The Etan Patz Case and “Take Our Children to the Park…And Let Them Walk Home By Themselves” Day

Yesterday, the Etan Patz trial came to a a close. Etan was the 6-year-old boy who disappeared on his way to school in New York City in 1979. The jury was hung, and so the case remains unsolved 36 years later. But as the ykedezzzit
New York Times writes

The district attorney has not decided whether to retry Mr. Hernandez, but no verdict, nor lack of one, could change the impact the 6-year-old boy’s disappearance had on parenting. His abduction in 1979 transformed the experience of childhood for many boys and girls his age and set the mold for the sort of fathers and mothers they themselves would become.

He was not famous when he vanished, his family not a wealthy target of kidnappers seeking ransom. And that made the case all the more haunting in its randomness. An early police theory, that a lonely woman had snatched up the boy to raise as her own, in hindsight seems startlingly naïve, quaint. The disappearance of Etan Patz changed what parents feared.

Can you imagine a time before we were obsessed by predators and thought of them not only when a child truly disappeared, but any time we saw a child alone? That is how hugely the culture has shifted.

“In some ways, it is the most important case, culturally,” said Paula S. Fass, a historian and author of the book “Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America,” published in 1997. “This case served as a wellspring of the idea that when little boys and little girls — but especially boys — were taken, that it was almost certainly by a pedophile.”

Etan’s was the first of a small number of cases stretching over a generation, including those involving Adam Walsh and Amber Hagerman, that were rare but still saturated news coverage, creating the impression of an epidemic.

The Times writer, Michael Wilson, interviews a bunch of parents who admit that Etan is always in the back of their minds. His case is more than a cultural touchstone. The Patz tragedy started us on a new way of thinking about childhood. As I explain:

Lenore Skenazy, a mother in Queens and the author of “Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry),” has long argued for scaling back what she calls worst-first thinking.

“Before you let your child out, you are almost expected to run through your head and on each hand and each finger the names of children who were kidnapped or killed,” she said. “And it often starts with Etan.”

Ms. Skenazy said what was typical parenting before that day in 1979 would look radical now, and likewise, parents then would not recognize today’s norms. They “would see what today we call regular parenting and call it overparenting,” she said.

Last month, her Free-Range Project declared May 9, which happens to be Saturday, “Take Our Children to the Park…and Let Them Walk Home by Themselves” Day, the latter goal a direct response to the latest free-range cause célèbre, the Maryland couple accused of neglect for letting their two children, ages 10 and 6, walk alone in the neighborhood.

That case, and the free-range debate in general, has become a constant topic of conversation at the city’s playgrounds…

The Etan case looks like it may never be solved. But the legacy of fear can be reversed, with a deliberate decision to reject worst-first thinking.

Sometimes it feels as if this constant dread is natural. As if it’s just the way parents are “programmed” to worry.  But it is cultural, it is specific. We can almost pinpoint where it began. See above.

And then take your children to the park…and let them walk home by themselves. – L

Take your children to the park...and let them walk home by themselves. It's not a radical idea, just an old-fashioned one.

Take your children to the park…and let them walk home by themselves. It’s not a radical idea, just an old-fashioned one.

33 Responses to The Etan Patz Case and “Take Our Children to the Park…And Let Them Walk Home By Themselves” Day

  1. Rick May 9, 2015 at 9:29 am #

    Not to add to the anxiety, but before Etan Patz there was Steven Stayner. There was a miniseries called “I know my first name is Steven”. ( It’s a tragic story made even more bizarre when his brother, Cary, was convicted in 1999, for the 4 serial killings in Yosemite National Park.

  2. tz May 9, 2015 at 11:03 am #

    One change is the number and timing of children. When the average was 4 (my aunt had 8!), you didn’t have time to be protective – you had to teach the children to be responsible. Consider the old (1950s) movie “cheaper by the dozen” – the biographical one.

    Back then, if you lost one child for any reason, it would be a tragedy.
    Today it usually means losing half or all your brood.

    Most of the Homeschooling large families are “free range” or better, not only do they win spelling bees, they can give you directions in the area when they are old enough to read a map.

