Desensitizing to Kids Risk and Safety

Originally posted on May 15, 2013 @ 7:57 PM

Dr Rob beat me to the post on this one about the proposal to teach “safety” in schools so I’ll just make a few opening comments….. I fear the opposite of desensitization and that we will produce a generation of little “Zero Harmers”.  If the Public Service safety inductions that I have seen are an indication of the curriculum then a lot of kids will be way too scared to go into the workforce for fear of suffering a gruesome death very early in their careers.

My boys already think safety is a joke the way it is currently managed by schools, with risky activities (that we enjoyed) slowly being banned and the mountain of paperwork they hand me before an major activity with the comment: “here Dad, sign this, you love this stuff”!!!!!! 

I agree with Rob in that the course is likely to focus on risk aversion, legislation, compensation, paperwork, procedures and PPE. If they are serious about preparing them for the workforce then why not teach subjects like Leadership, Communication, Respect and Creative Thinking – all qualities essential for a successful AND SAFE career.

Desensitizing to Kids Risk and Safety

By Dr Rob Long from

I read with interest the idea that School students need better health and safety education (University of Adelaide News Thursday, 9 May 2013 It is interesting that this idea is put forward by ‘safety experts’. What a bizarre idea. Here we have a major problem in the workforce of people being continually desensitized to risk through excessive bureaucracy, excessive regulation and excessive legislation, cognitive overload and ‘tick and flick’ and then someone comes up with the idea that we should teach safety in schools. Just imagine how useful it will be to bring forward the desensitization process.

One of the best ways to desensitize people against effective assessment and management of risk and safety is to give them just enough exposure to something so, when it comes to actually experiencing the realities of risk, they have been inoculated against it. This happens in schools in politics education. It is remarkable the level of disinterest of young people against effective participation in politics yet they have all be inoculated against it. So when they get to become participants in it, they know all about it. Content knowledge without context is rarely educational, it’s just information. Information is not education and data is not learning.

In an overloaded school curriculum with alarm bells ringing about being behind the world in the basics, someone comes up with the bright idea of teaching safety in schools. I wonder what kind of safety would be taught? If the safety industry is anything to go by it will be lessons in regulation, fear and systems. Now there’s a good recipe for inoculation. Teach kids that safety is all about risk aversion and paperwork, whilst in the afternoon they take all their risks on social media, drug activity and rebelling against the boundaries. What a dichotomous and schizophrenic disposition towards education and learning. How can I know risk and safety and have real questions with meaning if there is nothing except abstract concepts in a school classroom with a teacher or safety officer who knows so little about the essentials of risk? Why is it that the safety industry doesn’t questions such ideas and see the problems and self interest associated with this.


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