Walking to School, Slackerdom, and Other Revolutionary Acts

by Russell Arben Fox on April 28, 2009 · 20 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Economics & Empire

Wichita, KS
I was born in 1968, and my childhood was the 1970s. My family lived, during those years, in five different homes (all in the same county, though, so it’s not like we were moving great distances…just trying to find a place to stick my parents’ growing brood), and I attended, by my count, five different elementary schools in two different school districts. When the time came for me be sent to our local junior high school, I usually rode the bus there and back; and when the time came for me to attend high school, I was catching rides with my older siblings or driving myself. But elementary school? I walked or rode my bike to school–which was sometimes less than a half-mile away, sometimes two, and for a couple of years about five miles away–just about every single day when the weather permitted…and sometimes even when it didn’t.

I happen to think that there is something important to that, something that might even be considered a little revolutionary today. Years ago I was drawn into a discussion of just this topic, a discussion that involved a couple of other blogs as well, and what I found is that how one answers this simple question–”why don’t kids walk to school anymore?”–opens up any number of cans of worms: family size, socio-economic status, public school funding, zoning laws, parenting styles, the rural-urban divide, and on and on. This is how I put it back then:

The responses [of those attempting to answer the above question] are numerous and revealing: fear of crime (real, sometimes, but mostly imagined), poorly designed neighborhoods without sidewalks, loss of cross-walk guards and other services, heavy backpacks, addiction to driving, overprotectiveness, insanely busy schedules, obesity and laziness, two-career families for whom the drive to school is the only real opportunity for parents to interact with their children one-on-one, etc. What I personally found most interesting was the flavor of many of the comments….if you read them closely, you can see language straight out of the conservative playbook: “times have changed,” “kids today don’t know how to play,” “things really were different back then,” etc., etc. Some of the commentators try to tie this into their general anti-Republican political orientation, but most just let their complaints stand alone mournfully.

I can sympathize, but I also wonder at the sociodemographics at play here….[T]here was a time when I fiddled with the idea of writing an essay titled “When Generation X Sends its Kids to School.” Not surprisingly, I started thinking about this when our oldest daughter started kindergarten, and Melissa and I felt ourselves surrounded, overwhelmed, by advice and strategy and counsel about how best to educate our little girl, and how to keep her productive and safe, and which schools would offer what and how much, and what we should fear and how we could be ready to overcome or circumvent it. We felt baffled and distracted. A lot of it was our own doing, of course–first child going off to school and all that. There was a fair amount of class and regional anxiety involved too (lower-middle-class family, breadwinner just out of graduate school, leaving the big city for a for a one-year position at a university in a poor part of the deep South). But above and beyond it all, there was something down deep that Melissa and I both felt: that the education of children in America–both in and out of school–has become in the public mind a very big, very important, very delicate, very nerve-wracking affair, when really, it probably shouldn’t be. This is not to ignore the very real problem of failing schools or dangerous neighborhoods or anything else; we we’re fully aware of that. But the high-pressure, time-sensitive, goal-oriented world of today’s public schools felt very odd to us, and not a little bit wrong.

I realize that this is much too heavy-handed a generational stereotype, but maybe those in their 30s today remember a time when neighborhoods were (more or less) intact enough, and teachers were (more or less) trusted enough, and the streets were (more or less) safe enough, and families were (more or less) stable enough, to allow children–namely, us–larger amounts of time, space, and responsibility. Bike to school. Be home by dark. Catch the bus downtown. Climb a tree. And so forth. This sensibility does solidify, for many of us anyway, a real discontent we have with a social world that (for economic and cultural reasons) has been so mercilessly measured and surveyed and risk-assessed. Not long before our experience with Megan, I’d read David Brooks’s extremely depressing (for me) article on “The Organization Kid“–the child of baby boomers who has been prepped and watched over and groomed to excel. Heavy backpacks and programmed time with the parents forms the basis of this type of person’s interaction with the world. The parents of my generation, on the other hand–the older siblings, perhaps, of those who rebelled (my dad listened to Elvis in high school, not the Beatles)–somehow missed out on the need to change the world, and the micromanagement it (not doubt unintentionally) entails. And they raised us to be slackers. A bad thing? In some ways. But if I can somehow make sure my daughters have the power and opportunity to slack off–to find their own way, make their own mistakes, develop their own little world, perhaps all while taking the time to walk to school–in the midst of this high-pressure, paranoid world, I’ll feel that I’ve done some good.