  3. Kay May 9, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    Thinking that all children are in mortal danger due to these rare occurrences boggles my mind. Look at the case of Albert Fish, a serial killer in the early 1900s. I don’t have time to refresh my memory on his while story right now, but I know that during his active years at least one of his killings was blamed on another active killer in the same area. Can you imagine 2 serial killers active in the same area today, and remaining uncaught? He actually asked parents’ permission to take their child to his nephew’s birthday party when he was a complete stranger, and they said yes! The child disappeared. Can you even begin to imagine that kind of thing happening in 1979, let alone today? That man would not have gotten away with the crimes leading up to his killings and would have been incarcerated long before his spree started. We talk about how much safer things were before, but they really weren’t. Today big brother is watching, there are cameras and dna tests and instant communication, and the bad guys know it. Albert Fish could never happen today, yet we talk about how much more dangerous the world is now. I don’t get it.

  4. Anna May 9, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    tz, that may be true of our culture here in the US, but not where I grew up. In the 70’s and 80’s in my town back in Russia most families had two children (many had only one, very few had three), and yet we were way more free-range than most way-back-when stories I hear from Americans about the 50’s and 60’s. For example, my little brother started getting sent to the bakery to buy bread BEFORE HE WAS THREE (and he always successfully executed the mission), while I was allowed anywhere at all I could get to on my own by around age 7 (except for the beach because I couldn’t swim). Other 7- and even some 6-year-olds regularly took public transportation to school. You get the idea.

  5. Michelle May 9, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    I don’t think that large families are more free range because it would be less devastating to lose a child. I have eight, and I would be completely destroyed if I lost one.

    I think there are other reasons for what you’re seeing. First, parents of large families have more opportunities to see how capable kids can be. When my oldest was 7, I was more anxious about what was appropriate for a 7yo. She’s 17 now, and I worry about her becoming an adult all the time. But now that I’ve done 7 years old several times, I’m more comfortable, just as I will be one day with 17. The same thing happens in families of two or three kids, just on a smaller scale.

    Secondly, in large families the parents are forced to trust our kids more, or else go crazy. When you physically can’t watch every child all the time, you have to give them some freedom and responsibility. And when you see them rise to the challenge, you become willing to trust even more. This also happens in single-parent families, and lower income families where the parents simply CAN’T hover like a middle class soccer mom.

    Third, in the past – whether a family had many kids or few – parents had no choice but accept that they had less control over life than we do now. When you know that you can do everything possible and you are still likely to lose a child before adulthood, what can you do but live and pray for the best? But in our modern society, we have control over so much that it’s easy to slip into thinking that nothing bad will happen to us, as long as we do everything perfectly all the time. It’s easy to trade minor freedom for perfect safety. Unfortunately it’s an illusion. There is no perfect safety, so all we’re doing is throwing away the chance to enjoy the truly safest time in human history.

  6. sigh May 9, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Yes, Michelle, I see the striving to attain “perfect safety” and control over any outcome as a spiritual crisis in our culture.

    I never bought into this madness, and have mourned deeply that my own parenting experience, and my children’s experience, has been so negatively coloured by this culture-wide spiritual malady.

    Love the idea of moving from fear, control, and suspicion into a place of embracing reality, with all of its uncertainties. Acceptance. Acceptance is a great place to be.

  7. Puzzled May 9, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    One point to raise here (if most people were inclined to rational argument) would be just how much coverage this 1979 case is getting today. Routine occurrences don’t get this much attention. From this, one might conclude that this sort of thing is incredibly rare, without consulting a single statistic.

    Of course, from too many people the response would be “even one…” Sigh.

  8. Warren May 9, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    When it comes right down to it, the biggest change was this infection. An infection in the way people think of their kids. ,,

    This infection is easily identified. I call it the “What it would fell like to lose a childitis”. Parents get infected with this at a very easily determined time. From the moment a couple knows they are pregnant, and they see that very first news story of a dead child, they are infected.

    Unfortunately it is like being infected with the common cold……………there is no cure. They will do everything they can to safeguard, protect and control their kids, just the same as people will buy every cold remedy, or contraption they can. But it does nothing but temporarily relieve the symptoms.

    There is only one true way to cure this infection. As with a cold, accept it, understand there is nothing you can do but let it run it’s course.

