Image via WikipediaBritish bulldog 'vanishing from schools'
We played bulldog at school, and at cubs and scouts. We went on long hikes up steep mountains, we did potholing, climbing, parascending and chess. We read books and we went on cross country runs where we were out of sight of the teachers. We built fires safely with the Scout leaders, and unsafely on our own. We ran and vaulted walls and fences, and sometimes we fell and hurt ourselves but mostly we did not and we learned to judge what was safe and what was risky.
What we did though, through a process of trial and error, was to learn to understand and accept a certain level of risk in our lives. As Scouts on a camp in the Lake District, we all understood that it was fairly dangerous to go scree bombing (running full tilt downhill on a loose scree slope), but at the same time it was all the more fun because of that edge of danger, and although Mike Lambert ended up in casualty getting stitches in a cut hand, the rest of us still did it again on the following day.
I have broken my hand by falling down a hill, I've injured my back and my knee when out hill walking, but I am 43 and in a lifetime of hiking these small hurts are far outweighed by the pleasure I have gained from day after day on the hills and peaks. I solo walk, sometimes in weather conditions that some people would consider dangerous, but starting as a young child I was encouraged to learn the skills and gain the experiences that enable me now to judge the boundaries of what is safe for me and what is not.
Every time I go walking there is a risk that I could slip and injure myself, should this prevent me hiking ? Of course not. There is a young girl in my town who is paralyzed from the neck down after falling from a climbing frame, should this mean that we ban climbing frames for children ? Absolutely not. We need children to have a certain level of freedom and risk in their lives in order that they may make informed decisions for themselves as they grow up.
Of course it is painful for a parent to see their child hurt in any way, but the point of rearing children is that they eventually become adults, children mustn't become fearful and timid as adults, afraid of everything that contains a potential risk. As adults you need to know that yes, breaking an arm is fairly painful, but 30 years on I cannot feel the pain, but I can remember that day we hiked up Whernside in the snow and slid and fell on our bums all the way down. It was a risky and potentially dangerous day, but it was also great fun.