Readers — Remember, even a feel-good story could always use a frisson of fear! Marie, author of the blog HandbasketNotes, explains:
Dear Free-Range Kids: I heard a story on NPR tonight about how kids spent the night at school during the recent Atlanta snow and ice storm and I thought of you.
Audie Cornish interviews a teacher who stayed at the school with the kids. The teacher described how the teachers and administrators baked chocolate chip cookies and served them with milk. She told about the kids had a big sleepover, with the girls on gymnastic mats in one area and the boys on wrestling mats in another area. They even had sheets and blankets available at the school.
Audie said, “It sounds fun, frankly, between the cookies and the sleepover and the texting and the movies. At a certain point, did you get the sense from the students about the gravity of the situation?”
Gravity? It was fun! How the heck does the reporter go from “sounds like fun” to “gravity”? If she meant that the parents were in grave danger out on the ice, she doesn’t say that at all.
When she closed the story, the reporter identifies the teacher and says, “She helped to keep more than 250 students safe overnight in Atlanta.”
SAFE??? Of course they were safe! They were inside with movies and cookies and blankets having a blast. An adventure story most of them will enjoy telling for years to come. How many kids in ATLANTA can talk about being snowed in at school? I’d have given my eyeteeth to have something that unexpected happen to me. At school, with friends. Away from parents.
If there were kids who were homesick or worried or not having fun, they got through the night no worse for the wear.
I laughed at Audie Cornish’s attempts to turn an adventure into a grave situation because it was funny…but it also reflects the knee-jerk assumption that anything away from parents is rife with danger. And you know what? I would bet that even Audie Cornish doesn’t think there was any danger in a school sleepover. The habit of associating children-away-from-parents with danger is so ingrained that she couldn’t help herself. Somehow it feels responsible to remind us that there was danger…even if it was only imagined.
Thought you would get a kick out of both sides of the story: the adventure side, and the reporter’s side where she needs to make the story about safety. Too weird.
Lenore here: Most of all, I get a kick when someone documents the way our culture obsesses about children: All danger, all the time. So this is just a perfect artifact from our twisted society. Many thanks, Marie!