    People get very upset with me when I tell them that I don’t want humans to live forever, and that I do expect and want people to die. It is not pleasant when they die young, but people HAVE to die. This planet cannot sustain a species that never dies, and it cannot sustain a species that has found ways to extend their lives past what nature intends.

    I love George Carlin, and I will always remember him talking about humans and the planet. How humans believe we are more powerful than nature, and we have a right to live forever. He said …..Just wait untill Mother Earth is tired of this infestation called humans. With one good shake, she will get rid of us like a bad case of fleas.

  9. JP Merzetti May 9, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    I find it fascinating – the whole concept of what would be considered by today’s standards as ‘over-parenting.’
    When I grew up, the constant watchword that existed in all us kids’ lexicon was: Authority.
    No matter how much freedom we had – that authority was always right there, front and center.
    No matter how absolute that authority was – the freedom was always there – to be earned, or taken away.
    Those were life’s rules.

    The great irony in our times – is that in spite of this modern tendency to over-parent, working parents don’t have the same kind of time to actually parent. I recall busy aunts and uncles working swing shifts and strange schedules.
    Who oversaw things then? The eldest kids in the family, often. They were raised that way.
    It was a social norm, in those communities.

    It often strikes me – the anxiety and over-stress attached to this now. The constant worry. This has become a cultural norm.
    I wonder about it…..that natural and easy authority that adults swung into… authority that was generally agreed upon and supported within a community……parents, teachers, policemen, bankers, librarians, sports coaches……all the adults in a child’s life shared more or less a common bond (of authority) – and rarely bickered over the method. It was just understood – that this was the glue that held a strong community together.
    And of course – the kids thrived.
    When our public realm was relaxed…… were we.

    Parenting…..such as it was – did not “make” us. We just were. And all the adults in our lives (including those we didn’t know really well) provided a homogenous approach to our public life – our life out there in the real world, on our own, or in groups, gatherings, gangs or just twosomes…best friends – where we were allowed to come and go, and operate by generally accepted cultural norms.
    There was the ‘big bad world’ that existed in our wildest imaginations.
    Then there was the real world, which we encountered constantly…..that was of course, much safer than our ‘wildest’ imaginings. As we grew, that learning curve adopted a common healthy attitude toward anything that constituted risk.
    (And if we were unsure of that – almost any adult around could set us straight.)
    Trust was the fundamental tool.

    So how are we moderns with that?
    Trust is now all over the map.
    As if it has somehow become weakened, diminished, commodified, disbelieved, in short……..”un” trusted.
    As if the 20-page contract in legalese is now required….including all the attendent professionalized personnel required to now clarify exact intentions, expectations……guarantors, bondspersons, protectors, and the rest of ‘new’ authority’s crowd.
    Back then, citizens did it for themselves.

    Growing up trusting a community. Full of adults competent and confidant in their roles.
    Because their authority was naturally homogenous to the standards of the community, known and understood (and agreed upon!)
    I think at that time any “over-parent” would have been quietly nudged to just relax, a little. Enjoy life.
    Worry was bad for the health.

    Something I always used as a parent, was a simple little thing I learned young, from my grandfather.
    It went something like this:
    “I will not manufacture worry out of thin air. Until I know what there actually is to worry about, I’m not going to worry. And surprise, surprise. Turns out 99% of the time, those worries are unfounded. Means I’ve got well-rested “worry” muscles to use those rare times when there’s something worth worrying about.”

    I used to (occasionally) bring him my worries. He’d say to me – come back and let me know in 10 minutes.
    Ten minutes later, I’d forgotten all about whatever that worry happened to be.
    A proven point.

  10. Papa Fred May 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    Fear clouds judgement. Extreme, irrational, pervasive fear does so even more. By definition, it is not amenable to explanations, clear thinking, and sensible mental processes. Consequently, ineffective approaches are likely to produce failed results.

    The 24-hour news re-cycling of broadcasts contributes to this hair-triggered readiness to panic over the slightest possibility, no matter how remote, of such an unlikely scenario of a tragic event happening.

