Pennsic policy games

The big new bit of stupidity -- this time not from the SCA board of directors -- is a new Pennsic rule that minors, meaning people under 18, cannot attend classes without being accompanied by an adult. I guess it's just too dangerous for a 16-year-old to learn Italian dance or a 17-year-old to learn how to spin wool, or something. This is totally bizarre, as there is not a general restriction on teenagers at Pennsic. They can go (unaccompanied) to shop (even to the blacksmiths!), or to shoot archery, or to watch the fighting, or to any private camp they choose. (Kids under 12 are more restricted.)

Sadly predictable is the reaction of many people in the face of the ensuing discussions. The original rule said minors had to be accompanied to classes by a parent or legal guardian, which is totally crazy, and in the face of much protest they "clarified" that they really meant a responsible adult, meaning any adult appointed by the parents, and not something involving legal process. And today, with that change, people are saying "oh, well that's not so bad then" and "that's reasonable" and "we can find people to take our kids to classes, then". It's as if they've forgotten that the fundamental policy itself is broken. They're saying "oh, if you're just going to take an arm rather than costing me an arm and a leg, that's ok then". Hello? And it only took a day! Amazing.

I'm not saying people need to Stand Up And Do Something Now, because I don't know what we can do. Yes, I want to fix it, but I don't know what to do today to do that. (I can think of small, tactical things to do to mitigate the damage, but that's not a solution.) It seems obvious to me that there is something deeper going on, and I'm not dialed into it. But I do know that it's a short step from "well, that's less bad" to "that's ok" (we're seeing this already) to "of course that's reasonable and you're a reckless idiot if you don't agree". We've seen this before from the SCA (mandatory membership, no wait an unjust tax instead, to point to biggest but not sole case) and it's certainly not unique to this organization. Heck, we see it in marketing too; remember New Coke?

Regardless of where it happens, its success depends on people focusing on the here-and-now and not taking the longer view. I guess hill-climbing is a popular algorithm. (For the non-geeks, this means you take an alternate path if it will directly improve on where you are, but you rule out paths that make it worse -- even if those paths then lead to something much better.)

I'm talking here mostly about process and meta-issues. As for the base question of how we treat children (of all ages), the best comment I've seen has been from Cariadoc, who wrote: "I have long held that there are two fundamental views of children: That they are pets who can talk, or that they are small people who do not yet know very much. The wrong one is winning." This non-parent says: yes, that.


Added in a comment:

They have been quite unwilling to share any rationale for this.

The A&S area is way safer than random private camps in secluded areas, just to pick one example. The idea that a teen can't go to a well-attended class on Viking clothing, but can go hang out at Vlad's until dark, is broken. What behavior are we trying to encourage here? I want event attendees of all ages to feel welcome, not ostracized. The very young require special handling, and all parents need to be held accountable for the behavior of their children (up to evicting them from events if they are persistently negligent), but that's nothing special about the SCA -- the same should apply in any public or communal place. Yet the folks in charge are trying to make rules way more restrictive than those of any place else I can think of. It's probably a CYA thing (fear of liability) without much regard to the effect it has on the people involved.

If I were teaching this year I would adopt the following policy: anyone who wants to attend my class is welcome. Some adults are short, incontinent, or inarticulate; that someone is three feet tall or in diapers or unable to participate in discussions is not my concern, and it would be rude and invasive for me to inquire. People with limitations are constantly hounded by nosy people, after all, and I would never want to put them on the spot. So there. But as I alluded to the original post, that's tactics and mitigation, not strategy and a fix.

There are lots of other interesting comments (archived).