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Hardly a week goes by without another tale to send the eyebrows soaring.

Over Chris--, sorry, over the holiday season, it was whether carols could dare be sung at the annual school "winter" concert.

Last month, in the little Ontario town of Lombardy, it was the banning of the word "gun" on a Grade 1 spelling test after a parent complained that the word was "synonymous with death."

And in Ottawa this past week, they have banned mini-sticks from the First Avenue School playground.

Mini-sticks, for those who may not be familiar with what may be the country's second-most-popular sport, are tiny plastic souvenir hockey sticks that youngsters play a sort of miniature shinny with -- a game they call, naturally, "mini-sticks." They play from their knees or a crouch position and use small foam rubber pucks or tennis balls, and while it is possible to lift the object while shooting, hard shots have the unfortunate result of breaking the little sticks.

The game had become the rage of the tiny First Avenue playground right up until one player happened to bop another in an incident even school officials describe as "minor." The father of the struck child, however, was not in the slightest amused and advised the school that he strongly felt plastic sticks of any size, even miniature, are a potential weapon and, as such, could cause bodily harm and must therefore be kept from the school yard.

The principal of the school, Gayle Singer, reacted as most principals would in the circumstances: She banned the sticks and turned the issue over to a parents council. The council is debating the subject through e-mail and will meet on March 19 to discuss and, one expects, formally outlaw forever the playing of "mini-sticks" in the little school yard.

"Based on feedback received to date," says council head Elizabeth Buckingham, "council is fairly divided between those who are surprised that sticks were permitted and those who believe that there should be a way to permit them."

Buckingham says she personally hopes "that there is a compromise position to be found between those who feel hockey should be banned in the yard and those who would like to see it as an option for the kids."

Singer, the principal, says what's really important in this debate is to see that the children of the school get exercise at recess, and so she has substituted a game she calls "foot hockey" -- essentially, soccer with a tennis ball.

"I know," she says, "that the children will be disappointed -- at least until they see how much fun foot hockey is."

Some on the other side, naturally, feel the whole idea of banning the small plastic sticks is ludicrous, arguing that plenty of natural substances found in a school yard -- icicles, for example -- are far more threatening.

"Trying to play soccer with something the size of a tennis ball on an icy surface has its own dangers," says one father.

"Besides," he adds, slightly tongue in cheek, "how are we going to beat the Russians if we won't let our kids play with hockey sticks at the earliest opportunity?"

Ken Wolff, a CBC producer who has written a charming essay entitled "Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from Mini-sticks," says, "I can't believe any school would ban the use of mini-sticks -- elementary schools will probably ban knives and forks some day because someone, somewhere, once used utensils in a fight."

You begin to see, surely, how such a seemingly insignificant issue can take on such proportions -- yet that is the way of the education world since parents became as prevalent as their children in schools. Political correctness can too easily turn to overcorrecting. Legitimate concerns appear, at times, to have lost all ability to seek out any middle ground.

This is how it comes to pass that spelling "g-u-n" would be temporarily forbidden, that a school in Manitoba would install hidden cameras until ordered to remove them, that a school board in Nova Scotia would ban To Kill A Mockingbird, that schools across the country would be reduced to singing Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer at "winter" concerts because, well, at least no one will complain about religious prejudice.

We can be a ridiculous country at times, but at least Canadians can take some comfort in the fact that our raging issues are usually that: small and silly.

In Texas schools, parents are debating whether to continue teaching abstinence as the only sensible sex education.

While in Britain, sex-education teachers have been advised to ask their young charges to consider oral sex as an acceptable "level of intimacy."

As a Department of Health spokesperson puts it, "Oral sex is one of the 'stopping points' on the road to intercourse.

"Another 'stopping point' is to hold hands."

Kind of makes you glad our controversies are about spelling bees and mini-sticks, doesn't it?