Thursday, 6 July 2006

The school run. WHY?

Aren't the roads quiet when parents aren't dropping off and picking up their little darlings from school? Isn't it great getting around the city as if it was designed for that to happen?

But can someone please tell me why parents have to pick up and drop off their little darlings at school? Do they need their hands held? Are they helpless? Hopeless? Despite scare stories all over the news, there are no more scary people around today than there were twenty or thirty years ago, so is this just another examples of today's obsession with removing risk from children's lives?

There's no better way of encouraging independence, it seems to me, than having children make their own way to and from school and hopefully have adventures on the way. And there's no better way of keeping them helplessly dependent than by babying them, even into their teenage years. You want maturity and independence in your kids? Then stop holding their bloody hands and let them experience the world for themselves.

So why do parents do it? Road-builders, moral philosophers and pedagogues want to know -- and I confess that I'm pretty curious too.

TAGS: Education, New_Zealand


  1. Peter, I belive you're bemoaning the prevalence of helicopter parents - so named because all they do is hover around their children.

    One Nation Under Therapy describes the sheepling (my word, not theirs) effect such 'parenting' has on children:

    "Children learn from rough-and-tumble play, from high-spirited competitive, raucous games. Mock fighting, chasing and tag are typical play of little boys. Not to allow them to do it or to have adults hovering around monitoring every situation for disappointment or conflict is to rob them of a healthy experience."

    Mommy, tell my professor he's not nice! is a truly horrific summary of the problem courtesy the St. Petersburg Times:

    "Where parent behavior becomes a challenge for us is when they encourage dependence, and they become too involved because they are afraid their son or daughter will make a mistake," says Tom Miller, a University of South Florida dean of students.

    "Our students are graduating," says Jeanna Mastrodicasa, associate dean of the UF honors college. "But they are not ready to go into the real world."

    These parents are raising the next generation to be ideal Statists - because you can bet your bottom dollar that most of them will simply switch from Nanny to Nanny State, without ever learning true independence.

  2. Two words. Teresa McCormack. You can't blame parents for fretting about their childrens security when there are a lot of sickos out there.

  3. "You can't blame parents for fretting about their childrens security when there are a lot of sickos out there."

    Well, yes you can. The very, very slim risk of a sicko picking up your kid is replaced with the certainty of having a child who knows only a cotton wool life, and the near certainty that your child will grow up dependent, rather than independent and ready and mature enough to deal with the real world.

    As I say, "despite scare stories all over the news, there are no more scary people around today than there were twenty or thirty years ago." And as the Theresa Cormack tragedy showed by its unusual-ness, the cases in which strangers harm children are thankfully rare: Children are more likely to be harmed by people they know . . .

    I suspect that the way most (not all) 'helicopter parents' act is more for their benefit than it is for their children. [Thanks for those links, Duncan.]

  4. Why? Some reasons.

    School doesn't allow young kids to be go to school all alone.

    Kids are attached by sex predators when going to school (and no, statistics don't matter here. It could be YOUR kid).

    Personal: I let my kids cycle to music school (early Saturday morning). They were being harassesed by the kids of morons along the way. So we had to stop that.

    No separate cycle roads. Our roads are made for cars, not for bikes.

    Cars drive to fast. Too many drivers wouldn't notice a cyclist even if they hit one.

    Too hilly (try to go from Murphy's Road to Redoubt Road in South Auckland).

  5. probably more basic
    - what perentage of parents have to take time off with kids? - that and university are reason roads are empty - go to a big corporate car-park and look at empty spaces, and they head off to the sun......

    as to drop-offs - it's all down to parental conviennce - often parents just drop kids on their way somewhere ie work - not many families nowaday with mun at home!

    one reason walking school bus is so popular is the job is shared - you only do 1 -2 trips a week - other 3 you just drive staright off to work

  6. "pc said"
    [The very, very slim risk of a sicko picking up your kid is replaced with the certainty of having a child who knows only a cotton wool life, and the near certainty that your child will grow up dependent, rather than independent and ready and mature enough to deal with the real world.]

