“People who can organize themselves and accomplish something as devilishly complicated as a good ballgame are hard to herd around....They become men and women, not human resources. They can be free.”Boys playing baseball in a field or an empty lot must use their imaginations to set up the game, pick teams, and arbitrate disputes. They argue, using evidence (which must be respected if the game is to succeed), appealing to others or pretending the play never happened. “Anyone who harbors hard feelings is labeled a Sore Loser and is looked down upon with contempt by his fellows; it is a deep character flaw. But anybody who can engineer a quick solution acceptable to all sides is labeled a Good Sport, and of him great and glorious things are expected.”
Boys simply will not develop their characters if everything is always kept perfectly safe for them. Boys ought to be able to bear a few falls, knocks, and bruises. When we adults over-manage the activities of children we take the joy of discovery out of it and by removing the risks, we remove any chance they had to grow and mature. We emphasize fairness and fun for all which does not build character or a sense of duty.
Now you may be thinking of gangs. Gangs are groups of kids organizing themselves into a society: a society that goes around getting into mischief or worse. Children should be supervised or they might join or form a gang, right? After all, Proverbs says, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed." You don't get much more foolish than a pack of boys left to themselves. The solution to the gang (or pack of fools) is not to obliterate childhood or community by controlling it and overseeing it. It is to provide the genuine article--solid family and community living--for which the gang is a perversion or a counterfeit. “It’s not that these boys [who form gangs] spend too much time outside the home. It’s that they have no genuine home to spend time outside of.” Children left to themselves will reflect the morals they have been taught.
My children are still little and I can’t expect to send them off with a group of their toddler friends to organize a baseball game. But I do want to be teaching them the kind of morals here at home that will make them be Good Sports and not Sore Losers. Three and five year olds do need to be supervised, but with the goal of instilling honorable ethics and then turning them loose to figure out exactly how it works in the real world.