Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, April 13, 2015

Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting

In the interests of FREEDOM!!!!11!!!, Megan McArdle has some ideas on how you should raise your children. So do I.

Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting:

1. Children are not chickens.

2.  McArdle says stranger abductions are very rare. That is true. This is what she does not say:

There were an estimated 58,200 child victims of nonfamily
abduction [in 1999], defined more broadly to include
all nonfamily perpetrators (friends and acquaintances
as well as strangers) and crimes involving lesser
amounts of forced movement or detention in addition
to the more serious crimes entailed in stereotypical
Teenagers were by far the most frequent victims
of both stereotypical kidnappings and nonfamily
Nearly half of all child victims of stereotypical kidnappings
and nonfamily abductions were sexually
assaulted by the perpetrator.

3. McArdle thinks children should be trained to rush gunmen so we don't have to pass gun laws.

4. McArdle thinks it would be an onerous burden to watch your children when they go to the playground.

5. McArdle thinks parents worry too much about feeling guilty if their daughter is raped while walking around town without an adult.

6. McArdle thinks "there can be too much safety."

7. McArdle wasn't raped as a child so your child certainly will never be raped.

At the age of 9, I walked to school with a group of other 9-year-olds. Or by myself. Across the very busy streets of the Upper West Side, at a time when New York City really was very dangerous. Past housing projects. Around construction sites. My sister rode the subway to school at that age. My best friend got on the crosstown bus by herself in the first grade. Attrition rate among my classmates and myself: 0.

Bonus #8. Pity the poor pedophile.
A couple of years back, I learned that an adult I had grown up around was a pedophile.  He had never, to anyone's knowledge, done anything about it.  Certainly he was never anything but decent to me, and I babysat his kids when I was a pretty young kid myself.  Rather, a technician mucking around on his work computer had discovered a stash of child porn.  He went to jail for a while.  His life was destroyed.
This changed a lot of the way that I think about pedophiles.  I used to use the kind of hyperbole one often hears--that people who look at child porn "should be shot" and so forth.  I don't say those things any more. 

Obviously, I am not going to defend the use of child porn at all; it's despicable, and jail is the appropriate sentence, because the man who purchases child pornography is encouraging its manufacture.  But it made me think of them for the first time with sympathy.  They didn't choose to be like this--God, who would?  Sex is one of the most powerful drives we have, and as Dan Savage's columns testify every week, we have little control whether it focuses on something relatively normal, or something . . . um . . . extremely statistically unlikely.    
That doesn't lessen the horror of child porn, and I think we're right to punish the possession thereof quite heavily.  (And don't get me started on the manufacture: shut the dungeon door and throw away the key).  But the people themselves deserve some shred of our empathy.
If you knew people who were sexually assaulted as a child or were sexually assaulted yourself as a child you are not quite so cavalier about safety. Unfortunately the people who were lucky enough to not be assaulted are trying to convince parents that nobody has anything to worry about.

It's up to you to decide whether or not you want to take that risk. It is you and your child who will have to live with the consequences. Not Megan McArdle.

ADDED: Mark Kleiman weighs in on Twitter: "Victimization losses are small compared to crime-avoidance costs." Perhaps he can tell the parents of the next victimization loss that at least they saved money.


rjs said...

everyone i grew up with was 'free range'...most days i saw my mother only at breakfast, lunch, dinner and at dusk...i was given busfare to travel all over cleveland, including through the worst neighborhoods, when i was parents grew up the same way, and it never occurred to me or them that there was any danger for a child to be alone in the city...what is it about this country that has changed so much since the 50s?

Susan of Texas said...

We know more now. It happened but the shame was on the victim and nobody talked about it.

Downpuppy said...

58000 - which is probably a bogus number - is less than 1 in 1000. There is a huge story to be told about the transition in American society about how childhood changed from an outdoor, pack thing, like childhood has always been, to something separated and confined.

Is Megan the one to tell it?

Kathy said...

None of us kids -or adults- used seatbelts, and neither I or anyone I knew was never killed in a car crash! That proves seatbelts are not necessary!

I don't know any kids who were kidnapped & raped, but I know of quite a few who were badly injured when playing alone, and a couple who drowned. It was pretty common in 50s, 60s & 70s.

Another really common killer was House Fires caused by smokers. It was an almost daily thing on the nightly news "X number of children were suffocated or burned to death when their parent fell asleep in (bed/sofa) with lit cigarette. Almost daily.

what is it about this country that has changed so much since the 50s? Maybe what changed is statistics and record-keeping.

Now we have iPhones and the internet, and other less publicized problems are starting to be revealed daily

Anonymous said...

She is unbelievable. None of her friends were raped so it is not a big risk and she can't understand why people would irrationally see it as a risky. But a friend of hers is a pedophile so she has empathy for pedophiles?

Because she is the center of the universe.

Clever Pseudonym said...

Twenty-six years ago, a girlhood playmate of mine was abducted in broad daylight from a neighborhood park in Paris where we all "safely" played. She's not yet been found. I visited her parents last summer; you can still see the emotional fracture in their faces.

That is fucking why, Megan.

Anonymous said...

what is it about this country that has changed so much since the 50s? Maybe what changed is statistics and record-keeping.

The nanny state has changed things a lot, too. Seatbelts, smoke alarms, anti-smoking campaigns, stuff like that keeps people from dying and it's sure not the market place that made them mandatory.


Susan of Texas said...

Why have seatbelts? When I was a kid I used to jump from the back seat to the front while the car was whizzing down the road. Now helicopter parents are preventing kids from having the same freedom I used to have.