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…his plans for the future could be DOA. According to David Lohr in the Huffington Post:

A high school senior in Ohio is facing felony charges after officials at the technical school he was attending for firefighter training searched his vehicle and found a pocketknife. The young man’s future and his dreams of serving the public are now in jeopardy.

“If I am convicted of a felony, I’m never going to be a police officer. I’m never going to be a fireman. I’m never going to be in the military,” Jordan Wiser told The Huffington Post. “I won’t even be able to be a janitor. I’m 18 years old, and this is going to ruin my entire life.”

Read more about the case in the Star Beacon,  The Daily Caller, and at 19 Action News, which filed the report below. Note that at the end the reporter seems to feel he must soften the idea that the prosecutor — who said he is simply enforcing the school’s zero tolerance policy —  is an evil jerk.

I doubt anyone will be swayed. – L.
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19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

Hi Folks! This just in: Homicide has dropped off the Top 15 causes of death in America. It’s been replaced by something called, “Pneumonitis,” an illness caused by people accidentally breathing food or liquid into their lungs — a problem most prevalent in folks over 75. In other words, it is one of the panoply of things that can finally kill us if we live a long, un-murdered life.

There’s good news at the other end of the spectrum, too: Infant mortality has dropped to an all-time low of 6.14 deaths per 1000 births. Read that again: all time low.

Even the death rate from accidents has gone down, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which compiled all these stats.

This is the first time in 45 years that homicide is not among that top 15 causes of death in America. Put in Free-Range Kids terms: The murder rate was higher when most of us parents were growing up than it is now, for our kids. And since I know someone will say, “So what? That just means kids are safer because we are keeping them inside, or GPS’ing them, or making sure they are supervised at all times!” let me quickly note that murder is down among adults, too, and it’s not because we are helicoptering them. Moreover, the murder rate is lower than it has been for almost two generations, which means it is lower now than even before parents began hovering. So I don’t see this study as an endorsement of overprotection.

No, I see it as a reality check: Our parents didn’t feel guilty or terrified when they let us play outside and the murder rate was higher. Today’s kids deserve the even-less-risky chance to enjoy a Free-Range childhood. — L.

M'am! Don't you realize the murder rate has gone down?

Dear Readers:  As the new year begins, I’m looking back on things I meant to comment on and here’s a piece from November that gets my goat. It’s an essay by a mom who declares she would like to be more of a Free-Range parent, but she simply cannot. How come? Because she recently heard the story of an elementary school principal in some city not her own, who secretly videotaped boys using the bathroom.

Now, this sounds like a disturbed and disturbing guy. Yecch. But the mom strikes me as disturbed as well. She seems to be saying that since sometimes some people in the world are bad to children, she simply MUST assume the worst first. And hence she will never be “Free-Range.” As if…Free-Range parents posit there are no bad people in the world?

That is not our position at all. In fact, our position is that since there ARE rotten people and situations — always were and always will be — the best thing we can do is prepare our kids to be street-wise, confident and self-reliant.

The other thing the writer seems to believe is that one single incident is enough to indict the entire human race. That’s a problem I encounter all the time:  The belief that ANY travesty, ANYWHERE in the world means that all bets are off EVERYWHERE, for EVERMORE, for THEIR kids. It is overreacting in the extreme and somewhat self-absorbed, too because it boils down to: I don’t care if the odds are a million to one. If something is going to happen to anyone in the world, surely it will happen to MY child and therefore it is MY job to be constantly on guard duty. (It also confers superhero status on the parent.)

Finally, while I think the principal sounds like an absolute creep, the essayist’s description of his crime seems to be that he videotaped the boys, period.  This is an invasion of privacy and certainly revolting. But let’s not conflate it with molesting or rape.

Yes, let us teach our children to recognize, resist and report abuse. But no, let’s not look at every adult as a probable pervert, and every moment as quite possibly our children’s last. Free-Range parents don’t clip terrible stories from the newspaper as proof that our kids need our constant supervision.  We figure that if those terrible stories make the paper, they must be  rare enough to be noteworthy. In other words, we try to keep things in perspective. That is indeed a Free-Range trait. — Lenore

Hi Readers — We have all heard from parents who would LIKE to let their kids have the kind of stay-out-till-the-streetlights-come-on childhoods they themselves enjoyed. BUT, say those parents, “Times have changed. It feels so much more dangerous now!”

“Feels” is the operative word. In this essay by Steven Pinker, we learn that we may well be living in the safest times in human history:

This claim, I know, invites skepticism, incredulity, and sometimes anger. We tend to estimate the probability of an event from the ease with which we can recall examples, and scenes of carnage are more likely to be beamed into our homes and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age. There will always be enough violent deaths to fill the evening news, so people’s impressions of violence will be disconnected from its actual likelihood.

Sometimes (okay, OFTEN) I get tired of pointing this out: That just because you can say, “Adam Walsh!” or “Jaycee Dugard!” that doesn’t mean that there are MORE children being abducted today than ever before. It’s just easier to NAME them, because we see them so much on TV. Those images get filed away in our heads and when we ask our brains, Google-like, “Is it safe for me to ever let go of my child’s hand?” up pop the most popular stories about that topic, not necessarily the most salient or helpful ones.

So here’s to living in the best of all possible times…despite the worst of all possible stories dominating the media. — L.

Hello, Readers. It is with an actually, physically aching heart that I report to you the death of an 8-year-old Brooklyn boy, Leiby Kletzky, who disappeared from a short, solo walk yesterday and was later found in a dumpster. Here is the story.

