What happens when the fear of the incredibly rare crime of child kidnapping becomes so all-consuming that it overshadows any other considerations? Including common sense? Or even Googling?
You get something like this: A school in England that holds a multi-school sports day every June – the highlight of the year, where kids compete and parents cheer – decides, for the first time, to ban parents from attending. That’s right: no parents are allowed to watch their kids. Why not? Here’s the rationale, as reported in The Telegraph:
Paul Blunt, development manager at the East Beds School Sports Partnership, said the “ultimate fear” was that a child could be abducted.
“If we let parents into the school they would have been free to roam the grounds. All unsupervised adults must be kept away from children.
“An unsavoury character could have come in and we just can’t put the children in the event or the students at the host school at risk like that. The ultimate fear is that a child is hurt or abuducted, and we must take all measures possible to prevent that.”
That’s like saying because it may rain sometime during the year and a child could get hit by lightining, we cannot allow children to attend school anymore. (Quit cheering, kids.) After all, they could get zapped on their way. Child zapping is the “ultimate fear” and we are just being sensible in taking all possible measures to prevent that. Right?
Wrong, of course. Really wrong. It does not make sense to prepare for the worst case scenario when the chances of that scenario happening are infinitessimally small. That’s why I must take issue with a woman who posted earlier on this blog that even if there were just a .00001% chance of something terrible happening to her child, that was not a “risk” she was willing to take.
When something has a .00001% chance of happening, I don’t think we should consider that a “risk” anymore. We need a new word to keep it in perspective. How about a “nisk” as in nearly non-existent risk? (Or “nnisk?”) Whatever we call it, we should consider anything that unusual as a bizarre aberation in the natural order of things — something we cannot prepare for or prevent anymore than we can prevent an asteroid from landing in our dirty laundry, giant target though that may be.
Yes, please teach your children the basics of staying safe: How to cross a street safely, how to run and kick and scream if somebody is bothering them, how to ask for — or even demand — help if they find themselves in danger or lost or confused. Teach them never to go off with strangers. Teach them to dial 911 and to confide in you when something is troubling them. Free-Range Kids believes in safety and prepared kids are safer kids.
But to try to engineer our childrens’ lives so that there is not even .00001% risk is to defy the truth of human (and animal! and plant!) exitence. Nothing is 100% safe, not even sitting on a couch that could probably, conceivably, somehow collapse in on you all of a sudden. Or cause a deadly rash. (Actually, we had a couch that seemed to be doing that years ago. Very, very itchy — but that’s another story. And, I’m happy to say, another couch.)
The school that is worried about sports day attendees-as-kidnappers has taken no notice of the fact that stories of school kidnappings by strangers are so rare that when you do what any modern-day worrier does — Google “kidnapped from school” — you find two stories in the New York Times: One from 1900, one from 1908. Then there was that 1972 instance in Australia — but the two guys had guns, so you couldn’t stop from attending a sports day even if you told them, “Sorry, no parents allowed.” And then there was a recent kidnapping in Nepal, presumably not while doing the high jump in front of hundreds of adoring family members.
The English school was wrong to ban parents from its sports day based on a such a remote possibility of danger. You know — a mere nisk. (Or nnisk.)