    The adage, “I can never do enough to protect my children,” reveals the obviously MISSED truth: you can NEVER do enough to protect your children. What is unrecognized, in this pursuit of the impossible perfect 100% protection, is that one can actually do too much to protect them. The result, ironically is that these misdirected attempts actually decrease safety by making kids over-anxious and fearful, rather than helping them to become knowledgeable, rational, competent, and confident.

    Feeling and behaving like a victim may make them more vulnerable, and thereby contribute to them becoming such. The appearance of weakness can encourage an attack in a variety of situations. No bully–or manipulator–attacks a strong-appearing individual; they seek the “easy” target. “Strong” kids are safer kids. Give them strength; make them strong. That is what will keep them safe.

    As always, thanks Lenore.

  11. Diana Green May 9, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    Fear drives out love. Anxiety is paralyzing. No way to live life.

    We are safe, our kids are safe.

    If we could channel some of that negative energy off to help parents and kids in our inner cities, who are less safe, we, and our kids, would be safer still.

  12. Diana Green May 9, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    @James, Be sweet! Have a nice day!

  13. SJE May 9, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    The Etan Patz case, and those like it, are horrible. But every day, many more kids are killed as passengers in cars. Do we ban kids in cars? Do we ban cars? People die from anaphalactic shock but we don’t ban peanuts.

  14. Dhewco May 9, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    People view deaths by cars, trains, planes, etc differently. Those are usually accidents, even the ones caused by drunks and people who use recreational drugs. All deaths of children are tragic, but people become hyper-vigilant when considering the pervert causing the deaths. Somehow, deaths at the hand of psychos causes a stronger reaction on the part of lawmakers.

  15. Jill May 9, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    @Kay Instilling the idea of stranger danger in Albert Fish’s victims wouldn’t have saved them. He gained the confidence of the little girl you referred to by putting an ad in the paper for farm help and then offering her older brother the job. It’s like the Craig’s List crimes of today, only in Fish’s case he gained the family’s trust with the job offer and by bringing them gifts of produce that he claimed came from his farm. That made him seem like a safe friend of the family.
    When he told them his niece was having a birthday party and asked if the little girl could go they agreed because they considered him a friend and benefactor.
    He wasn’t a stereotypical child abductor, in other words.

  16. Puzzled May 9, 2015 at 9:58 pm #

    >I wonder about it…..that natural and easy authority that adults swung into… authority that was generally >agreed upon and supported within a community……parents, teachers, policemen, bankers, librarians, sports >coaches……all the adults in a child’s life shared more or less a common bond (of authority)

    There are many things I miss about the past, but this isn’t one of them. In my mind, no one deserves automatic authority by virtue of position – let alone by virtue of age. One thing I think parents ought to do, in fact, is advocate for children when they are mistreated by others: and I don’t just mean huge things. This teaches the child, by example, how to advocate, and lets them know they aren’t entirely alone. I’m not advocating helicoptering (as a professor, I’ve gotten phone calls from parents asking all sorts of questions I can’t legally answer. I’ve also had a parent email me to tell me their daughter is sick – really?) but I think “the teacher/policeman is always right” is a lousy message to teach as well.

    As for the banker…no thanks, I will not give my trust and authority to people who survive off of trillions of taxpayer dollars to reward fraudulent and greedy behavior.

  17. Jenny Islander May 9, 2015 at 10:03 pm #

    @puzzled: I would give a pass for one thing: somebody else calling in for a sick adult. I’ve called in sick for my husband when he was the type of sick that does not allow a person to leave the bathroom, and he’s called in sick for me when I had the kind of migraine in which anything beyond being supine in a dark room with fresh air blowing in the window feels like being dead and in Hell.

  18. Jessica C May 9, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    @Jill, I would say that does make him a stereotypical child abductor, since the majority of abductions are committed by family or someone else the child knows.

  19. hineata May 10, 2015 at 1:18 am #

    @Puzzled- please! As a teacher of young children, I do not expect to have to ‘gain the respect’ of wee ones. I do know more than a 5 year old about most things, and while I certainly apologize to kids when I’ve got something wrong, and don’t spend my days yelling (totally ineffective anyway) I certainly expect kids to do as they are asked when they are asked.

    Yes, I am the boss in the classroom. …have you ever been in a class of elementary children when the teacher doesn’t have the final say? Total chaos. We regularly give kids choices, but the final say? Mine, absolutely.