Walking to school sounds like, well, work, especially if one can catch a ride. But actually, walking to school–and the temporal, social, cultural, economic environment is presumes and contributes to–is in a very real sense lazy, at least in a world of organization, because it requires no organization: just two working legs and the basic knowledge required to cross on the green light. There is a real and significant theoretical point to “slacking off” in the face of meritocratic, organized, time-sensitive world, to refusing to carry a Blackberry (as Laura McKenna wisely put it in one of her rants (and which I further commented on): “corporate life is the enemy of the modern family”) and insisting that whatever work you do, whatever deadline you have to make, whatever seasonal imperative you’re committed to, your family and your life as an human being is not something that belongs, in a fundamental sense, on the clock. Take the time to walk; it’s a form of dissent.

Of course, by dissenting you’re also engaging yourself in larger questions, questions that need to be a part of ordinary individual, family, and community life, but which so often we moderns fail to engage in, leaving such issues to be addressed those with vested (usually business) interests. Questions about collective action, neighborhood government, and public goods. Why aren’t there sidewalks along our street? Where does the spill-over parking from the new Wal-Mart really go? Who decided on these speed limits? Pausing for a moment–or just giving it some thought as you walk to your next destination, rather than going on the usual brain-dead automatic as you fight traffic and Tweet someone on your cell phone–leads to the realization that the assumption that everyone drives everywhere is going to affect the homes available to buyers, the parks and open spaces available to take your family to play in, the friends that your daughters will be able to make at school. And as for those friends…as the father of four girls, with the aforementioned oldest daughter now on the cusp of teen-agerhood, I’m getting it all the time. We’re slowing her down, that’s what folks say: she doesn’t have a cell phone, we make her walk to school, we’ve got to pick up the pace! Do we want her to “fall behind”?

Well, no…and yes. I’m enough of a modern American to embrace the idea of pursuing opportunities when they present themselves to you, and if said opportunities might involve extra time and effort and attention on my part, as a loving father I’m going to provide those for my children; I won’t slack off in that regard. But once again, I think there needs to be some limits, and a lot of those limits are best realized by way of simply thinking of what a normal human being can do, in a normal day, without attending to the hyped-up, commercialized, technologically enabled, impatient, entitlement-oriented speed which surrounds us. Maybe we won’t drive our daughters all over town to every party and every lesson and every tutor available to her, simply for the sake or organizing her life around fun and accomplishment. Maybe–as I said in another one of those wonderful discussions which Laura keeps hosting, this one dealing with cell phones and teenagers–my wife and I have come to the unspoken agreement that for as long as possible, as much as possible, we are going to instruct our kids in the value of just plodding along and dealing with the inconveniences and limits of human life as they come, rather than looking for ways or for tools which will hasten their ways around or beyond them (and, too often, at too young an age, beyond us, the parents who, “slackers” though we may be, are hopefully not slacking off on our responsibilities). It’s a form of Luddism, I know, but we tend think that too much ordinary common sense–the sort of bourgeois stuff that comes from slowly accumulating life skills and lessons–can potentially be lost if young people are, on the one hand, fast-tracked into worlds of high-tech meritocratic accomplishment, while on the other hand, still feel themselves tethered to parents to deal with real world problems (like when the computer crashes). Cutting down on the former–by, for example, doing all you can to be able to make the choice to buy a home in a neighborhood where they can walk to school and church, and then expecting them to do so–can, coincidentally, teach them a little bit of real responsibility and self-reliance, and thus increase their ability to deal with the latter on their own.

