Seesaws: A Vanishing Part Of America

by bobdorigojones on April 29, 2011

in Uncategorized

Can you remember the last time you saw a seesaw?  I’m talking about an old fashioned teeter-totter – the kind without springs.

If you are under the age of thirty, it’s very possible that you’ve never seen one.  Although they were once a staple of playgrounds around the country, the lawsuit explosion in America prompted school officials and park superintendents to start removing them in the 1970s and 1980s.

Philip Howard, a prominent attorney and the author of the bestselling book, The Death of Common Sense, wrote this about seesaws eight years ago: “Visit a playground and look for a seesaw. They are rapidly disappearing, going the way of merry-go-rounds, diving boards, and other joys of childhood.”

The problem wasn’t that every school and community was being sued.  No, it was simply the likelihood that they would be sued in courts that were increasingly turning a blind eye to personal responsibility that motivated schools and communities to rip the teeter-totters out of the ground and install less “risky” things for kids to play on.  The real possibility of being sued was enough to cause insurance rates to skyrocket, so kids had to say good-bye to their seesaws.

Books have been written about how playgrounds don’t challenge kids enough nowadays.  Playgrounds often don’t often allow kids to take the kind of small risks help them grow and develop.  Not that seesaws were a huge challenge, but they did at least require a little leg power and balance.  Today’s spring-loaded seesaws require very little effort to move, and some experts believe such changes are one of the reasons childhood obesity has become such a problem in America.

Despite the virtual extinction of the old-fashioned seesaw, there is at least one still around.  In my most recent “Let’s Be Fair” radio commentary, I mention that I actually found one!  However, it isn’t in a public park.  It is located in one of the few places in America where lawsuits are as uncommon as seesaws are in the rest of the country…an Amish community.   Makes sense, huh?  The photo above was taken at a school in an Amish enclave in northern Michigan.  The hitching post for horses is visible in the foreground.

Do you have a story to share about how life in America is changing because of the ever-present threat of litigation?  If so, I’d like to hear it.