inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #76 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 16:46
    
Ouch, mark, i'm a member of the media. but yeah. there were all kinds
of bad people, and there were more of them, and fewer protections
against them. but you'd have to be an ostrich not to see how the
emergence of hundreds of news outlets operating 24/7 have played a
role. not to mention those milk cartons with the faces of missing kids
on them, sitting on the breakfast table. the net effect of hearing even
the same story over and over again is that it comes to fill up a
disproportionate amount of brain space. to our brain, it appears
(APPEARS) to happen more often than it does in reality. how many of us
stop to check the Department of Justic data on child victimizations?
that would be the rational thing to do. but we don't do it, and so we
have a vastly mistaken perception of the risk. 

but then again, the media select out only certain stories to tell and
retell this way. in a noisy and cluttered marketplace--that is, all
those competing news outlets, all those chattering anchors--the story
that's going to get the most attention, the highest rating, is the one
that stirs the most anxiety. much of the marketing that is done in this
country today is fear-based, especially in the appeals to parents. it
has an effect.  
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #77 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 16:54
    
Marketers are savvy and they were probably the first to recognize that
fear levels of parents were rising. and they knew they'd be successful
if they pitched to those fears. in the process, of course, they
ratchet up those fears. so you have an upwardly spiraling cycle.
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #78 of 295: Jennifer Simon (nomis-refinnej) Sat 6 Sep 08 17:31
    
If overprotective parenting is largely a feature of the upper
socioeconomic classes, what proportion of the nation's population as a
whole is now comprised of what you call wimps? 
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #79 of 295: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sat 6 Sep 08 17:44
    
>i'm a member of the media

Don't sweat it.  I used to be one too, but I got over it.

There was actually an incredible amount of fear-based marketing to
parents back in the day (check out the ads in the Sat. Evening Post in
the 1930s) but I think the way the media is wired together at this
point really gives people a sense that anything that happens to any kid
anywhere is happening in their backyard.

I don't think this is what McLuhan imagined when he talked about the
global village, but I'll admit that I haven't re-read McLuhan lately.
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #80 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 17:54
    
I suppose someone out there could waste some time attempting a
calculation, or an estimate. It's not so much the numbers as that it
afflicts the segment of society that generally fuels the culture. It's
a problem among the middle and upper classes...the classes that prepare
to send their kids to college. The leading edge of the overprotected
generation is kids in the mid to late 20s. The biggest manifestation of
the phenomenon is college kids breaking down psychologically.
Increasing numbers of college kids are afflicted. Not all of them, by
any means. Not all families are highly overprotective and overinvolved
in their kids' lives. But they cause a disproportionate amount of
trouble and make a disproportionate amount of noise. And their ways of
raising kids raises many concerns about the next generation and its
fitness for democracy and the innovation needed to keep the economy
healthy. 
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #81 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 17:55
    
Mark, yes, everything wired together gives us a helluva big backyard.
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #82 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 17:56
    
And mark, with all due respect to the Sat Eve Post of the 30s, there
is so much MORE media now, so many more outlets. some stories are just
inescapable. 
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #83 of 295: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sat 6 Sep 08 18:01
    
Right, I agree.  I had only the vaguest idea of who Anna Nicole Smith
was (in fact, I still have only the vaguest idea of who she was), but
her death and the resulting dramas were absolutely inescapable.  

The media of the 30s actually laid out the template really well
(stories like that were called "nine-day wonders" back in the day), but
they just didn't have the reach or the technology to really become
inescapable.  But man, they did their best.

One of many examples:

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floyd_Collins>

And what about that Jake Lingle?
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #84 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 20:34
    
I had an idea who Anna Nicole Smith was...just no idea what, exactly,
she was famous for. I guess she didn't, either. And despite the endless
media coverage, I still have no idea.
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #85 of 295: Paulina Borsook (loris) Sat 6 Sep 08 22:18
    
this discussion reminds me of 'the return of the player'
by michael tolkien, where 'potato chip kids'
(so brittle they fracture, who have been yessed
and overprotected to death) figure.

also, the woman who become the first female
president of smith college has written
about how growing up on a remote ranch
in the outback was -great- for her
self-reliance. ranch kids were expected
to perform real tasks and do real things
and be self-reliant --- and they got their
daily lessons over the radio from the australian
broadcasting corporation. and they all
grew up just fine: capable, educated,
functional adults.
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #86 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 22:38
    
Farm kids in this country have some of that real advantage. There are
always chores to be done on a farm, and kids are always eager to
display their competence. Many parents don't understand that kids have
a built-in drive to do that. But on a farm, there is plenty of
opportunity to pitch in. So kids do real meaningful tasks and come to
feel like they can make a contribution. It builds inner strength,
eactly what's missing from overprotected kids. 
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #87 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 22:41
    
Potato-chip kids. Well, that's a new one to add to the list. I've
heard the term teacup kids, so fragile they shatter easily.
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #88 of 295: Jennifer Simon (nomis-refinnej) Sun 7 Sep 08 03:14
    
Most of the farm families I've known have been poorer and less
well-educated than the city folk.  Their kids have had difficulty
moving away from home and out into more bustling economies requiring
different sets of skills, even as opportunities for making a living off
the land have drastically diminished.  Baling hay and repairing
tractors are not, as a general rule, the best preparation for
navigating crowded streets or complicated bureaucracies.