What’s that–the hypocrisy accusation? Well, it is true we own a cell phone–one; my wife carries it. Perhaps we’ll get another, family phone for latter on, once our oldest learns how to drive. But that’s a few years away yet. Take it slow for now, is what I say. Slack off, dissent, turn off the tv, and walk to the park (or ride your bike; in truth, that’s my preferred method of travel). Sure, it’s a whole mile away. But it’s not raining…and the time away from the beeps and whistles of modern life will do you a world of good.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Bob Cheeks April 28, 2009 at 4:19 am

Dr. Fox,
Enjoyed the essay. If I may, a comment on daughters “on the cusp” of the teen years.
My pal, Jim Chufo, a Youngstown, Ohio Italian, raised one daughter. When she reached her teen years and began to date he would have the daughter usher the young Romeo into the kitchen when he came to pick her up. There, Jimmy would be busily cleaning his pistol…er, one of his pistols. Whereupon he would have a “talk” with the young gentleman indicating that he knew where he lived and he expected his daughter would be returned home in the same condition she was in when she left to go on her date.
Jim told me the technique worked very well.

avatar Josh Cooney April 28, 2009 at 8:25 am

Good piece, Professor Fox. I knew there was a reactionary in there somewhere. We might sound curmudgeonly when we criticize the fast paced, highly organized, goal oriented, education system. But there is truly a dark and sinister side effect to this kind of program. There are too many kids who simply can’t keep up and cannot function in a high-powered, techno-meritocratic school system, nor, ultimately, in the economy it produces. Some of this is due to socio-economic background, intelligence, and learning disablities. Perhaps with better, or smarter, funding and programs this could be partially corrected. But sometimes I think that this kind of organizational system simply goes against human nature. That no matter how hard the system tries, there will always be a segment that will not conform.

I tip my hat to those parents like Mr. Fox, who resist the tempatation to fully join the rat race. I also feel sorry for parents who really don’t understand what is going on and why their children are, in fact, falling behind. Many such kids will be thrown aside, chewed up, or sucked into the black hole of modernity.

avatar Weasly Pilgrim April 28, 2009 at 8:36 am

Apologies for the pseudonym; I always feel a little weird posting under it, but it’s my compromise between participation in these online discussions and my wishing not to be a “public person.”

Anyway, enough about that. I enjoyed this essay, partly because community and walking and cell-phone avoidance are topics near and dear to my heart. Your sentiments are more or less the same as mine on these things—indeed, I have written several entries on my own blog along these lines.

I happen to live in a small town which has good walk-ability, a relatively stable population and people who know one another. Specifically, neighbors know which kids belong to which household and keep an eye on them as they roam the neighborhood. To illustrate just how nice this is, let me relate a couple stories.

One day when my eldest was 3 years old (he’s 10 now), my wife put him down for his customary afternoon nap, then went downstairs to do some chores. Rather than falling asleep, my son got out of bed, came downstairs, and went out the front door (which was locked), all without my wife’s knowledge. He proceeded to toddle up the street, getting several blocks before a neighbor noticed him and brought him back home. Needless to say, my wife was startled to answer the door to find this neighbor holding our son.

Just the other day, a similar thing happened with my youngest, who is 2. We were all outside, chatting with some visitors. At some point, my son slipped away and took off up the street, unnoticed by any of the adults who were standing there. He got almost three blocks before a neighbor again noticed him and brought him back.

We feel comfortable letting our older children out and about in the neighborhood. My 10 year old is free to ride his bike pretty much anywhere within hollering distance so long as he lets us know he is taking off. We are not terribly concerned with where exactly he is as we have set hard boundaries on his wanderings, boundaries that allow us to find him relatively easily when it’s time for supper. My 5 year old is free of the street we live on and also is allowed to walk the two blocks to the post office to get the mail (she often can’t remember which PO box is ours on the big wall o’ boxes, but she has fun and makes the postal clerks laugh).

Given that we grant our children a fair amount of freedom to wander, it was a surprise to us when we found out that the local school district would not allow our children to walk to school (were we to send them; we homeschool). The walk would be less than a mile, all on sidewalks through utterly safe neighborhoods. For some reason, the district policy requires that all students either be bussed or driven to school. I think there are exceptions granted in certain cases, but generally, walking is frowned upon. We have no idea why this would be so.

