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.


Dr. Zaius said...

"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."

I think that sounds like an armchair quarterback. And I don't think kids today are uninvolved. When I went back to college I was surprised at how many kids were politically involved, volunteered their time and gave to charities. And this is in a red state. Kids today do get involved.

That said, I do agree with you about how the nature of parenting has changed dramatically. Also, the overall feeling fear that everyone has about things. The crime rate is down, the murder rate is down, but people are more afraid them ever.

In the film "Bowling for Columbine" Michael Moore touched on the subject of why Americans and Canadians have about the same number of guns per capita, and yet the United States has far more murders. There were other points, like Canadians don't lock their doors and stuff. He attributed the discrepancy to American Television and especially American news.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I agree. We need to quit running the lives of kids somuch and let them be themselves, hell it didn't kill us did it?

And oh yeah, I was with you on the smoking at lunch thing. Pot smoking as well.

Distributorcap said...

it amazes me how over-protective some parents get. i have a friend who won't let her 17 year old son come into the city by himself --- this is one of the safest big cities in the world

back in the 60s and 70s when the crime rate soard in NYC, my father would take me to his office some days and just let me wonder free around the city -- and go into the subways as well.

then again look how i turned out so maybe those parent have something

Jess Wundrun said...

Dr. Z if I taught a high school social studies class I would make Bolwing for Columbine part of the curriculum.

Dr. MvM he he he. I was sitting in french class one day with very red eyes and the teacher was working on 'don't'. "Repeat after me, class 'pas de fumer marijuana"

Dcap I once saw an interview with Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) who said from the age of 10 or 11 she was allowed to take busses and subways all over Manhattan. She said that had an incredible impact on her life. I told my 6 yo last week that when she is 11 or 12 she will be allowed to take the bus and go where she wants without her mom, too.

Fran said...

As someone who was allowed to go to (ooh!) downtown White Plains by herself at age 11, followed by trips into Manhattan with my friends at age 14, I would say I think those days are gone.

As you point out- what a pity.

It makes me so sad to see what we have done with our kids. One thing I really agree about in the way that Mr. He Is and Mrs. Who Used to Be is that they are great about how they raise their daughter, my stepdaughter.

She goes outside for hours, often with a spontaneous visit from her BFF and they run around the yard and are on the trampoline. Then they come in and have a snack, often not completely nutritious.

I love watching this and now being a part of it.

Anyway, the world changes around us and you make an excellent point about why everyone just sat there.

Sad indeed.

Anonymous said...

I think kids are being militarized. They've been subjected to six years of propaganda that reveres the military above all other vocations (and hints that it's a lot sexier - that it's what 'real men' do, whereas only losers do things like teach, nurse, etc..).

Whiskeymarie said...

I've said for years that kids don't have enough freedom anymore. I feel really bad for them. Most of my good "kid" memories exist because of the incredible freedom I was afforded by my parents. We (me, my sisters, my friends) had countless unsupervised hours to roam, discover, investigate and explore.
And! We lived to tell about it...