Nothing promotes licking obesity like postage stamps that show children playing outside. The U.S. Postal Service commissioned a huge batch of them to support first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, which encourages kids to engage in more physical activity.
However, artist Eli Noyes clearly wasn’t aware that his work would be subject to the scrutiny of the nanny state, which frowns upon fun that could possibly result in someone getting hurt. Postal Service officials told various news outlets the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition vetoed the stamps because at least three of the 15 illustrations were considered unsafe activities: a swimmer doing a cannonball; a skateboarder wearing a helmet, but not knee or elbow pads; and — get this — a child doing a handstand without wearing a helmet.
So the entire stamp run, already printed, has been put in storage. Unless Washington suffers an outbreak of common sense, the Postal Service, which loses billions of dollars a year, likely will keep the stamps locked up or destroy them.
The move has been widely panned since it was first reported last week. After all, any type of outdoor play can result in injury, no matter how many precautions are taken, no matter how much protective gear is worn, no matter how many adults are providing supervision. Scrapes and bruises are part of growing up — at least they used to be.
The same officials who purport to champion physical activity and youth sports actually discourage them with inane thinking like this. In fact, flaws can be found in every one of Mr. Noyes’ stamps: a child swinging a baseball bat without wearing a helmet; a soccer player not wearing shinguards; a child standing atop a rock on just one foot; a girl climbing a rope without a safety line. But there’s a reason for that: The stamps depict spontaneous, unstructured play — the kind of play that lets kids learn their abilities and what’s unsafe on their own. Meanwhile, schools ban games of tag, and adults tear down swing sets and other playground equipment that are deemed too risky. Every activity is a lawsuit waiting to happen. No wonder kids are getting fat. No wonder they’re hooked on cellphones and video games.
The greatest irony of this latest government goof: Because kids prefer to communicate via text messaging, email and social media, they’d never use or see these stamps in the first place.
Release the stamps — and our kids, too.