During our visit to Massachusetts earlier this week, we stopped by John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Blackstone, which I attended in grades K-3. Our kids played on the same playground that I played as a kindergartener. We peaked into my old kindergarten classroom, played on some playground equipment that I played on as a little boy, and stretched our legs after a lot of driving.
At one point, the kids asked me to play “Police Officers.”
It was quickly determined that I was to be the police chief, doomed to a life spent sitting in his office at the top of the slide. Charlie would be my one and only police officer, to whom I would bark commands and await his return. Clara would be a variety of private citizens, bringing problems to me that Charlie would ultimately solve.
Bank robberies? Speeding cars? Cats caught in trees? I wondered what kind of problems Clara would bring to me. I wondered how Charlie might solve them.
I wonder if this was the kind of thing I played on this playground so long ago.
Clara soon arrived with her first complaint:
The school closest to her home was not allowing certain students to attend because of their disabilities. “I need you to integrate the school so all children can learn,” she said. “Okay?”
School integration. This was the problem that Clara brought to me.
Charlie immediately offered a solution:
“I think I need to replace that principal,” he said. “It sounds like he’s too mean. And he’s definitely the problem because he’s in charge. I’ll go find a better principal and fire the other one.”
Did you catch that?
Charlie’s solution to the problem amounted to a visit with Human Resources. No gun battle. No arrests. No suggestion of handcuffs or jail cells. Just a simple removal and replacement of the person responsible for the problem.
I couldn’t decide if my children were exceedingly brilliant or astoundingly boring.
Either way, I’m fairly certain that as a boy, I did none of these things while playing on this playground.