The Ministry of Silly Bans
From our fast-growing "Oh, for #@*'s sake!" file: schools around the nation are banning Silly Bandz, those amusing, inexpensive, rubber wristbands that have become immensely popular among the nation's children.
The Bandz are now contraband. Schools in several states, including New York, Texas, Florida and Massachusetts, have blacklisted Silly Bandz, those stretchy, colorful bracelets that are creeping up the forearms of school kids across the U.S. And starting this week, all 800-some kids at my son's elementary school in Raleigh, N.C., were commanded to leave at home their collections of rubber band–like bracelets, which retail for about $5 per pack of 24. What could possibly be so insidious about a cheap silicone bracelet?
"It's a distraction," says Jill Wolborsky, a fourth-grade teacher at my son's school, who banned them from her classroom before the principal implemented a schoolwide ban. One student stole some confiscated Bandz from her desk, choosing them over the cash in her drawer.
Students fiddle with them during class and arrange swaps — trading, say, a bracelet with a mermaid for one with a dragon — when they should be concentrating on schoolwork, teachers say. Sometimes a trade goes bad — kids get buyer's remorse too — and hard feelings, maybe even scuffles, ensue.
Astonishing! Kids distracted during school? Fiddling with things? Feelings getting hurt? Scuffles ensuing?
Obviously the nation's educators would be much more comfortable teaching robots, or potted plants.
Of course, these egotistical nitwits have some scientists on their side. Some are now arguing, apparently in all seriousness, that Silly Bandz are outright dangerous:
Last night Dr. Manny’s young daughter had more than a hundred of these Silly Bandz wound tightly around her wrist. Her hand was white, and he was concerned enough to make her take them off. ...
Dr. Gregory Simonian, chief of endovascular surgery and director of the Heart Vascular Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, told me that his daughter also wears Silly Bandz, and that Dr. Manny could be on to something.
“Whether it’s tight bracelets or a ring on your finger, anything that is constricting could cause vascular insufficiency — meaning the blood flow is being altered by some external force. In this case, it’s the new, hip rubber bracelets,” Simonian said. ...
“These bands could cause what we call a tourniquet effect that can cause your veins to get congested. The bracelets could cause blood clots to form in some of the veins, giving someone a phlebitis, which is an inflammation and clotting of the vein,” he said.
Although there may be some remote chance of such things occurring, there are always minor possibilities of all sorts of disasters happening, and nothing can change that simple fact of life. The doctors’ arguments are reminiscent of the classic Saturday Night Live sketch "Consumer Probe," starring Dan Aykroyd as the manufacturer of a line of blatantly dangerous children's toys who defends himself by noting that even the most apparently innocuous playthings can be deadly: children could get a splinter from a toy block or strangle themselves to death with the cord of a toy telephone, etc. The real-life bans of Silly Bandz are every bit as ridiculous as this.
Nowhere in this discussion is there any regard for the notion of personal responsibility, specifically the recognition that parents and children can and should learn to look out for themselves and their loved ones. Any child whose parents are so oblivious as to fail to notice that their children's hands are in danger of falling off has much bigger problems than an excessive fondness for Silly Bandz.
These bans are nothing but a case of the Nanny State literally acting like a nanny.
The movement to ban the latest thing children have found to enjoy is a blatantly idiotic manifestation of the constant impulse of our federal, state, and local governments to suppress every attempt by the nation's children to enjoy themselves in a natural, unforced way without adults turning it into some vile, arid, obvious learning experience.
Our governments treat adults the same way, always ostensibly for our own good, and their ministrations always just happen to result in more power for the people who manage the bureaucratic state. One might almost suspect that this is not a coincidence.
Play gives kids pleasure while teaching them valuable lessons about life. The nanny state, however, insists on controlling everything, and in particular making sure that the indoctrination of the nation's children is continual and comprehensive.
The effort to ban Silly Bandz is just the latest proof of this dismal truth, and the nation's kids will indeed learn a lesson from this: the people in authority over them are uniformly hostile, controlling, overbearing, unreasonable, and downright mean.
If ever a policy were designed to turn children into future revolutionaries, this is it.
Vive le Silly Bandz!