Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Who's Calling the Shots?

I know that this blog is focused on my family's use of games of all sorts, but my work life sometimes bleeds into my home life. I'm a teacher-librarian, and I encourage (and "allow") lots of game playing in my school library. Not everyone feels the same way I do. Some folks get downright nervous at some of the things I do permit. The primary division students that I see for media class were running a sticker store out of the library today and selling hand-made stickers they created. One of the teachers was very concerned because certain kids had made stickers to sell based on a video game and they had drawn guns as part of their sticker menagerie. I explained that this was part of our focus on knowing our audience, and that since we were selling to older students that liked these video games, it was legitimate to include these images on their stickers.

Her reaction and my lack of reaction made me wonder why I do not feel as threatened as some of my colleagues by references to weapons or fighting. I realized that a lot of my attitude was shaped by a particular book I read a number of years ago when I was in teacher's college.

The book was called "Who's Calling The Shots" and it's a worthwhile read for parents and teachers. I can't remember the name of the author, but the philosophical position of the book was that forbidding or banning references to violence does not help children or make them into peaceful citizens. Kids need to battle, in socially acceptable ways for children, so they can explore ideas and feelings. The author didn't advocate for a completely laissez-faire attitude to all violence (we aren't talking about turning a blind eye to bullying or schoolyard fights) but in finding a balance.

Reading this book shaped the way I parent my own children - for instance, we have group Nerf sword battles in which we pretend to stab and slice our way to victory - and it's fun. We own colourful water guns and chase each other. This is a far cry from a particular teacher at my school that does not allow her students to say the word gun in her class. They have to spell it if they need to make reference to the object. I think that's a bit extreme. However, I don't see that sort of position mellowing or changing in certain educators (or parents, for that matter). It makes me feel bad for the kids who really enjoy this type of play and have it labelled as shameful or inappropriate. I hope this blog may help folks at least consider some alternatives.

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