Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Should I role-play fighting with my class?...even if I let someone else be Luke Skywalker!?

I find myself facing a dilemma after my first day back in Nursery...

Two boys were hiding from each other in the classroom and peeping out from various locations to take pretend shots at each other. They were using their hands as guns. Without pausing for thought I joined in and hid behind a chair to ambush one of them as they came past. I wasn't until I raised my arm to take aim that I suddenly thought 'hang on...what on earth are you doing!?...condoning gun violence!?'

My raised arm morphed from a machine gun into a tickle stick, and much laughter ensued as the game developed to include more and more of the class.

The dilemma I'm left with is whether it's ok for young children to role play fighting, particularly with weapons? Fighting comes in many forms and I've attempted to list the ones that I can think of in some sort of order of 'terribleness'...where would you draw a line of acceptability?

Role play scenario...

Two kittens playing with a mouse.

George and the Dragon.

Soldiers shooting robot alien attackers.

A fight scene from Karate Kid.

Superhero battles.

Darth Vader v Luke Skywalker in a light sabre battle (why does no-one ever want to be Yoda?)

Knights sword fighting.

A tustle between a criminal and a Police Officer.

A Roman hand to hand battle.

A drunken brawl as seen on TV.

A Police Officer shooting a terrorist.

A terrorist shooting a Police Officer.

Clearly any role-play that involves actual physical attack and harm has to be stopped, but surely role-playing something that's seen in the natural world or comes from a children's story book is acceptable?  But then what about role playing violent scenes from children's films...is it ok if they're  based on cartoons, or involve mythical of non-human characters?

Our topic this half term is 'People who help us'. Is it ok for the children to role-play Police Officers or Soldiers in shooting games?

What about re-enacting a fight scene from Eastenders, or a Roman battle scene from a text book?

If I condone superhero battles or shooting alien robots, is it ok to let the children spend a morning building 3D models of weapons before unleashing them on each other?

I've spent a little time researching this dilemma on the internet, and it seems that academic opinion is very much split. Conclusions on such role-play range from 'it helps children to investigate and experience some of the issues involved in a safe way', through to 'it encourages real violence'. Apparently some schools actually have policies on 'Valuing and managing weapon play'.

I don't quite feel ready to suggest such a policy to my headteacher (with 4 years as an Army Officer and only 1 term in Nursery on my CV, I fear this would be a career limiting move!), but I don't want to sweep the issue under the carpet either.

As ever, any comments, opinions or pointers towards relevant research are appreciated...
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