  20. Diana Green May 10, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    Also in the news yesterday was the Associated Press story “NY MAN ADMITS ABUSING TWO KIDNAPPED AMISH GIRLS”. This occurred near the Canada border, in St. Lawrence County, north of Syracuse NY, Aug. 13, 2014. The girls, 7 and 12, were kidnapped form their family farmstand, drugged, used for pornography, then released the next day.

    This is all horrible. Rare, also. But it is an unfortunate aspect of the human condition, since forever.

    Ours to understand, put into perspective and use going forward. Denial is not the answer, anymore than failure to understand simple statistics gives people the right to replace fact and truth with opinion.

    In my state, New York, most people have their heads in the sand, and news like this gets predictable knee- jerk over-reactions. But we can do better. Educate, educate, educate.

    I studied Sociology and Multi-Cultural-This-and-That as a college kid, and learned some weird stuff about sex in other cultures and civilizations, such as Europe. I don’t advocate most it. But there it is!

    So, do all farm stands this summer need an adult present at all times? Is someone going to make that a law in NY? That could happen. But maybe we’ll get a pass. The State Senator in charge of regressive laws like that is under arrest for corruption, blackmail and bribery. What a world we live in!

  21. Jill May 10, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    @Jessica C Good point!

  22. sexhysteria May 11, 2015 at 2:06 am #

    The Etan Patz case probably provoked another tragedy in Europe. A little girl in Palermo disappeared around 1990, and the police immediately suspected a kidnapping by a sex pervert or gypsies. There was no actual evidence until a neighbor boy confessed that the girl died in a fall from his scooter, and he hid the body in a dumpster to avoid prosecution. The police and parents refused to believe the story and continued looking for dangerous strangers until a few years later when the distubed boy killed another child.

  23. Mark Jh May 11, 2015 at 6:10 am #

    Heroic, incisive crtiique, as usual. to me, FR Parenting is not newfangled but a throwback to saner times (in some ways.)

    When homework was assigned with the expectation that kids would do it. When we played alenty without pqarents arranging “playdates” and would have met with hostility if they injected themselves into our playing.

  24. Andre L. May 11, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    @JP Merzetti :

    I disagree with you almost entirely on your take on this “trusting community” thing. What happened is that you had people, unrelated by blood to the children, acting as if children were their own and resorting to unacceptable methods such as spanking them on their own volition.

    I’m all for giving kids autonomy, for not considering strangers automatically dangerous by default, but I wish there were a way to send many a teacher, clerk or other people out there for decades in jail for child abuse in the form of people who’ve beaten up somebody else’s kid.

    If I have a kid and some other adult lays as much as a finger or confined the kid in some locked room, other than in some immediate emergency (where it would be more a rescue, not “discipline”), I’ll be one of those vowing to throw every possible legally available resource to punish the abusive adult who dared take discipline of a child of my own on his hand.

    Again: I’m all for helping kids in distress, for not treating adults as threats etc. etc. I’m adamantly opposing to any form of discipline that involves physical restraining* other than by parents. There is a huge difference and a very thick line between helping a kid that is lost, hurt or in some form of distress; and disciplining a child.

    *I’m against spanking in all cases and consider it a form of child abuse.

  25. hineata May 11, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    @Andre….then I hope your theoretical kid is not the (albeit rare) type that refuses to follow the basic programme in a classroom and thinks a good shin kicking of the teacher and belting other kids is appropriate. I have and will again physically restrain (using the arms from the back pinning method) to restrain such children, who are a danger to both other children and myself. And if, as a theoretical parent, you don’t like that, well, channelling Warren here, I guess it sucks to be you.

    Am not sure where this idea that kids should be able to freely get away with whatever behaviour without consequences from other than their parents is coming from, but it is not, in my opinion, free range. Boundaries and authority exists in civilised society – that’s how it gets to be and remain civilised.

  26. Puzzled May 11, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

    I would not permit an adult to be a danger to others – therefore I wouldn’t allow a child to be. My objection is to treating children as less deserving of rights than adults. If I’d restrain an adult in a situation, I have no objection to restraining a child. If I wouldn’t, then I do object.

