt his shoulder. Not so much that he could not go on and play rugby for the next nine years until the courts made their final ruling on his suit. But still — I’m sure his shoulder did hurt.
What hurts more is that the courts ending up ruling that the Scouts were at fault. Playing in the spooky dark is just too dangerous. As this article from The Telegraph explains:
The Scouts Association had urged the court to overturn the award, arguing it would make it harder to draw youngsters away from computer screens and televisions. But Lady Justice Smith and Lord Justice Ward, dismissed their appeal.
They ruled that Mark Barnes, of Castle Bromwich, West Mids, had been a victim of negligence and that playing the game in the dark had created an unacceptable risk.
Despite expressing “instinctive sympathy” towards the Scout Association, Lord Justice Ward said that “scouting would not lose much of its value” if such games were played with the lights on.
In a dissenting ruling, Lord Justice Jackson found that it was not the function of the law “to eliminate every iota of risk or to stamp out socially desirable activities”.
I’m with the dissenting justice, of course. I know my sons’ favorite thing over the summer is to play “manhunt” (some sort of tag) after the sun has gone down. It’s heady. It’s scary. It makes you feel excited and grown-up and that’s why scouting — and childhood — DOES “lose much of its value” if everything is done in the Kleig lights of super safety.
One way kids get that “self-esteem” we’re so worried about is by facing up to a fear and conquering it. Like, say, a fear of the DARK. And one way to get kids to FACE that fear is by making it so fun that the excitement outweighs the trepidation.
Maybe the judges are afraid of the dark. Who knows? But this kind of ruling means a smidgen more safety purchased at the cost of a ton of old-fashioned joy. That is scary. — Lenore