Saturday, September 22, 2007
Playdates are ruining our country
Over at Zaius Nation there is a discussion going on about Andrew Meyer, the kid who got tasered during a speech by John Kerry. One of Zaius' readers echoes something Stephen Colbert said, which was: "some guy is being hassled by the cops and those kids just sat around? Maybe I'm just too old. I see someone being used and abused by authorities, I get involved." - Dee Loralei.
Here's my half-assed theory: Too many play dates. Here's where I sound like an old fogey holding forth on a long list of yoostabees: Used to be kids had to find their own fun. Used to be kids could make their own mistakes. Used to be we didn't organize the curiosity and rebellion out of them.
When I was thirteen years old you could leave high school, walk down to the local PDQ (like a 7-11) buy a pack of smokes and hang out with your friends until lunch was over. Am I advocating this for kids now? No. I'm pointing out how much has changed. Since today's college kids were babies they have been in daycare with a fully structured day, then school, obvs. Nature is a field trip, and play is arranged in phone calls between mothers. "We will play 'fort' from 9 to 10. From 10 to 10:30 we will draw on the sidewalk with chalk. 10:30 we break for a nutritious snack." They haven't been allowed to walk alone to school or go to the park by themselves for fear of a child abduction, though the statistics confirm that stranger danger is no more pronounced today than it was in the 50's, 60's or 70's. (Abductions by family member are often included in the statistics which inflates the number). In twenty years from now many college kids will actually be equipped with a computer tracking chip put there by their parents so that they would be found if they were abducted.
Those college students that sat by and watched Meyer get tasered were 12-14 years old when the terrorists attacked on 9-11. Video surveillance, airport strip searches, 'free speech zones' and fear fear fear has been their diet through their formative years. We are actively trying to change school textbooks so that kids won't think, won't question dogma, won't be able to reason their way out of a paper sack. But they should test okay. So the cops rip a kid asking a question of authority from the microphone and taser him. The kid screams and his proteges look on like it's just an unfortunate alley turned down in 'Resident Evil'. No big.
I am not saying that I have any answers. I was talking to a mom the other day who told me she always escorts her 9 year old son into the women's room because a male friend of hers told her that when he was young he was propositioned three different times in a public men's room. "Was it a Senator?" I asked (but you knew I would). If I give my children the freedom that I think they need and the bad thing happens, what then? On the other hand, children are four times more likely to drown in a neighborhood swimming pool under adult supervision than to be the victim of a non-stranger abduction leading to kidnapping or murder.
As in so many other things we seem to have lost our balance. Caution is good. Closing off is bad. And as with so many other things, I wonder if the pendulum can ever swing back to were it needs to be.