Skyscraper canyons are as dizzying and fearsome to my in-laws from
Yellowjacket as desert canyons are to my in-laws from Malaysia.  We
tend to be most competent in familiar environments.  The Malaysian side
of the family has more degrees and wealth, though, while most of the
family farms around Yellowjacket that haven't already failed are
struggling to survive deepening drought and failing markets.  

What fuels culture varies from place to place and time to time: I'm
not sure college kids are the driving force in the nation, but to the
extent they are, those who master new technologies, using computers and
cell phones to establish independent identities, may be acquiring
precisely the skills they will need in the future.  
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #89 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sun 7 Sep 08 04:32
    
Jennifer, there are farm families that don't live in the near poverty
you describe. My daughter in law was raised on a small farm in a
middle-class community. Learning to ride horses at a young age and to
do chores didn't stop her from getting a ph.d. in psychology. True,
most of the population today lives in cities and it's hard to get
around town on a tractor. But there is also a renaissance in small,
specialized farms, and they are far less isolated in every way. 

It's not college kids who are the driving force in the culture; it's
the educated classes. By and large, they are the ones who become our
leaders, run our companies, conduct our science, write our books, make
the laws, become our inventors.

Jennifer, I'm not sure what your point is about the technological
skills of cellphone users. The kinds of skills required to use
cellphones are not the ones needed to advance the technology itself and
innovate. Further,  there's a difference between acquiring such skills
and being healthy, stable, adults who sustain the democracy. 
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #90 of 295: Jennifer Simon (nomis-refinnej) Sun 7 Sep 08 07:00
    
Is your daughter-in-law still farming?  I've spent a good portion of
my life in rural areas and talked to and written about people who lived
there.  Doctorates of any sort were pretty thin on the ground in those
places.

Kids who went to grad school didn't come back.  I interviewed a woman
whose son explained to her (upon running away from home to become a
history professor), "I didn't go to school to learn to chop cotton." 
If he wanted to be a driving force, a member of the educated classes,
he had to go to town.  That's where all the cellphone-toting grandkids
are growing up.

I'd say computers are more significant than cellphones, but now that
one can go online from the latter, the line is blurred.  Cellphones are
capable of a wide range of subversions.  No need to fumble with
incriminating notes: send text messages.  I recently read about
"mosquito" ringtones on the Well, too.  They are beyond the range of
normal middle-aged hearing but still audible to youth (presumably
downloadable in the time it takes to go to the bathroom).
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #91 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sun 7 Sep 08 07:12
    
Mosquito ringtones!!!! The things one learns on The Well.
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #92 of 295: Jennifer Simon (nomis-refinnej) Sun 7 Sep 08 07:14
    
That's one of the things I love about it!
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #93 of 295: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 7 Sep 08 07:20
    
Is it safe to assume everyone here knows about Last Child in the
Woods?
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #94 of 295: Jennifer Simon (nomis-refinnej) Sun 7 Sep 08 07:31
    
The point of these subversions is the scope they offer for rebelling,
exercising independence, developing identities and social connections,
all under the radar of interfering adults.  These pursuits are as old
as the hills, as are our responses.  Tsk-tsking and worrying about the
decline of youth is only new to us because we just got old.

(Slippage.)

I don't...off to Google...
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #95 of 295: (nitpicker) Sun 7 Sep 08 08:12
    
Last Child in the Woods (a book by Richard Louv about what he has
termed "nature-deficit disorder" in children) is certainly very
familiar to those of us in the landscape architecture community, and
those involved in parks advocacy.  There has been some political
momentum gained and legislation introduced at the state and Federal
level, often under the name "No Child Left Inside," to fund ecological
literacy and outdoor education programs:

<http://richardlouv.com/last-child-movement>

However, there's a lot to be said for unstructured time outdoors, in
unstructured places (as opposed to formal outdoor education, which of
course is important too).  At a certain point in my landscape
architecture education, I had a class where we wrote, among other
things, personal essays on why we were interested in landscape
architecture.   Memories of some childhood "wild" place, which could
have been no more than a vacant lot or wooded patch in a suburb, were a
common theme.  And the memories involved unsupervised adventures,
imagination games, etc.

When we talk about "open space", as people in my line of work
constantly do, there is an inherent danger in the choice of words. 
"Open" space may be thought of, unconsciously or consciously, as
"vacant" space that is just waiting for some productive use to be made
of it, even more so if it seems "wild" or untended or untamed in some
way.  But these seem to be some of the best environments for kids,
where they can interact with natural processes and gain knowledge for
themselves.  Somewhere deep in our DNA is the original hunter-gatherer
desire to gather detailed information around the world around us and
test ourselves against its challenges.

