Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dumbing Down the Kids

Trey Givens wrote a short bit about a woman's reaction to some youngsters lighting off some fireworks. It reminded me of something I've been thinking of, off and on, for years.

I raged on about the fact that the nanny state has severely limited the availability of the really fun fireworks here, last year. This, though, is different.

When I was a little kid, my parents did the fireworks. My uncle Jim once put up a twelve-foot length of rain trough against the back fence and put a skyrocket in it. He pointed it steeply upward, and lit it. 'Twas one of those starburst thingies, and at the time, it was the best shot I'd ever seen. Soon thereafter, the state made certain fireworks illegal, including big skyrockets, but we still could get bottle rockets, those helicopter thingies, Roman candles and all manner of pinwheels.

As my dad lit off the fireworks each year, sometimes in the company of the neighbors and their kids, they'd hand us lit sparklers to swing around in between the larger items. The neat thing was that we always were shown how to light the fireworks and were taught safe use of them. We all knew we'd be able to do it ourselves when we were older.

I was a newsie from the time I was ten years old, and so I always had some money. Rather than trying to buy big fireworks for the 4th each of those wonderful years, though, I preferred fire crackers and bottle rockets. Cheap, quick and capable of being used in many ways.

Oh, I wasn't the only one. Far from it. Most of my friends did the same thing. Sometimes we'd work together, or in competition, to see who could get the biggest bang by tying several firecrackers together or pouring the powder from several firecrackers into a pile and wrapping it in newspaper and masking tape. The thing is, we used our heads and nobody got hurt.


In the Eighteenth Century, 10-12 year-olds handles horses, did farm work, fixed fences and roofs--did all kinds of work, and did it well.

In my childhood, in the 1950's, my brother and I used to climb on slow-moving trains, we'd run across the top of the boxcars and climb along the flatcars and tankers and try to get off the train at the caboose, at the location where we got on at the first boxcar.

Friends and I banked up snow in the empty lot between our house and the house next door, then took the garden hose and made our own ice rink. We went down to the slough in the summer and built a raft 'pon which we floated out on the water. We built treehouses in the woods outside of town.

I took $75 of my saved newsie money and bought a car when I was twelve. 'Twas a 1950 Chevy sedanette. The guy I bought it from drove it home for me and handed the bill of sale to my dad. He registered it for me, in my name. I drove it back and forth down the driveway (I couldn't drive it on the street) and wrenched on it to try to make it run better.

I never owned a gun, other than a bb gun, but some of my neighbors did. 'Twas nothing to see a couple of 12- or 13-year-olds walking or biking to the edge of town with .22 rifles, to shoot cans and stuff.

When my elder son was four, I'd take him out in the street and instruct him on how to cross the street safely. I showed him how to push the button for the walk signal, and watch traffic as he crossed. A little later, I showed him how to make himself a sandwich and warm up some soup, and do various other simple kitchen things.

We went ice skating together a couple of times a week for several years.

When he was about twelve, I taught him to handle handguns safely and to shoot a little Ruger Bearcat .22 revolver.

Since I was a single dad, he learned to do many things on his own, and had plenty of time to adventure with his friends.

Contrast this to the way most youngsters grow up these days. They're driven to their local government childrens' prison by Mom, and picked up after. They're driven to the park to play little league. If the parents are wealthy enough, they live in gated enclaves, and rarely get to interact with outsiders. They're rarely unsupervised and hardly ever get to just go out and have an adventure. They can't work until they're at least sixteen, and can't drive until they've had the ultra bland childrens' prison version of driver ed.

Now, at long last, I'm finally getting to my point.

Today's kids can't do anything!

They live uninspired, fully supervised, fully programmed lives, then are sent out into the world virtually experience-free.

No wonder they drink and get into drugs.

No wonder they live at home until they're thirty (or more).

No wonder they go plumb crazy when they go to college.

No wonder they grow up to be empty-headed socialists who have no idea how the world could be and ought to be.

I'm having the horrible vision of the world John Spartan encountered when he was revived in the movie "Demolition Man." A world in which every off-color word is heard, and your citation pops out of a nearby wall, and every restaurant is a Taco Bell.


Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California


Michael Stone said...

Absolutely spot on, sir. Well said.
I don't think an adult can really value freedom if he's never really experienced it from birth.

Col. Hogan said...

I did a lot of things that many would consider dangerous, in my youth. Hell, I still do, though I like to think I use better judgement now.

I wouldn't trade the experiences for anything. My parents were very tolerant.

Perhaps that's why I found Atlas Shrugged so inspiring: I identify very strongly with Dagny's--and Frisco's--impatience to get out into the real world.