I bring it up because it seems to prove that the incident that kicked off Free-Range Kids — my letting my 9-year-old ride the New York City subway alone — was foolish, or worse. At the time I said that I felt this was a reasonable and safe thing to do, because I believed in my son, my city and my own parenting. Despite the sorrow I feel even in my joints, I still do.

There are horrible people in the world. There always were, always will be. There were horrible people in the world even when we parents were growing up, and our own parents let us play outside and walk to school and visit our friends on our bikes. Our parents weren’t naive. They knew that we live in a fallen world. They also knew that they had a choice: Keep us locked inside for fear of a tragic, rare worst-case-scenario, or teach us the basics — like never go off with a stranger — and then let us out. They let us out.

Today we are faced with a worst-case scenario that could end up re-defining childhood as did the Etan Patz case 30 years ago.  (A case that had no parallel in my city until today. ) That a stranger abduction like Leiby’s is rarer than death-by-lightning just doesn’t seem to matter at a time like this. But it does.

People will blame the parents for letting their son walk even a few blocks on his own. I’ve already read some of those comments. They are like knives. Is it better to have a city — a country, a world — where no child is ever outside again without an adult? Where parents who let their kids to walk to the bus stop are treated like pariahs? Where the parks are empty, the playgrounds are empty, bikes sit in the garage and children hunker inside with their terrified moms and dads?

It is really hard to even suggest that life continue on as normal, but that is what I truly believe is the only response to this crime. Not that we take it in stride — I think it will always hurt. But that we take it in context. Saying that my city’s crime rate is down to the lowest it has been since 1961 seems ridiculous at a time like this. But it is down, and to act as if every block is full of darkness means — to borrow a phrase from terrorism — the darkness has won.

I’m shaken. I’m sad. I’m so sorry for what has happened. And I will send my sons out again. — Lenore

Dear Readers: Here is an article from the New York Times that says what I keep trying to say: Crime is down. Not up. Not even sideways. Down.

How far down? Major crime — murder, rape, robbery, assault —  is at “the lowest rate in nearly 40 years,” sez the paper of record. In fact, America is enjoying a crime plunge so striking, the experts can’t even figure out WHY it is happening. But it is.

So when folks say that they’d really LIKE to let their kids play on the lawn, or bounce a ball on the driveway, or stick a toe out the front door, but they can’t because we are living in hell on earth, engulfed by danger, and ANYTHING could happen and good Lord, isn’t our job to keep our kids SAFE, especially in TIMES LIKE THESE…please show them this article.

Please. — L.

P.S. And please also remember that this drop in crime cannot be attributed to parental hovering, since we are NOT hovering over adults and yet crime against THEM is down, too. No one is obsessively watching over grown-ups on play dates, or when they’re walking home from work, and yet they are getting murdered and raped and robbed LESS, too.

Hi Readers! The other day I had a piece in the Wall Street Journal that said moms don’t have be “sherpas,” or hover 24/7. Today the paper published its letters to the editor about it (and me). Here they are. One was from a woman who was kidnapped at age 4 by a stranger, and found 24 hours later. She is an adult today and says her mother spent the rest of her life feeling guilty.

I feel terrible for everyone involved. I also feel a little bad that the letter writer thinks she has to explain that “child abduction takes a huge toll on the entire family.” Contrary to popular belief, Free-Range Kids never thought otherwise. We here are no fans of child kidnapping.

Nor are we fans of actual negligence.  Even Free-Rangers know that 4-year-olds are not ready to take on the world by themselves. We’d never recommend that.

From the letter, however, we don’t know anything about the circumstances of this story: whether the mom was heedless to the point of negligence or simply blaming herself for an unforseeable bolt from the fates.

I can understand why the writer would feel that people can never EVER take their eyes off their kids. But as Laura  Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours, writes in this gem of an essay about that letter  (and another letter from a woman who said that because one 3-year-old was killed the year her own daughter was three, she never let her own child out of her sight again):

…this is the “rare exception” line of reasoning, in which any anecdote which counters a broad based trend or statistic must be evidence that the data are wrong or should be ignored. But while Kathleen Newton of Lindon, Utah writes that “there are too many vicious people out there who seek to do children harm” and this is “why unsupervised play does not exist anymore,” this ignores the reality that the world has changed, but not in the way she’s pointing. Crime rates are lower now than they were a few decades ago. And regardless, in a world of 7 billion people, you can find anecdotes of anything. The fact that an animal could escape from a zoo exhibit doesn’t mean that bringing your kids to the zoo indicates lax parenting.

If you were mauled by an escaped mountain lion, of course, you’d think otherwise. I wouldn’t blame you. But Laura’s point is both true and hard to absorb in light of the fact that sometimes real tragedy does strike kids, out of the blue.

It is terrible. It is shocking. It is very hard to argue with someone who came face to face with something so unspeakable.

And yet, if we do NOT speak up, these terrible stories are the only ones we will hear. They will scare us to the core, and have us believe that our children are never safe. As the letter writer says, in closing, “Certainly those parents whose children were taken from their homes while they slept can attest, parenting is a full-time job with no coffee breaks.”

By this line of reasoning, parents should feel guilty for even sleeping. Why weren’t they awake, standing guard in their children’s room all night? No parenting is good enough or safe enough when we think this way. And, of course, that is the way we are encouraged to think. — Lenore