Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Superheroes are good for little kids

Report from Australia

SUPERHEROES outlawed by Victorian kindergartens have been thrown a lifeline by the Federal Government. The caped crusaders have been banned in many individual kinders and childcare centres for encouraging rough play by groups of boys. Parents are sent letters at the beginning of the year advising of a ban on superhero dressing up and toys.

But new research from the Government argues superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman, Buzz Lightyear, Ben 10, and Batman play the same role as fairytales for past generations. An article in Putting Children First, a journal published by the federally-funded National Childcare Accreditation Council, argues superhero play leads to complex, imaginative games.

Childcare consultant Heather Barnes said there were many reasons why early learning teachers adopted a zero-tolerance approach to superhero play, including the risk of accidents and themes of war, violence and masculine strength. But she argues superhero play can instead be seen as a way of releasing tension and giving children a feeling of courage. "Preschool-age children seem drawn to the power, strength and special attributes of superheroes, and when engaged in this type of play, it helps them to feel in charge of their world," she writes.

Kristy Bianchin, 24, of Pakenham, who is the mother of Lewis, 2, and Max, four months, encourages her older son's superhero play. "He loves Sportacus . . . and I don't mind because it's fun, active play that encourages interaction with others and encourages healthy eating," she said.


Australia: School bullying victim sues for $2m

I hope this guy wins. It might motivate the schools to take discipline seriously

A MAN who says his teachers stood by and did nothing while he was violently bullied by his classmates is suing the state for $2 million. David Gregory went to his teachers in tears during six years of "consistent and systematic bullying" at the hands of his classmates and the school did nothing, the New South Wales Supreme Court was told today.

Mr Gregory, now 30, from Mollymook on the state's south coast, suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and agoraphobia and is unable to work, which he blames on the years of humiliation and isolation he endured at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School in Tamworth in the state's north. He is seeking upwards of $2 million in lost earnings from the state, arguing that the school's failure to look after him caused his psychological problems.

Giving evidence before Justice Elizabeth Fullerton today, Mr Gregory described a system designed by students which had been in place while he was there in the 1990s. All younger boys had to obey older boys or risk being "nicked" - hit across the knuckles with a steel ruler, or "broomed" - when they had to bend over and be hit with a broom. "The teachers just accepted it at Farrer," he told the court.

When he criticised the system he was ostracised and the name-calling and physical abuse began. Called "sterile", "faggot", "midget", "loser" and "Nazi", Mr Gregory said he was forbidden to socialise with his peers and had rocks thrown at him regularly. When he complained to his year master and other teachers, his fears were ignored, he said. "I was upset and in tears when I (told them)," Mr Gregory told the court.

Eventually he developed obsessive compulsive disorder, washing thoroughly in hospital strength disinfectant because he felt "dirty", his lawyer Russell McIlwaine told the court. He also began self-mutilating, Mr McIlwaine said.

The school has acknowledged in court that it should not have allowed the system to operate and that it failed to implement "adequate control so as to protect and prevent abusive conduct by the students".


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