Saturday, December 29, 2007

An outbreak of sanity across the pond!

From The Scotsman:

BANNING boys from playing with toy guns is futile and may even damage their development, a leading child psychologist has warned.

Confirming what many guilty parents long suspected, Penny Holland says boys will indulge in gunplay regardless of attempts by schools, nurseries and guardians to stop them.

Holland, who claims boys have fallen victim to politically correct dogma, claims that suppressing their need for boisterous play may be counter-productive.

Holland, senior lecturer in early childhood studies at London Metropolitan University, believes that boys who have been banned from playing at soldiers, pirates, or superheroes, become disruptive and live up to a "bad boy" image.

But her views have been strongly opposed by gun control groups and families of the children killed in the 1996 Dunblane massacre. The tragedy dramatically accelerated the existing trend towards banning toy guns and swords in shops and nurseries alike.

But in a new book, We Don’t Play With Guns Here, Holland says the ban on violent play should be reconsidered.

She argues that the zero-tolerance approach that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s was wrong to assume that "the spiral of male violence" could be broken by preventing boys from playing aggressive games.

Holland claims that 30 years after the ban on playing with guns and swords came into vogue, there has been no evidence of a decline in their desire to play violent games.

Boys continued to play behind the backs of staff, even when they had been told it was wrong. Even when the plastic guns and swords were taken away, they did what generations of boys have done before. Pieces of wood, tennis rackets and even pens and crayons, all became guns, swords, and daggers in the fertile young imagination.

Holland adds there is no evidence that boys were more or less likely to grow into aggressive men because of the games they played.

The book suggests that nurseries that had relaxed their ban on guns, swords and violent games reported that boys had more fun together, made closer friendships, and became more creative in other areas of play, such as dressing up as princes in fairy tales. Most such nurseries found that the amount of real fighting between boys declined.

Holland said of the war games: "It is very much part of them making sense of the world. It relates to timeless themes of the struggle between good and evil.

"It seems to represent a developmental need to play with these things and my feeling is that it is counter-productive to work against that.

"Where there has been rigorous enforcement of zero tolerance, it marginalises these children because their interests are so squarely rejected. If they are constantly receiving negative responses to their play interests, with people saying, ‘No, we don’t play with guns here’, they absorb the sense that they are bad boys. They seek negative attention and it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle."

If Dr. Holland isn't careful she will wind up being transported to the colonies for daring to speak such unpopular truths. If things go on like this they next start talking about doing away with the ban on pointy things.