Students Aren't Allowed To Touch Real Rocks

How the Consumer Product Safety Commission drives parents--and everyone else--crazy.
American Educational Products had their shipment all ready: A school's worth of small bags, each one filled with an igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Then the school canceled its order. Says Warring, "They apparently decided rocks could be harmful to children."

The children will study a poster of rocks instead.

And so it goes in the unbrave new world, where nothing is safe enough. It's a world brought to us by the once sane, now danger-hallucinating Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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30 Responses:

  1. strspn says:

    No problem, the internet will solve all the public education problems without those pesky "teachers."

  2. captain18 says:

    What happens when one of the children gets a paper cut from the poster? For God's sake, think of the children!

  3. msjen says:

    Color me completely unsurprised.

  4. tangaroa says:

    To be a devil's advocate, the lead paragraph fails to tie the CPSC to the school's decision to cancel the rock order, and civil claims are at least as much to blame for lawsuit fright as government action.

    The overall story reminds me that Mr. Wizard's chemistry set can no longer be sold. That one probably can be blamed directly on the government.

  5. chuck_lw says:

    Yeah -- as if the kids can't find rocks on the playground.

    I don't doubt there'd be kids who'd throw the rocks at their classmates two seconds after they got them out of the bag, but in the absence of rocks they'd probably just find another weapon.

    • argonel says:

      That would be the slow one. The smart child will be using the rocks in the bag as nature intended. Lock in a sock anyone?

  6. cortejo says:

    I have a 6, almost 7, year old girl. When she was 3-4 she went through a real phase of being into sticks. We even made swords and walking sticks and stuff, and she liked to collect them...anyway...

    I got in trouble last weekend for helping a small child pick up a stick. We were outside at the time.

    • sircyan says:

      Got into trouble from who? The stick police?

      • fnivramd says:

        Other parent probably.

        There have always been parents who were too protective of their own kids, all that changed is "irresponsible parents" became a default framework on which to hang news stories. So over-protective parents feel they're doing the right thing, and those who are more reasonable about it get hounded. This stacks onto government too, which finds itself being asked to legislate against routine circumstance on the basis that it makes bad newspaper headlines. How many of you trust your politicians to choose the Right Thing over the popular thing? Yeah.

        • fnivramd says:

          To be fair, "let's bash an unrelated government department" is a pretty lame hook on which to advertise your book about how people should let their kids eat mud, which is what is going on in this Forbes piece.

          But again, framing the story. "Parents are too protective" is a tricky story, but "Big government is crushing your child's freedom" is an easy toss, straight down the line to the Fox watching masses.

          The link is bullshit, in the technical sense, the author does not care, and does not want to know whether this government agency had anything to do with a school cancelling expensive bags of rocks in favour of a cheap poster. She needs a framing example in which no harm occurred, because her other favourite examples all incur harm - children in the ER who needn't have been, which makes her look like a callous arsehole out to sell a book. Heaven forfend.

      • cortejo says:

        The child's mother, sorry I meant to say that.

  7. spike says:

    I'm evangelizing the book 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do) at every chance I get. They have a web site too.

    The basic notion is that children will be safer, more creative, and more confident, if they are given a chance to learn how recognize and mitigate risk for themselves. The book creates a perfect context for parents and children to try some activities that will not only be great learning experiences - they're also great fun!

    Give the book to a kid for their birthday, bypassing their parents if necessary.

    I have no connection to the book other than the fact that I am a parent, and I want my daughter to grow up to be a Terminator 2 -era Sarah Connor.

    • Bypassing their parents?

      Um.

      No.

    • discogravy says:

      so you'd be cool with someone bypassing you and giving your daughter a book they felt would help them in some way, right? say, the bible. or dianetics. or "our bodies, ourselves". etc etc.

      • i know you don't think so and that sortof q.e.d's this whole thread but yes, yes there are parents who still believe that outside influences are normal and tolerable and even to be encouraged and who believe their precious snowflakes to have minds, real minds, of their own.

        • discogravy says:

          there's a difference between a parent encouraging their child to have outside influences and to think for themselves, and some stranger circumventing parents to influence the kids. FWIW, i wouldn't let my kid unsupervised on the internets or watching any tv show either.