Why is walking a revolutionary act? Why must we all have cell-phones and Facebook accounts? In general, why is pressure so great to participate in all aspects of modernity? It seems we moderns are very insecure and need constant validation that we are “with it.” Those of us who choose to reject certain of the trappings of modernity are seen as oddballs, eccentrics, and perhaps just a little… dangerous? Vive la Révolution!

avatar Russell Arben Fox April 28, 2009 at 9:07 am

Bob, thanks for the advice. Having been recently schooled in the ways of guns, I may follow your friend’s example!

Josh,

There are too many kids who simply can’t keep up and cannot function in a high-powered, techno-meritocratic school system, nor, ultimately, in the economy it produces. Some of this is due to socio-economic background, intelligence, and learning disablities. Perhaps with better, or smarter, funding and programs this could be partially corrected. But sometimes I think that this kind of organizational system simply goes against human nature.

Yes–our technologically-enabled, managerially-disposed, information-obessed, service-work-oriented meritotocracy isn’t for everyone. I’m happy to allow that it has been a factor in an expanding economic and social world that has managed to include many its range or wealth and opportunities who in the past were left behind. But at the same time, it has led to the dismissal of forms of work and learning that are essential to the good life, and central to the kind of contributions that many–perhaps most!–human beings are best suited for. I see them at my place of work (a small liberal arts college) every day: good men and women, who ought to have solid, honorable, blue-color jobs, who are forcing themselves to memorize information they will never use, all to secure a degree and therefore, perhaps, a management position at Wal-Mart, so at least they’ll have health insurance. I wish I could tell them all to drop out, to slack off, to dissent! But I know that building ourselves down from our bizarre present situation will take longer, and be more difficult, than just that. When it comes to my kids though, I can at least give them enough of an example of slowness so they perhaps will be able to see and avoid the rat race track before they unknowingly get themselves on it.

Weasly,

Rather than falling asleep, my son got out of bed, came downstairs, and went out the front door (which was locked), all without my wife’s knowledge. He proceeded to toddle up the street, getting several blocks before a neighbor noticed him and brought him back home. Needless to say, my wife was startled to answer the door to find this neighbor holding our son.

That’s an awesome story. I hope it led to a pleasant exchange with the neighbor, rather than a screaming match a warnings about calling Child Protection Services! There are fewer and fewer places these days where there are folks at home during the day and are willing to keep an eye out for each others’ kids. If you have that, treasure it: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, in the end, the single greatest factor in shaping how children our raised is the presense–or absence–of trust among neighbors, as evidenced by eyes on the streets, and a willingness to intervene as necessary.

Given that we grant our children a fair amount of freedom to wander, it was a surprise to us when we found out that the local school district would not allow our children to walk to school (were we to send them; we homeschool). The walk would be less than a mile, all on sidewalks through utterly safe neighborhoods. For some reason, the district policy requires that all students either be bussed or driven to school.

I’ve heard of policies like that. I think it comes down to a collective action problem–if practically everyone is already driving, then the school is obliged to institute some sort of formal form-a-line, drop-them-off-and-pick-them-up-at-the-front-door policy, and if there were kids actually, you know, walking to school, that would cause delays and be unsafe. An idiotic policy, I know, but you can imagine how it comes about.

avatar Albert April 28, 2009 at 9:19 am

As long as it’s warm, don’t let rain keep you from that walk :) It’s a bit uncomfortable until you’re soaked through and through, but I promise you there’s nothing like the feeling of heavy rain on your face. It’s like God’s giving you a shower. Extra fun if you can get your wife and kids out running around.

avatar Weasly Pilgrim April 28, 2009 at 9:46 am

That’s an awesome story. I hope it led to a pleasant exchange with the neighbor, rather than a screaming match a warnings about calling Child Protection Services!

The neighbor concerned was not particularly pleasant. There was no screaming, no threat, just a rather crotchety “Keep an eye on your kid.” But the fact that she knew which house the child belonged to and was willing to bring him home and talk to my wife about it was gratifying.

avatar Josh Cooney April 28, 2009 at 10:57 am

“The chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems now to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker,–not the Knight, but Walker Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of Church and State and People.