    But, again, authority must be earned. If you can simply assert authority by virtue of being older, and therefore obtain the right to do whatever you please to a person, you don’t have a civilization, you have a dictatorship arranged by age. Authorities are legitimate so long as they are acting lawfully and within delegated authority – the problem is when we give someone so much authority that they get to define what their lawful limits are.

    The notion that any adult, whatsoever, has the ability to hit any child, unquestionably, because they’re older, is absurd.

    As a general rule, though, those who exercise authority come to believe that their authority is necessary and useful. I felt that way when I was a teacher. When I lost the ability to feel I had the legitimate right to boss people around just because their parents paid to send them to me, I quit.

  27. hineata May 11, 2015 at 10:36 pm #

    @Puzzled – if I remember rightly, you taught older kids at a private school? I teach (usually) young children at state primary schools. I have neither the time nor the desire as a substitute to earn kids’ respect. My authority comes from the institution I represent. That said, I certainly don’t go around disrespecting kids. There’s no need for put downs etc.

    I learnt the hard way, early in my career with some pretty tough kids, that I had better be boss. There’s truth to the idea of never smiling before mid-year. Once I have had classes a few times, I can afford to relax a bit. If you go in all smiles though, and try to ‘earn their respect’ everyone suffers.

  28. Puzzled May 11, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

    Yes, I taught older kids – mostly those who had been expelled from other schools or placed by a court. Not all private school kids are walking lockstep in blazers and acting like angels 😉

    The reason teachers feel a need to be ‘the boss’ is that the students have been socialized to answer only to ‘the boss.’ Students act crazy if you let up on them – because they’re decompressing from being ‘compressed’ the rest of the time.

    The point is that there are basic principles of moral obligations between people, and they are independent of age. I feel free to boss kids around exactly as much as I feel free to boss adults around. I don’t feel free to grab adults who are walking down my street if they’re making noise, so I don’t do that with kids. I do feel free to grab an adult stepping in front of a car, so I do that with kids. I don’t tell adults that they need to sit at their desks for 6 hours, request permission to use the bathroom, display their computer monitor to me at all times, and show me every 20 minutes what subject they are working on – so I quit my job.

  29. Puzzled May 11, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

    The thing about civilization is, there is hardly any institution in society, except prisons (although they overshoot the mark by a lot) that is comparable to a school. A child who learns to adapt to a classroom has not learned a skill they will ever use again, except in the most broad interpretation possible. Nowhere else do we claim, in a universal way, the right to decide who should learn what, where you can go, the permissible exercise of your bodily functions, when you may and may not eat, which book you may read at what hour… No where else in society do we demand that arbitrary tasks be performed, without access to resources, in a specific time frame, for the sole purpose of some sort of evaluation.

    If the way we treat students is civilization, is the rest of society uncivilized? Is it uncivilized that no one tells me that for the next 40 minutes, I will learn math, then spend 20 minutes doing homework, followed by 40 minutes of history? Is it uncivilized that I don’t sit in a seat (where I am required by law to be) to be lectured at about democracy, the Bill of Rights, and so on – and then get punished if I dare point out the irony?

    But, that aside, the comment I was responding to originally was about any random adult having authority over any random kid. There’s no institution to appeal to there – just a generalized demand for age-based privilege.

    That, and special privileges for police and bankers. The first is, in title, a public servant – and the second an industry based around government handouts.

  30. hineata May 12, 2015 at 12:40 am #

    @Puzzled – certainly wouldn’t argue your last point .

    I wonder whether kids here are as institutionalized as in the States? Hard to compare. Certainly I expect kids to let me know when they want to go to the toilet. We have had fires and earthquakes, so that’s a matter of being able to account for the whereabouts of individuals. …they need to let me know when they’re off to other activities too. For that matter, I let them know where I’m going.

    It’s a PITA too for many children to have to chop and change between tasks. As much as we can, that’s why we run tasks into each other and use themes….Also I wonder what type of jobs etc y’all have there. Certainly here there are many where you are expected to sit down, shut up and do what you’re paid for.

    Anyway just my rant for the day. Homeschooling would be better for many kids than what we have now, but ain’t gonna happen universally any time soon, so in the interim I’ll stick with expecting certain standards in class.

