©1999 David Becker
WHAT IS THE RULE?
I would like to examine a rule my son has on the playground at school during recess. The rules states that the children cannot play touch football on the playground.
WHO WILL ENFORCE IT?
This is obviously a rule that will only be enforced by those responsible for overseeing the playground. This excludes teachers and includes the principal, the assistant principal and the lunch aides.
WHO IS THE TARGET POPULATION?
Presumably, every child in school would be part of the target population. However, on further review, only those interested in playing touch football would be affected. So, the target population is much narrower than you would originally suspect.
WHAT IS THE BEHAVIOR CHANGE?
In examining the change in behavior, it is apparent that the behavior to be changed is very specific. The rule outlaws playing touch football on a playground where there are jungle gyms, seesaws and other dangerous equipment. Also, games like basketball, soccer and tetherball are allowed. Even a game called "defective monkeys" is allowed. This is a tag game where instead of tagging your victim you have to hold them for 10 seconds. Obviously, the rule against touch football has nothing to do with the minimal contact associated with the game. I can only suppose that someone got hurt playing touch football so the rule was made to outlaw it specifically without consideration to other behaviors on the playground.
WHAT ARE THE ASSUMPTIONS MADE ABOUT THE ENFORCEMENT OF THIS RULE?
There are several assumptions that had to be made when considering enforcement of this rule. First, I am sure the assumption was that if you made the rule, it would be followed. Second, there had to be an assumption that the normal penalties administered on the playground were sufficient to keep the children from playing touch football. These penalties include standing against a wall for the balance of the recess and/or receiving a "strike slip" (three "strike slips" and you go to detention and miss out on a quarterly activity that the rest of the school gets to participate in). Third, there had to be an assumption that the principal, assistant principal and lunch aides would be willing to consistently enforce the rule. There also had to be an assumption that in some way this rule was either in the children's or the schools best interest.
WHAT ARE THE ASSUMPTIONS MADE ABOUT THE TARGET POPULATION?
The assumptions made about the target population include that they respect or fear the penalties associated with breaking the rule, that they respect or fear the people enforcing the rule and that there are sufficient other activities to keep them occupied.
WHAT ARE THE MOTIVATORS FOR ENFORCEMENT?
The motivators for enforcement include a fear that if they don't enforce the rule, another child might get hurt playing touch football. I'm sure there is a fear of a lawsuit. Another motivator would be the desire to keep order on the playground. If the people enforcing the rule don't effectively keep the children from playing touch football, then all other rules are in jeopardy. Another motivator could be that if you don't enforce the rule you could lose your job.
WHAT ARE THE MOTIVATORS FOR THE TARGET POPULATION?
The target population is motivated by respect for authority and the people in charge. They are also motivated by fear of punishment. There is also the desire to participate in the school' s quarterly activity. Their behavior is also motivated by their relationship with their parents, the values (yes I said values) that their parents have instilled in them and their own system for determining what they should and shouldn't do.
CAUSAL OR SYMBOLIC?
This rule is obviously causal both in its nature and application. As best as we can surmise, the rule exists as a reaction to an incident. So, its creation is causal in nature. The application of the rule is certainly causal. If the school was truly interested in the children's safety and welfare on the playground as it relates to physical contact and dangers inherent in certain activities, then all of the activities and equipment referred to earlier would be also prohibited. They are not. Only touch football is prohibited.
This rule is certainly an example of a rule made in reaction to an event and not a rule made as a reflection of the school' s philosophy or value system. The incongruity of this rule is not lost on the fourth and fifth graders. While the application of this rule is effective in this setting, I would like to see the school offer an explanation of the rule to the children when the rule seems out of sync with other activities that are condoned. I think this would add credibility to the entire body of rules the school has and it would enhance the relationship between the school and the children.