I guess "open space" is the spatial analog of unstructured time, which
seems to be the bane of some parents who seek to fill up every moment
with organized activity for their kids.   If kids don't get access to
anything that's not pre-organized and pre-conceptualized for them, how
will they learn to think creatively OR criticially?  (rhetorical
question, I think I know the answer...)
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #96 of 295: Jennifer Simon (nomis-refinnej) Sun 7 Sep 08 08:33
    
Fascinating.  My kids are both on the autism spectrum, one at either
end.  They spent their early years in the woods.

After we moved to town for the special services they need, both
developed anxiety.  One has become obese, and the other has struggled
with depression.  Lately they have been spending their a lot of time in
the country with their grandmother, and anxiety, depression, and
weight are all going down again. 
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #97 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sun 7 Sep 08 08:44
    
Yes, I view "open space" as the spatial equivalent of unstructured
time. Louv's writing is important. There is a "parks movement" going
on, and one of the goals is to staff playgrounds with play experts.
Huh? Is that what we need? Experts telling kids how to play or even
monitoring their play. I'm in favor of kids exploring the outdoors on
their own and inventing their own ways of play on their own. And,
Jennifer, like you, evading the adults with technology, or other means.
There's a whole lot of monitoring going on and it's just not
necessary.

Jennifer, interesting observations with your own kids. Being in the
country does limit the number of strange faces you have to deal with
and decipher all the time.
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #98 of 295: Jennifer Simon (nomis-refinnej) Sun 7 Sep 08 09:21
    <scribbled>
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #99 of 295: Jennifer Simon (nomis-refinnej) Sun 7 Sep 08 09:28
    
(Scribbled and reposted with editing for sense)

We went to visit a friend in Denver when my daughter was four.  She
knew nothing about stranger danger and had never played near a paved
road.  As she goggled and forgot all about her food during her first
visit to a McDonald's, my friend marvelled, "She's like a little
Martian."

She didn't have the first clue how to play with my friend's kids in
that environment, although they did their best to teach her how.  The
kids she played with back home didn't ride scooters, watching
carefully for cars.  If someone did lumber up whichever quarter-mile
driveway they were near (all of them far too rugged for scooters), it
was sure to be someone they knew, who knew to watch out for them, and
besides, you could hear and see anyone coming for five minutes before
they got there.

I taught my kid what she needed to know to be safe.  Don't go out
without the dogs.  Don't put anything in your mouth unless you're
certain it's edible.  Don't touch these plants or those critters.  She
needed to know how to handle herself around bears and moose and lions.
 Strangers, not so much, seeing as how we had five nosy neighbors who
stopped all our friends and relatives on the road the first time they
came to visit, to inquire closely into their business.

(Not just their business, either.  When my husband and I went to town
for the birth of the aforementioned daughter, I got a call in the
birthing room from one of the neighbors.  Another neighbor had called
her to report seeing us drive down the road with a carseat at dawn,
right when I was due, and they all wanted to know if I'd like them to
let the dogs out.)
  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #100 of 295: Anne Boyd (nitpicker) Sun 7 Sep 08 09:43
    
>>>There is a "parks movement" going
on, and one of the goals is to staff playgrounds with play experts.

This is not a new debate, it's been going on since the Progressive
Era, but I would say this is not an accurate portrayal of the "parks
movement" (if there is such a unified force) or its goals.  

If you were to ask me whether we should have designed and programmed
open space or undesigned and unprogrammed open space, I would say it's
an unfair kind of Sophie's Choice.  In fact we should have both, and we
shouldn't be so stingy as to say that we can't afford both.  But the
political reality on the ground is that open space is paid for by
public agencies, and the programmed open space usually tends to be
given a higher priority by the taxpayers.

There is also a fairly enormous elephant in the room (or the park) in
terms of class-based expectations of the purposes open space is
supposed to serve, and the social justice questions brought about by
how we program open space.  

Here in Los Angeles it's a constant bone of contention, as we *do*
have very scarce open space and we *do* have a lot of Sophie's Choice
situations with regard to how it's going to be used, particularly with
regard to soccer fields.  there are a LOT of people pressing for more
soccer fields.  Whereas "passive" open space (talk about loaded
language, it's a very unfortunate term of art) is often seen as
something that the arugula set wants for their pleasant walks. Again it
gets back to the question of what is seen as productive or useful.   

The benefits of country life for autistic kids aren't related to
lesser inputs, but different inputs.  A classmate in my graduating
class, who has an autistic daughter, designed a residential school for
autistic kids as her final thesis project.  Based on her research, she
made the school a working farm, with animals and crops for the students
to tend, and also with a large ecological education component.  The
organization and structure are actually an important part of why
agricultural work has been found to be therapeutic for people with
autism.  
  

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