Bullying, and how to stop it, has been a major topic lately. Now a school in New Zealand is making news for possibly having found the solution: eliminating safety.
Principal Bruce McLachlan of Swanson Primary School in Auckland signed up to be part of a study two years ago to see what happens when you give children more freedom at recess, but McLachlan went further and got rid of the rules altogether.
The boring, sterile playground equipment is gone, replaced by trees to climb and the “loose parts pit” full of random things like tires and a fire hose to play in. Now the kids are free to ride skateboards and scooters, explore the natural elements around them, and play something called “bullrush” which sounds like something that should be studied for concussion rates. The results showed the kids were more active, which is what was expected.
What was completely unexpected by the researchers were the number of behavioral changes shown.
With more freedom at recess, the children are concentrating more in class, vandalizing the school less, and bullying each other at significantly lower levels. There are even fewer serious injuries.
There are a number of theories trying to explain this from so-called “experts.” One idea is the children are busy, motivated, and engaged as a result, while most bullying and vandalism occurs when kids are bored and restless. Another theory is the kids are developing their frontal lobe by taking risks and learning about consequences; McLachan suggests falling off a scooter at recess can help prevent bad driving when they get old enough to get behind the wheel of a car.
Those might be good points. But they aren’t the right point.
When you want to stop bullying, you need people to come together. And we’ve seen the best way to get people together in countless popular works, such as Independence Day and The Watchmen: give them all a common enemy. And that’s just what Swanson Primary School has done.
By taking away the playground equipment and eliminating the rules, the school has created anarchy during recess and placed the children on their own against nature. Life in nature is nasty, brutish, and short, as philosophized by the great Thomas Hobbes.
The students have no choice but to band together to fight the forces they are now exposed to. Wilderness and violent creatures are right there, vying for their space. And New Zealand is near Australia, so I can only imagine it’s filled with nothing but deadly animals. Those children are at war with everything mankind has been fighting for thousands of years. Mankind has been winning. Nature wants its revenge.
Every day–every single day!–those kids must band together in some sort of brotherly way to fight against the very forces of entropy. How can you bully a kid who you just helped beat back, I don’t know, a rabid wombat or something? You can’t!
This works out for New Zealand in other ways too. They are breeding a tougher citizenenry, one ready to conquer the splendor of the land, something that damned hobbit was never able to do.
Essentially, the way to get rid of bullying among students is to have them all be bullied together by nature. Good work, New Zealand.