      • npietran says:

        "50 dangerous things" isn't as scandalous as the title makes it sound... It's no dianetics, you guys need to lighten up

        http://www.ted.com/talks/gever_tulley_on_5_dangerous_things_for_kids.html

        If you can't appreciate what gever is trying to do, you're probably a pretty lame parent anyway. It's a great book for kids *and* their parents. Highly recommended

        • discogravy says:

          there's a difference between a parent guiding their child into being themselves, or the child deciding that it is going to expand it's own horizons etc etc and someone else outside of the parent/child relationship circumventing that.

          in fact, the school board deciding that 'rocks are too dangerous' might be a pretty good example of that.

          i have the book, my child will read it; but that's my decision and i would bristle at someone else trying to make it for me and my kid. if you're seriously ok with someone else teaching your kid, i would call that something a little worse than lame parenting.

          • npietran says:

            If your argument is simply that people shouldn't meddle in your parent child relationship, then I'm agree.

            My point is that in the context of "50 dangerous things" I think it's a dumb argument to make because the book isn't that scandalous. Your argument, imho, is not that far off from "don't give my kid a copy of cat in the hat before running it by me first." We're not talking about indoctrinating your kid in my cult here. We're talking about a book that says "try licking a 9 volt battery"

            we're clearly arguing about different things here.

          • lloydwood says:


            if you're seriously ok with someone else teaching your kid, i would call that something a little worse than lame parenting.

            yes. It's called 'primary school'.

  8. korgmeister says:

    Reality needs to stop overtaking my attempts to satirise it.

    It would appear that "Rock control" does indeed exist now.

    Face. Meet palm.

  9. While it's certainly ridiculous that the school won't teach about formation of rocks with -- you know -- rocks, I was trying to figure out how a logical connection is drawn to the rant about the CPSC.

  10. badtux says:

    I followed the food chain up the ladder to where the Forbes article got their "information" about the CPSC supposedly stopping the sale of the rocks to a school district, and found this USA Today article published a week before the Forbes article:

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2010-06-17-productsafety17_ST_N.htm

    Apparently the culprit is not the CPSC, but rather, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which requires all goods sold for use by children to be tested lead-free. This law was passed after an outbreak of lead-contaminated toys from China hit the news media. According to the USA Today article, the school district asked if the rocks had been tested for lead contamination, and the seller said "No" and said they weren't going to test them. The school district then canceled the order because they wanted unleaded rocks, not leaded ones, remember, the point of having actual physical rocks is to have the kids handle them with bare hands -- and whatever kids' bare hands touch eventually ends up in their mouths. The whole issue could have been avoided with a simple swatch test for lead by the seller, but the seller apparently decided that making sure the rocks were unleaded was too much trouble and expense.

    In short, blame the seller for not giving the buyer what he wants, not a government body that had nothing (zero) to do with the school district deciding to not buy the rocks. The school district wanted unleaded rocks. The buyer refused to certify their rocks unleaded. The school district didn't buy the rocks. Simple transaction in a marketplace, hardly the right thing to use to demonize a government body that was not involved in the transaction in any way.

    • jwz says:

      Because, of course, demanding "certified unleaded ROCKS" is a completely sane and rational thing to do.

      The Invisible Hand works!

      • badtux says:

        Exactly! Isn't it the Libertarian thing to do to say we don't need these regulatory bodies because the Invisible Hand will handle it? But here the Invisible Hand *did* handle it (district wanted unleaded rocks likely because parents noticed the rock purchase and called the district to demand unleaded rocks, seller refused to certify them unleaded, district didn't buy rocks), and yet the regulatory body is *still* being lambasted for "replacing rocks with a poster" despite the fact that it wasn't involved at all. Maybe, just maybe, the editorial writer had an agenda that she cared more about than, like, actual *facts*? Hmm, naw, that couldn't be :).

  11. belgand says:

    It feels as if they operate in a similar manner to the PTC and the FCC: an incredibly tiny minority of people complain and they take this to mean that it's a significant problem requiring drastic action.