High School Band – A Most Dangerous Game?

Like fellow bloggers Sven Wilson and Jason Sorens, I too am concerned about the issue of whether/when the state should intervene to protect children in cases where parents can not or will not do so themselves.  Liberal theory is not all that clear as a guide to how to handle persons who cannot give full consent – and many famous libertarians have essentially ignored the whole issue of kids (see Rand).  We certainly could use more thinking about this critical realm.  

But we shouldn’t forget that the government is as likely to be as foolish in this regard as in others.  A case in point comes from Massachusetts where the state, in an effort to protect children and increase parental understanding of the risks of concussions to kids playing sports, has somehow managed to draft legislation that applies to high school band members and not cheerleaders!  This means that over 7,400 cheerleaders in the state will not be subject to the new regulations but over 13,000 band members will have to take a physical and document their past head injuries while their parents will be forced to take a course on concussions.  Who knew band was so dangerous?!  As you might guess, implementation has also been a “big headache” and is likely to be quite expensive for local communities. 

Despite the law’s flaws, there is a lot to like about this attempt to protect children from themselves and coaches/parents who might overly discount the future for present gains or some sense that tough guys play through the pain (and disorientation).  The law, at least part of it, is set to take effect on November 29.

3 thoughts on “High School Band – A Most Dangerous Game?

  1. I do not know how many band injuries there might be but I am quite certain they do not add up to something that can threaten the society at large. And that should be one of the basic premises for regulations.

    The financial regulators, dead set on avoiding individual banks to fail, which in itself is of no risk to society, unless too many of them fail simultaneously (in fact it would be plain awful for society if individual banks did not fail) cared so much about the individual bank’s safety, that they completely forgot about the whole system, and as a result we ended up with the current awful crisis.

    In this respect in cases of the bands the question a regulator should ask is whether by regulating it might cause other damages, like for instance diminishing the individual responsibility of band members, and cheerleaders, or that of their parents.

  2. There are moral arguments to use the organ of the state to protect kids and there are utilitarian arguments to protect kids using the organ of the state. The ironic thing about moral arguments to protect kids is that from a utilitarian point of view they will fail and utilitarian arguments will usually fail from a moral point of view.

    Take the motocross kid issue. Morally, it makes sense to prevent parents from letting their kids do this. From a utilitarian point of view it makes no sense, because very few children actually die from it, therefore the cost of enforcement doesn’t provide any measurable benefit.

    Then take the hot topic of kids and food in school. From a utilitarian point of view it is both easy, cheap and beneficial to society for schools to cut all the crap out of kids school lunches and prohibit certain types of food at school. But most parents really resent the loss of discretion and freedom to choose what to feed their kids.

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