“We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practised this noble art; though, to tell the truth, at least, if their own assertions are to be received, most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence, which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker.” ~Thoreau

avatar brierrabbit3030 April 28, 2009 at 6:18 pm

I wonder if soon, young people will not be able to relate to stories like Tom Sawyer, or Huckleberry Finn, etc, whose adventurous outdoor lives, will seem totally alien to the coddeled, timeshared, regimented world of the modern kid. I grew up in Arizona, and had literally hundreds of square miles of wilderness, and ranch country to play around in. In the small towns I grew up in, parents expected you home by supper, but otherwise let you run around. Todays kids live in a much more constrained world. And are much the poorer for it. They know how to push pixels around on a screen, but can’t make things for themselves. They may not even have a shop in the garage to experiment with anymore. They can look up anything on the web, for instance wildlife info. But have no personal experience with animals other than pets. I kept all kinds of things I caught in the surrounding desert as short term pets. Even Black Widow spiders. What parent allows such things now? Video sports are more interesting than the real thing, to many kids. And so on. Sad, very sad……

avatar Mark Shiffman April 28, 2009 at 8:35 pm

When I was hired at Villanova, I looked for houses within walking distance of the school we knew we wanted to send our son to. As it turns out, the neighnorhood is lovely for walking, especially in spring — bursting with magnolias, dogwoods, and azaleas. On the half block of sloping ground behind a church school’s playground, someone long ago had the good will to plant all kinds of flowers: snowdrops (maybe naturally occurring), crocus, 4 kinds of daffodil, 8 or 9 colors of tulip, grape hyacinth and iris. There’s even a cut-through path in the middle of one block of houses (next to the train station) — a flagstone walk between two hedges.

When the weather is good and the sun is up on the earlier side, my son always asks “Can we walk today?” It’s a marvelous way to start the day, and I have been able to teach my boys (now two of them) to know some of the flora and fauna of the neighborhood.

avatar Badger April 29, 2009 at 1:57 pm

The world is different. Madison, WI, has grown about 4x its population in the past 2 generations. Milwaukee, WI, has stayed about the same. There is much more traffic in Madison than Milwaukee. Many of the streets of Milwaukee – I used to drive a taxi in Milwaukee – had less traffic than the streets of the city I grew up, a city of 10,000. Letting your child roam free with the kind of traffic experienced today – particularly near a schools where you may have 200 or 300 cars dropping off children in a half hour span – is a recipe for disaster.

I’m sorry, but the commenter that hits his children roam free in the neighborhood just scares me. Even though the situation was coming to an end in my youth even, the truth of that matter was that no children did roam free. They were being watched always. Back in the day, a neighborhood consisted of several extended families and not the bunches of autonomous units visible today. Talk to any police department or just drive around yourself between 3:00 and 5:00 on a weekend afternoon, and you will see children idling their time with not so innocent pursuits. It’s Lord of the Flies out there, and it shows in the social statistics.

avatar Badger April 29, 2009 at 2:13 pm

An edit button would be helpful or perhaps I should just proof read.

commenter that hits his children roam free s/b …that lets his…

3:00 and 5:00 on a weekend afternoon s/b weekday afternoon.

I’m sure there are others. Apologizes.

avatar Hans Noeldner April 29, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Thanks Russel for the thoughful essay. Have you heard of the term, “free-range childhood”? I have found that it really resonates among people in their 40′s and older…in our obsessions with safety and security, we have lost something of incredible worth.

Here is a little something I wrote last summer, inspired by the overwhelming river of steel flowing to the elementary school nearby:

http://entropicjournal.blogspot.com/2008/06/elephant-in-drop-off-zone.html

avatar D.W. Sabin April 29, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Aside from the street life literary quality of Cafe Society, another of those wonderful concepts the dread French have given us is the Flaneur…..the craftsman of meaningful aimlessness…the sidewalk curator.

We go so fast that we miss much of what is real. Deadline to the easily forgotten.

My favorite recollection about walking to school were the days when spring winds would howl down out of the canyons of the Wasatch at hurricane force, ripping roofs off houses and generally , making the trip hair-raising. Along the school playground, one was advised to clutch the chain link fence to keep from skittering off on the ice and then…the bette noir: the garbage can, bounding down 9th street in a clattering assault…terrible galvanized missiles acquiring dents and an occasional casualty on their way west toward Wall Avenue. It is an undignified event to be laid out by a Galvanized Garbage Can while the girls laugh from the school doorway.