  31. Donna May 12, 2015 at 8:52 am #

    Puzzled – Apparently you need to get out into the real working world. The majority of people who work are told when they can eat and even go to the bathroom. Do you think cashiers at Walmart can just wander away from their registers any time they need to pee? That the guy on the assembly line can go out to smoke whenever it suits his purpose? That a guy building a high rise can cut out for lunch whenever he’s hungry? Of course not. They have to request permission and get someone to fill in or wait for an official break.

    Even professional workers are often limited in the freedom to do whatever they want. You said before that you want to go to law school. Do you think a judge is going to allow you to walk out of court whenever you want to pee or eat? Do you think that you are not going to be chained to a desk for at least 6 hours a day – more like 8-10? And don’t even get me started on the countless hours I spend doing completely arbitrary tasks that must be done on a specific time frame.

    I am not saying that schools need to micromanage children concerning their bodily functions – and my child has never been required to ask permission to go to the bathroom – but that you have a very limited sense of what the real world is like. And a very limited understanding that young children are not just very short adults.

  32. Puzzled May 12, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    I made my comparison too stark, I can see. Of course I’ve had jobs where I can’t just leave – but that’s because I’m doing a task, or, say, standing behind a sales table, where I’m needed. This is different from a student having to come to me while I proctor the study hall and request permission to leave. Similarly, yes, employees are required to sit down and do their jobs – but a job has several differences from being a student. For one, unless you’re in the military, there is no law compelling you to hold your job. There was no law requiring you to go to law school, for instance. For another, as hineata said, a worker does what they’re paid to do. They’re paid to do it, in large part (hopefully) because it provides some use to someone, even if not in the most efficient way imaginable. But studenthood doesn’t have these qualities. Every job has pointless parts added to it – but no job will require you to build a macaroni statue of the White House and claim this is done to enhance your understanding of civics. When I was a paramedic, I was evaluated, sure – because doing my job wrong would kill people. Who dies if a child isn’t penalized for not knowing how many degrees are in a triangle? For that matter, why do we believe we can lecture such things into children? If you don’t think schools are odd places, with bizarre practices, I’d urge you to spend a week or two in one – as a school superintendent recently did (he shadowed a student, did homework, took tests, etc.) He immediately quit, saying that he could not be a part of such a crazy system. I doubt his problem was a lack of work experience (a problem I also don’t have – I’ve been a paramedic, EMS Chief, teacher, warehouse worker, pizza deliverer, salesclerk, deli counter person…I think there’s a few more in there as well.)

    Anyway, sorry for hijacking. None of this – or the fact that I disagree that random adults on the street may discipline any child they see for any reason – impacts on the point of the post, or the obvious fact that in response to incredibly unlikely – but dramatic – threats, people take crazy actions.

    I’m reminded of the insanity about locking down schools immediately after Sandy Hook.

  33. Donna May 13, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    Puzzled – Yes, a child is required to be educated, but education takes many forms from traditional schooling to online schooling to Montessori schooling to home schooling to unschooling. Nobody is required by law to attend a traditional school; just receive an education, at least in the US (I do realize this is different in other countries). This isn’t remotely different than the work world except I get to choose my own profession and my parents got to choose my form of education.

    But I think there is way too much emphasis here put on school being like the work. First, of course it isn’t because it isn’t work; it is school. Second, it is a completely meaningless statement as work environments are dramatically different from profession to profession and even different jobs within any profession. My work environment as a cashier at Kroger was vastly different from my environment as a lawyer and my work life as a corporate attorney was vastly different from my work as a public defender. I know many who have moved between public defender offices in the same state and all report vastly different work environments and expectations and we are all under one governmental agency.

    But I have had bits and pieces of everything you mention at various jobs. I’ve had plenty of jobs that required my presence for certain hours whether I had work to do or not in which I spent many hours bored out of my mind and counting down the hours to go home. I’ve had jobs where I had to ask to use the restroom, even when not actively doing any work. I’ve had jobs that had various evaluation processes and skills testing that weren’t always particularly connected to the job. I’ve had plenty of work projects that were less meaningful than building a replica of the White House out of macaroni. Heck, my mother is a self-employed artist by profession and can still point out many times when she experiences all these things at work.