According to BBC News, the latest Government advice to school teachers is that toy weapons ‘help boys to learn’, and therefore staff in schools should not discourage children from playing with toy guns, soldiers etc. – provided that ‘practioners [mainly teachers] help the boys to understand and respect the rights of other children and to take responsibility for the resources and environment.’ This all sounds pretty sensible, and it boils down to not restricting the opportunities for boys learn through play, whilst reminding them that some of the scenarios they encounter can have serious consequences in the real world. The teaching unions, however, are acting as if this is the thin end of the wedge, complaining that ‘the reason why teachers often intervene when kids have toy guns is that the boy is usually being very aggressive.’ Well I’m sorry to disappoint you Mr Sinnott (General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers), but young boys sometimes are a bit aggressive, get into fights and occasionally upset other children – it’s all part of growing up. If they don’t learn that getting too aggressive is wrong when they’re young and when it doesn’t matter quite as much, when will they figure this out?
Let’s get another thing straight: playing with tanks and plastic soldiers does not turn your child into a gun-toting homicidal maniac. When I was younger, my favourite toys were my huge army of plastic soldiers (including tanks, barricades and hundreds of troops) and my favourite board games were Escape from Colditz (in which I always played the Germans) and Risk. Have I grown up into an aggressive and harmful person as a result? Of course not. I might occasionally display signs of being a control freak or a megalomaniac, and I still enjoy the board games which I was introduced to as a child, but I am in no way a danger to the general public or those around me.
As for the unions being up in arms about boys being aggressive, I can only assume that they’ve never seen girls at play. Whilst boys might push each other about, girls can be much more cruel to their classmates. Do we hear the NUT calling for dolls and wendy houses to be banned because of what girls get up to when they play amongst themselves? Actually, perhaps we’d better not give them any ideas…
For what is possibly the first time since coming into office, this Government is actually saying something sensible about education, and the unions immediately criticise it. I dread to think what would happen if these people ever actually started to run the country – we’d all be locked indoors and wrapped in cotton wool before you could say ‘nanny state’. Thank goodness the unions have less of a say in politics than they used to, we’d be up a certain creek without a paddle if they still had the power to influence government decisions.