I grew up in a little town in North Dakota. I had, probably, the closest thing to a Beaver Cleaver childhood that anyone's had in the past forty years. Doors didn't get locked much, I played around the neighborhood from dawn til way after dark (school permitting), and rarely worried about strangers, abduction, anything of the sort.
Oh, there were episodes. In sixth grade, rumors of a bunch of devil-worshippers swept Roosevelt Elementary School. Wearing sheets and travelling on foot (huh?) by night, sacrificing and butchering random cattle in their path, they were supposedly heading for Jamestown up the valley of the James River. And when I said "rumors spread", I don't mean "around the school"; the rumor swept the town. It made the newspaper; people were keeping their kids home from school, guys were driving south to look for the random pack of devil-worshippers.
The rumor, of course, came to nought; chalk it up to isolation and, perhaps, the sublimated fears of the upcoming farm crash.
Beyond that, of course, childhood was pretty good. Nobody got kidnapped; the only kid we lost, Shane Ford, drowned in the James River, falling off the spillway of an old ice house dam. Which is, of course, in line with the real risks children face.
I'm aware, of course, that for some people things have changed.
"You can't be free to explore the neighborhood anymore, or meet kids in the park," said Privette, a systems analyst in Watertown. "Something happens in 30 seconds. No neighborhood is safe."That quote - from a superb Strib piece that ran yesterday - is from a guy in Watertown, Minnesota - as bucolic and safe an exurb as exists.
Of course, so was Saint Joseph, MN - where Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped, 16 years ago.
I've been hearing it, of course, since I moved here; people claiming to be afraid to let their children out of the house, afraid of...whatever dangers are out there.
It's a sad, and common, modern mantra. Children keep photo ID cards in their backpacks listing vital statistics. Malls offer free fingerprinting and DNA swabbing. Missing children stare out from mailers and bulletin boards. So it may surprise parents to learn that their fear of a Boogeyman, while understandable, is largely misplaced.Of course, many parents buy into the boogeyman with both barrels. I've been running into them for years; there are two women in my neighborhood who won't let their sons (four, among them) outside their yards, and only before dinnertime.
More on them later.
Consider this: About 115 children were abducted by strangers in the United States in 2004; about half were returned alive, usually within 24 hours. In Minnesota alone that year, 91 children 18 and under died in motor-vehicle-related crashes, and nearly 8,000 were injured.So why - at a time when society is statistically safer than ever before - are so many parents so overwhelmingly fearful?
In a Minnesota Poll conducted last spring, Minnesotans -- including those with children in their households -- worried far more about abductions and violent crime in and outside of school than about kids drowning. In fact, drownings, along with poisoning and suffocation, are far greater dangers to children. The likelihood of being killed in a school shooting is 1 in 2 million.
I think there are couple reasons that are being overlooked: