Safety Blankets for Schools

September 8, 2010

There’s a myth out there that schools should be on lock down to prevent an intruder from holding the kiddies hostage and/or murdering them in the hallways with some sort of automatic weapon. There’s no other explanation that I can find for why school districts are locking their doors during school hours. It makes no sense to seal off the students in a public school.

I’m new to having kids in school, so you’ll have to forgive me for just noticing this trend of padlocking institutions of learning. I remember when the shift toward a hyper-sensitive awareness of safety happened, and it was right after I had graduated from high school. The Columbine massacre happened and changed everything. When I went back to my high school, the students told me that the library had been walled off from the cafeteria because the Columbine killers had went from library to cafeteria during their killing spree. Ugh. This was when I started detesting the surface changes that administrations were making. Instead of teaching respect and diversity, the schools were adding metal detectors and zero tolerance policies.

Lenore has a few stories up that touch on this irrational shift toward bubble wrapping the schools. The first is about a Swiss immigrant who was expelled from school and forced to do community service because he was caught carrying a pocket knife, which are standard tools for students in his home country. Zero tolerance policies are a failure, and they’ve only become worse in the last fifteen years. When I was in high school, I brought a duffle bag of martial arts weapons to my high school classroom to give a report on them. My teachers eyes went wide as I pulled out butterfly swords, tonfa, sai, nunchuku, etc, and she did tell me that I would probably get in trouble if she reported me. I remember being naively shocked that I would potentially be punished for showing these items in a report. Luckily, my teacher never turned me in, but now there are kids being suspended for making gun gestures with their fingers. As if finger guns were more dangerous because they don’t need reloading.

Lenore’s other story was based on a letter from one of her readers who was concerned why her child’s pre-school would add PIN keypad locks to the front door. I have to say that this story resonated with me. My daughter’s pre-school just remodeled, and one of the changes they made was that the door for the parents can’t be opened without knowing the PIN. I immediately groaned at this during parents night when they explained it. Her pre-school is in the basement of the YMCA, which is already protected from unauthorized visitors by a front desk where they scan your membership card. Having additional security is pointless.

The same thing is happening with Sasha’s elementary school. They have the school on lock down during the day for no good reason. I assume that they are protecting the school from moronic sociopaths? Because if I was intent on killing children, I would probably just knock on the window, wait for a secretary to walk all the way out to the front door, and then go in and shoot everyone. Even better, now I’m inside with the front doors locked so that emergency and rescue will have an even harder time entering. BAH!

So, I ask you whether you have noticed this shift toward hyper-safety in your area, and whether you’ve been as annoyed as me by the extreme measures schools have been taking to protect the students.


Podcast TWIPS: Episodes 18, 19, and 20

July 12, 2010

Here are some links for the three latest episodes of Podcast Beyond Belief

On episode 18, we spoke to filmmakers Ashley and Jason Henley, who are producing a documentary about raising kids without religion.

Check out this clip from “Skipping Sunday School“…

Also on our regular segment “This Week in Parenting Science”, we spoke about these subjects…
* Doctors “freeze” a baby (to 92°F) to allow them to complete heart surgery
* 2-year old girls are having their clitoris shortened by a doctor
* Questions about too much exposure to medical radiation
* The name chosen for a child can affect their outlook later in life

Episode 19 featured an interview with Lenore Skenazy, who coined the phrase “Free Range Kids” and wrote a book and blog of the same name.

Here’s a promo video for Free Range Kids, featuring Ms. Skenazy’s brand of common sense parenting…

We also talked about these news items in our regular segment “This Week in Parenting Science”…
* Pertussis returns in California – five babies have died
* Computers in under-priveliged homes may actually be lowering grades
* College course allows students to make their own electric guitars

And finally, Episode 20 featured an interview with Yes Mag editor, Jude Isabella.

She wrote the science-based children’s books… Hoaxed: Fakes and Mistakes in the World of Science, Science Detectives: How Scientists Solved Six Real Life Mysteries, Feats and Failures, and The International Space Station!

We also spoke about these topics on “This Week in Parenting Science”…

* Starting school later improves students’ grades
* Structural difference found in the dyslexic brain


Free Range Shout Out to Lenore Skenazy

May 6, 2010

I stumbled across a forum thread that asked whether there were any other parents who felt comfortable leaving their kid in the car during a quick transaction at a convenience store. Even in scenarios when the business had a big window, parents said they would not run in for a second. Even parents with teens insisted that they would have kids old enough to babysit get out of the car, if only to protect them from imagined atrocities during those brief minutes that circumstances might separate them. Here are sampling of the answers…

I always think, what if something happened to me that I couldn’t get back out to the car? What if someone came in and held up the place and wouldn’t let anyone leave? I’ve probably watched too much TV, but my mind goes to these places and I just can’t do it. Maybe when they are older, but not at 6 and 3.

If someone held up the place, your kids would be safer in the car. It’s so odd that the first thing that enters someone’s mind is a hostage situation. What an imagination! Why is it that this person can’t shake the improbable fear of convenience store terrorism, but still feels safe driving her kids around on statistically unsafe roads.

No, never!  My DD is almost 9.  It’s not that I don’t think she’s old enough, smart enough or whatever, it’s that I don’t trust other people.

You don’t trust other people? Fine, lock your doors. It’s not like some pervert kidnapper is going to bash in your windows to snatch your children…

NEVER EVER LEAVE YOUR PRECIOUS CHILDREN IN YOUR VEICLE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!!!!!! Just a quick trip into the gas station to pay could end up in tragedy!!!  Think about how you would feel if someone took one or all of your children. Just a quick brake of a window and they  are gone. Or if something happend to you or the veicle. When I see a child left in a veicle, I want to call the police for child neglect!!!

COME ON! Just a quick trip ANYWHERE doing ANYTHING could end up in tragedy.

I have 4 kids 12 5 3 and 1. No way no how.  One of the 4 of them would end up doing something horrible.

You feel like the two minutes you take to run in and pay for your dry cleaning will inspire “horrible” unimaginable acts? Wow.

There are just so many scary stories out there and as a mom, I have ONE chance to keep my child safe.  A screw up on my part just ONE time and the consequences could be catastrophic!!.

You also have one chance to teach them autonomy, self reliance, and personal responsibility. Hovering over your kids may help keep them safe, but it won’t help them adjust to life without a parent.

It only takes a blink of an eye for something to happen, the scenarios are endless    I like the other poster may have read to many horror stories or seen too many scenes such as this depicted on tv, but for me a moments inconvience is not worth a lifetime of regret.

This is a false dichotomy. Your  choice is not between slight inconvenience and horrible tragedy. The scenarios are endless for any moment, regardless of proximity to parent. You could have a gas leak in your pipes, your kid could fall down the stairs, a car could explode as you walk your ducklings to the gas station counter.

Call me paranoid I would rather be paranoid then have a child dead or seriously hurt because I was to lazy to take them in the store with me.

I just want to be clear. Your child is buckled up on a nice temperate day, not boiling hot or anything, the door is locked, and you are within eyesight. And yet, somehow they end up dead. Are you leaving sharp knives in the  car?

I could never forgive myself if anything ever happened to them and I know that no matter how safe you think it is it only takes a few seconds for something to go wrong. The car could roll back (this actually happened to me when I was six and it was really scary), something could happen to me and no one would know I had the kids in the car, someone could break into the car, another car could hit the car, someone could scare or threaten my children, the list goes on and on. Any of those things could happen in seconds or minutes. Just because you can see the car doesn’t make it safe

Your car could roll back any time if you are parked in neutral on a slope with the parking break off. Your problem wouldn’t be that you left the kids in the car. It would be that you forgot to put the parking break on. But, “another car could hit the car” is my favorite explanation so far. What are the chances! Too bad you weren’t there to transform into a protective elastic bubble like Mrs. Incredible.

I have NEVER EVER left my children in the car for a second.  You never ever ever know what could happen.  There are some freaks out there and your kids could be gone in the blink of an eye. I could never ever do it.

Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her bedroom at night. Will you start sleeping next to your kids at night now that I’ve reminded you of this? How can kids ever feel safe if they live in a world where their parents are constantly worried about freaks.

Before I had children I watched an episode of Oprah about tragedies that had happened due to children of all ages being left in cars. After watching it, I will never be able to leave my child unattended in a car.

OPRAH! DAMN YOU!!!

Anyone who leaves a YOUNG child or in this day in age ANY child in a car is just NUTS- you don’t know what could happen in 3 minutes or LESS! Get over yourselves!  It could save YOUR child’s life!  No disrespect- YOU know who YOU are!

*sigh*

Wow, that is absolutely insane to think about! I just think some people out there truly believe that “there are worse things that could happen” or “bigger things to worry about”. No I don’t think so. I would say leaving your child alone in a car is something pretty serious.

The only reason that I fear leaving my kids in the car for a few minutes is that one of these freaky parents would call CPS or 911 to report me. Seriously, that’s the only thing that runs through my mind.

If you find yourself thinking like these parents, go visit Free Range Kids.


Time Magazine Vs. Over-Parenting

November 21, 2009

Many people questioned my criticism of sign language for infants in my last post. Let me try to reframe my statements so that my intentions are interpreted as I mean them to be. Sign language is a skill that is encouraged by well-intentioned parents. Their children may very well be enriched by the experience. Signing will most certainly not harm children (other than possible language delay), but the evidence is mixed as to it’s overall benefit [abstract].

While those parents who point to the potential value of signing  are certainly valid, their disagreements are not relevant to my argument that baby signing for children who are not deaf is an unnecessary skill that has been marketed to parents who are eager to nudge their children toward success.

I am no more disapproving of parents who sign with their offspring than they are of me for not signing. Different parents try different things for different reasons, so my comments were not meant to judge others for making their choices. Put simply, I’m questioning whether parents are being pressured to sign, whether signing has become a marketing scheme, and whether it’s optimal to teach an insular language before a community language. For instance, a man recently spent three years teaching his baby Klingon. One could argue that teaching a fictional alien language is his choice, that Klingon may benefit his child’s intelligence, but even still, I would be annoyed if story time were to be rephrased in the insular language of Klingon (and yes, I know the analogy is slightly unfair, but I’m using it anyway).

All this brings me to the latest edition of Time Magazine, which has a feature article about helicopter parenting, which reminded me of other well-intentioned parenting choices in which I have differed; choices that would have me contradicting the good intentions of school districts, parents, friends, and family.

For example, why are kids being denied recess? Isn’t play an important skill that prevents academic stagnation? Time Magazine mentioned the National Institute for Play as an advocacy group for recreation and recess, and I really want to echo their agenda here. Let the students out for play!

Time Magazine also mentions Lenore Skenazy,  of the Free-Range Kids blog, who makes it her mission to question the stifling culture of over-protection that has smothered many children in a layer of bubble wrap, despite the evidence that our communities are safer than ever. Some parents are worried about giving their children the freedom and responsibility to ride their bikes a few blocks to school. I would never overtly judge the individual parents who wish to keep their children safe by driving them, but I would question the culture of concern that has branded pedestrian school traffic as dangerous and unsafe.

Time Magazine has even given space to authors, John Buell and Etta Kralovec, who advocate in their book The End of Homework that children need less work to take home and more time to be kids. I happen to agree with this, but I wouldn’t use my opinion to judge my friends who spend several hours every night helping their children by reviewing and assisting with the massive amounts of homework they bring home.

It’s hard to strike a balance between questioning of parenting choices and hating on those choices. I know that this blog has crossed that line in the past, but that will inevitably happen when writing about parenting. I don’t apologize for taking a hard line in favor of vaccines, but there are other times when people have rejected my entire blog because one post challenged their lifestyle (see spanking article). I feel bad about the times when controversial topics have turned readers away, but the feedback and dialogue provided by you are always welcome, even if we passionately disagree.

For a more hard-lined opinion on the topic, see George Carlin’s take:


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