    PC, I disagree with you completely on this occasion.

    First, you advocade free choice and it is the choice of the parents to walk their children to school or not, so be consistent with the principles that you stand for. Suppose that the government steps in and legislate to force parents to do it, then I will be on the same wavelength with you on that in opposing it.

    Second, I walk my boy to & from school most of the times and I do it because not of potential sickos out there but because of the heavy traffic on the way from my place to school. The thing about 'cottom wool' and 'grow up independent' are not incentives for me to let my boy walk by himself. Kids will grow up to be independent regardless, because that is the way Western society lives.

  7. PC you're dead right on this. One answer already being organised by some schools is the "walking school bus" (insanely publicly funded sometimes, but how much can it cost), whereby a couple of parents who are already walking in the school's direction shepherd a dozen or so kids to the school, so they travel together and it is pretty safe - it is an answer for the little kids.

    The answer to the sex predator fear, especially for girls, is for two or more to walk together - now that wont always be possible - but there is safety in numbers.

    I remember slightly weird men approaching me several times in my youth, and I just ignored them, shouted at them or ran away, but I was in a suburb with houses on sections with wide streets and footpaths - hardly "smart growth" land!

  8. PC, are you a parent?

  9. I wonder how I survived childhood, walked/biked to school, often sailed & kayaked unsupervised, climbed trees, played in creeks, blew up things with fireworks...

    I pass a couple of schools on my commute and wonder why these protective parents dropping their "precious things" park/drive like nutters. Most of the perceived danger is because they are lousy drivers who speed, double park, often on the yellow lines blocking sight lines to the marked crossings, U-turn without indicating etc all totally unaware that the world exists outside their own limited vision.

  10. It's a balancing act. But better that a parent is overly fussy and responsible than being neglient. We've all had a gutsful of that.

  11. A lot more cars on the roads than when I road to school in the 60s and 70s. But perhaps the answer is to teach the kids better road safety. I mean the parents teach them, not some waffly thing done at school. You definately have to let them have some responsibility and freedom otherwise they risk growing up useless (and staying at home until they are 30 or something like that). My pet hate is this Home Alone thing - wher ethey have to be under the care of someone over 14 years of age. For heaven's sake! A rediculous law. If I leave my kids home alone I am a criminal, but if they climb over into the neighbour's place I am not. Another law designed to stop the few parents who leave their kids for days on end while they party or go the casino but ends up affecting everyone who isn't a twit.

  12. Hah, this reminds me of my first day of school. At the end of the day, my Mum was waiting in the car park to drive me home. And the first thing I said was, "aw, mum, I want to walk home like a big kid!"... and I did.

    And I walked to and from school, almost every school day.

  13. When I was growing up, my school was across the road. To get there I could use the crossing right outside my house. In contrast, my kids' school is easily an hour and a half walk away, over I don't know how many roads without crossings.

    When my 9yo is about 11, I'll probably let him bike to school by himself. But until then, it's the car.

    There is more traffic now, there are more sickos (mostly teenage predators compared to when I was young). I live in an area with a high number of single parents - statistically their kids are more dangerous.

  14. Hi PC:

    How many young kids do you have?
    How far do you live from their school? Do they have any busy roads to cross?

    These factors, rather than that of possible sickos leads me to take my kids to school - sometimes walking sometimes by car - would that it were possible to live in a small twon again where they could walk to school by themselves, as I did as a 5 year old . . . . plus lets look at the economic side - parents only have one or two kids nowadays, noy the 4 or 5 of yesteryear. So, were something to happen to either one or both (assuming the .2 of he 2.2 kids/family is the dog) just from a purely capitalistic perspective you would want, ney expect me to look after that little basket of joy and protect it till it could look after itself, would´t you . . . . so don´t be too tough on parents - they aren´t all hovering, just making sure their eggs really get the chance to hatch.


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