The weirdest school-walking was an occasional nuclear drill when, instead of hiding under desks or marching down into the basement, we were all instructed to run home as quickly as possible and were to check in with the office by phone with our mother (a charming thing of the past) when we were there to report our time. This failed to work with me though, figuring that if a nuclear bomb was going to hit, it made no sense to run home, so…I first discovered the fragrant pleasures of sun-warmed Quince on one of these strange events and waited for my pals whereupon we would light out for the sagebrush flats down by the river ….and maybe call home from the phone booth at the mouth of the canyon….that is, if we had any change left after buying a soda.

Walk on Mr. Fox

avatar Russell Arben Fox April 30, 2009 at 10:09 am

Badger,

Letting your child roam free with the kind of traffic experienced today – particularly near a schools where you may have 200 or 300 cars dropping off children in a half hour span – is a recipe for disaster.

I don’t disagree with you here. As I said to Weasly, it’s a collective-action problem, complete with “tipping points”: once most parents are dropping their kids off at school, walking to school becomes at best a hassle, at worst unsafe. The only response is, well, more collective, democratic action. I’m convinced that the only reasons our two oldest daughters–ages 12 and 9–are able to walk to school is 1) we waited to buy until we could find a home that allowed most of the walks/bike rides to their schools to take place through residential neighborhoods, and 2) there has been strong action locally to keep stoplights and traffic crossings up to par, even on busy streets. Without those two things, our obligations to our children might have led us to join the rest of the crowd.

The commenter that lets his children roam free in the neighborhood just scares me. Even though the situation was coming to an end in my youth even, the truth of that matter was that no children did roam free. They were being watched always. Back in the day, a neighborhood consisted of several extended families and not the bunches of autonomous units visible today.

I would disagree with you, slightly, in regard to rural areas; I really did run free, or go biking free, from hours in my youth. But yes, when it comes to neighborhoods, you’re correct: there were always folks at home, keeping their eye out on the kids. (I remember sledding parties amongst neighborhood kids when I was young, where we’d all gather in the street to use the long and high driveway of one neighbor to sled down when there was snow. We certainly were being kept an eye, throughout all that.) I’m not sure that “several extended families” is that is needed; even in “autonomous units,” neighbors can still watch out for and intervene when necessary in the play time of each others’ kids. The issue is more simple: is anyone at home? In a world where everyone has a football practice or a study group or a seond job or mall party to rush off to all the time, neighborhoods can be pretty quiet. That, more than anythign else, is what invites the not so innocent idling you speak of, I think.

avatar Mark T. Mitchell April 30, 2009 at 10:29 am

Russell is right. If adults are not at home, there are no “eyes on the street.” Walkable neighborhoods are not enough (though they are a necessary condition). The so-called New Urbanists have a project in Gaithersburg, MD called “The Kentlands.” Lovely place. Walkable. Interesting buildings and landscaping. I took a group of students there after studying the New Urbanism. They liked the look but thought the place was kind of creepy because it was deserted. Of course, we went during the day when all the adults were off at work and the kids were either in school or shipped off site to day-care facilities. No doubt many families need two careers in order to afford to live in neighborhoods like The Kentlands.

avatar The Reticulator April 30, 2009 at 8:10 pm

If you folks aren’t reading Lenore Skenazy’s “Free Range Kids” blog, you should be.

Badger makes a point that reminds me of the discussion about a Skenazy post from last week, “Mom Orders Bickering Kids Out of Car–Ruining them for Life?

You can read the comments for yourself, but here is my take on it. It’s one thing (a bad thing) for the govt to arrest the mother and issue a protection order against her. It’s another thing for her neighbor to say (and I don’t know if this is how it happened), “Here’s your daughter. I found her crying, two miles from home. She says you kicked her and her sister out of her car. I don’t know the whole story, but I’m concerned that something bad could have happened to her.”

