Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chaos! Six Year Olds Roaming The Streets!

Well, back in 1979, that wasn't a cause for alarm, but a cause for celebration! It's amazing we ever made it through the Dark Ages of Disco.

In between sips of a Schnauzer Smoothie, the Puppy Blender recently posted a link to an article on Slate which, in turn, referenced this blog post on Chicago Now giving a kindergarten readiness list from 1979. The most culturally shocking one was this:
Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend's home?
There's been plenty of commentary in the blogosphere about how, 32 years later, this seems insane. It's not insane because 6-year-olds can't do it, it's insane because we're all convinced that child predators are lurking everywhere. Going back further in time, that 4-8 block reference number was probably larger. I've got a great aunt in Wisconsin who, in the 1930s, regularly walked 2 miles to school and back. It was no big deal then.

I've always tried to give my kids a lot of autonomy, but I don't recall giving them that much freedom at 6. A block, maybe, but not 4-8. Looking back at my own childhood, I think I was allowed 2 blocks, but that limit was only because my friends all lived within that radius.

I do know I didn't wear a helmet when I rode my bike. :-)


tim eisele said...

My main worry with the kids walking around on their own isn't child predators[1], it's cars. Our road has a blind hill above us, and a blind curve below us, so an incautious kid could easily be hit by a fast-moving car. Once I can trust the kids to check for traffic before crossing the street, they can go where they like.

"I do know I didn't wear a helmet when I rode my bike. :-)"

Neither did I, until I fell off my bike and knocked myself unconscious in the middle of the busiest road in town. The ambulance ride and skull X-rays cost me $600 (this was in 1987, I bet it would be a lot more now).

The helmet is probably more important for adults than for kids (who aren't generally moving as fast), but getting kids into the habit of wearing them as soon as they start riding bikes still strikes me as a darned good idea.

[1] Not predators that are humans, at any rate. We do have bears, though. They sometimes raid the bird feeders, and get into the beehives if I forget to maintain the electric fence.

K T Cat said...

The voice of reason!

K T Cat said...

That was said with a smile, by the way.

tim eisele said...

"That was said with a smile, by the way."

Yes, I know. I just like to remind people that bike helmets are not just good protection, they also can save you quite a lot of money.

K T Cat said...

You might be overestimating the value of my skull!

Kelly the little black dog said...

No one wore helmets riding bikes when we were kids!

I'm trying to remember. Six is first grade. I lived with my Grandparents in Santa Cruz for most of first grade. I'm pretty sure I walked to school which would have been around four blocks. I know the next year I was living in LA and rode my bike 8 blocks to school.

Mostly Nothing said...

I remember needing to get myself to summer school, between 1st and 2nd, or 2nd and 3rd. My school was across the street but had roof damage, so had to go 1-2 miles up Elton Hills road in Rochester. A busy 4 lane road with sidewalks at the edge.
I too didn't wear a helmet until grad school. Then only on the road bike not mountain bike (off roading). That was dumb. A friend of mine at school was on his way to a final when he saw a bike accident. He helped the guy, waited for emergency personal, talked with the police, then road straight to the bike shop and got a helmet. Later, he went to his professor to see if he could make up the exam.
Oh, also of note, the speed at which you need to be going to crack your head open is 0. Simply falling off your bike stopped and hitting your head will do it.
It's a wonder the human race made it this far, as dangerous of a world we live in.