Some people conflate the two issues of the government stepping in and the neighbors being critical. But those are two different things. If we want the government to butt out, we need to let the neighbors butt in. That’s what it means when people say, “it takes a village.” Most of us don’t like the neighbors watching our every move and judging how we live. That’s a major reason people have moved away from small towns to the city, where they can be more anonymous. But if we do away with the social controls via neighbors watching each others’ business, then we’ll end up with an increasingly totalitarian welfare-police state to control our relationships.

I can resent living in the neighborhood fish-bowl as much as anyone else, but I like that a lot better than having Big Brother watch out for me.

Back when Hillary wrote, “It takes a village,” a lot of my fellow libertarian-tending conservatives criticized the concept. I tried to get those I know to think of it as a good idea, but without much success. The problem with Hillary is that what she really meant was, “It takes a totalitarian police state to raise a child.”

avatar Esmeralda_Pearl May 3, 2009 at 10:02 am

Dr. Fox,

I enjoyed the essay. Thank you! :)

I’m old enough to remember when practically everyone walked to school. Also when there was a Main Street and most people were within walking distance from their jobs. Where you lived was determined by your work location.
Dr. Fox,

I enjoyed the essay. Thank you! :)

I’m old enough to remember when practically everyone walked to school. Also when there was a Main Street and most people were within walking distance from their jobs. Where you lived was determined by your work location.

My childhood home was only a couple of blocks from the elementary school. We didn’t always walk on the sidewalks; on route were two large vacant lots with well-worn paths…just dandy for winter walking in the snow or when it wasn’t muddy.

After returning from school (Backpacks ??? …for Boy Scouts and soldiers) we’d change into our “play-clothes.” (girls wore dresses to school) We’d have a quick snack of homemade cookies and milk and head for the yard, the local park or the creek (in warmer weather).

At 5:00 pm the whistle at the “firehouse” sounded off and we headed for home. Mother served supper promptly at 6:00. So, I had just enough time to wash up and dress for our family gathering.

I don’t remmeber watching TV, except on Saturday mornings, rainy or very cold days Once in a great while; if Dad was was out of town on business, we’d have “TV-Dinners.” WoW !!! :)

No wonder the children today suffer from so much ADD/ADHD. They don’t
spend any time out doors! I agree with Dr. Fox that “slack time” is essential for children. The time spent in “non-productive” and “non-electronically-stimulated” time is necessary for our neurons to regenerate…my non-scientific opinion. As a former teacher; I believe that this time is also necessary for the formation of a free imagination.

My childhood home was only a couple of blocks from the elementary school. We didn’t always walk on the sidewalks; on route were two large vacant lots with well-worn paths…just dandy for winter walking in the snow or when it wasn’t muddy.

After returning from school (Backpacks ??? …for Boy Scouts and soldiers) we’d change into our “play-clothes.” (girls wore dresses to school) We’d have a quick snack of homemade cookies and milk and head for the yard, the local park or the creek (in warmer weather).

At 5:00 pm the whistle at the “firehouse” sounded off and we headed for home. Mother served supper promptly at 6:00. So, I had just enough time to wash up and dress for our family gathering.

I don’t remember watching TV, except on Saturday mornings, rainy or very cold days Once in a great while; if Dad was was out of town on business, we’d have “TV-Dinners.” WoW !!! :)

No wonder the children today suffer from so much ADD/ADHD. They don’t spend any time out doors! I agree with Dr. Fox that “slack time” is essential for children. The time spent in “nonproductive” and “non-electronically-stimulated” time is necessary for our neurons to regenerate…my nonscientific opinion. As a retired teacher; I believe that this time is also necessary for the formation of a free imagination.

avatar Anya June 12, 2009 at 12:26 am

I really enjoyed your slant in this modern dy & age….keep it up, you are doing a gr8 job. I have 3 children 2 girls & 1 boy, and am just wondering if maybe some of them age 11yrs, should be ok to walk on their own. I trust her completely it’s the Perverts that I don’t trust, for all you know your next door neighbour could be a murderer…….I always let my kids walk when they’re with another child or neighbours, never walk alone……….otherwise I have enjoyed your reading.

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