Raise Civilized Kids!


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Procreation alone makes possible the persistence of human culture through time. It would mean choosing a hermetic, isolated existence and giving up any deep connection to the future. There is simply no more effective way to shrink your carbon footprint. If you really want to save the planet, you should die. This is the choice David Buckel made one crisp April morning, when he walked from his Brooklyn apartment to Prospect Park, doused himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire.

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He was in good health. He had a partner and a daughter. While some might be inclined to ascribe his suicide to mental illness, the letters he left make it clear that his act was political. This world is the only one in which my choices have meaning. And this world, doomed as it is, is the only one that offers joy. I knew that I would kill for her, die for her, sacrifice anything for her, and while those feelings have become more bearable since the first delirious days after her birth, they have not abated.

Every day brings new pangs of grief. Our children will not face the choices we face. Yet while some degree of warming now appears inevitable, the range of possible outcomes over the next century is wide enough and the worst outcomes extreme enough that there is some narrow hope that revolutionary socio-economic transformation today might save billions of human lives and preserve global civilization as we know it in more or less recognizable form, or at least stave off human extinction.

But the range of outcomes decreases every day, shifting month by month toward the more apocalyptic end of the spectrum, and waiting even five years may see the window for saving humanity shut.


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We live in the gap between the wind and the whirlwind, but taking that gap for a reprieve is a mistake. The U. And a great number of those American billionaires, from Bill Gates No. She writes about what it is like to raise her three children while living in Paris and provides an overview of the French way of parenting.

Here in the U. We devour books and articles that talk about the latest research and construct our own parenting styles according to our individual family values and priorities. This cadre, or framework, is based on the tenets of patience, politeness and allegiance.

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A petite cheri in Paris, France eats more varied foods than one who lives in Paris, Texas. She is also less likely to be obese, rarely shouts in public and obediently sleeps through the night. Instead of capitalism and individualism, the book is filled with examples of children absorbing socialism.

One morning Druckerman finds twenty-five identical yellow stick figures with green eyes hanging up on the classroom wall. Personally, I have no interest in raising a child who knows her place and stays there. When my husband and I discuss the ways in which we want to raise our children, we never talk about ways we can help them become like everyone else. Ellen Sandseter, a professor of early-childhood education at Queen Maud University College in Trondheim, had just had her first child, and she watched as one by one the playgrounds in her neighborhood were transformed into sterile, boring places.

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She wondered whether a similar dynamic might take hold among younger kids as playgrounds started to become safer and less interesting. Sandseter began observing and interviewing children on playgrounds in Norway. That scares them, but then they overcome the fear. To gauge the effects of losing these experiences, Sandseter turns to evolutionary psychology.

Children are born with the instinct to take risks in play, because historically, learning to negotiate risk has been crucial to survival; in another era, they would have had to learn to run from some danger, defend themselves from others, be independent. Even today, growing up is a process of managing fears and learning to arrive at sound decisions. But if they never go through that process, the fear can turn into a phobia.

We might accept a few more phobias in our children in exchange for fewer injuries. But the final irony is that our close attention to safety has not in fact made a tremendous difference in the number of accidents children have. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which monitors hospital visits, the frequency of emergency-room visits related to playground equipment, including home equipment, in was ,, or one visit per 1, Americans. In , it was ,, or one per 1, Americans. From through , the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported deaths associated with playground equipment—an average of 13 a year, or 10 fewer than were reported in Head injuries, runaway motorcycles, a fatal fall onto a rock—most of the horrors Sweeney and Frost described all those years ago turn out to be freakishly rare, unexpected tragedies that no amount of safety-proofing can prevent.

David Ball, a professor of risk management at Middlesex University, analyzed U. Ball has found some evidence that long-bone injuries, which are far more common than head injuries, are actually increasing. Etan had been begging his mother to let him walk by himself; many of his friends did, and that morning was the first time she let him.

But, as just about anyone who grew up in New York in that era knows, he never came home. I also remember that, sometime during those weeks of endless coverage of the search for Etan, the parents in my neighborhood for the first time organized a walk pool to take us to the bus stop. Over time, the fear drove a new parenting absolute: children were never to talk to strangers. David Finkelhor is the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center and the most reliable authority on sexual-abuse and abduction statistics for children. A child from a happy, intact family who walks to the bus stop and never comes home is still a singular tragedy, not a national epidemic.

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One kind of crime that has increased, says Finkelhor, is family abduction which is lumped together with stereotypical abduction in FBI crime reports, accounting for the seemingly alarming numbers sometimes reported in the media. What has changed since the s is the nature of the American family, and the broader sense of community. For a variety of reasons—divorce, more single-parent families, more mothers working—both families and neighborhoods have lost some of their cohesion. It is perhaps natural that trust in general has eroded, and that parents have sought to control more closely what they can—most of all, their children.

As we parents began to see public spaces—playgrounds, streets, public ball fields, the distance between school and home—as dangerous, other, smaller daily decisions fell into place. Failure to supervise has become, in fact, synonymous with failure to parent. No more pickup games, idle walks home from school, or cops and robbers in the garage all afternoon. The child culture from my Queens days, with its own traditions and codas, its particular pleasures and distresses, is virtually extinct.

I n , the British-born geography student Roger Hart settled on an unusual project for his dissertation. Usually research on children is conducted by interviewing parents, but Hart decided he would go straight to the source. Hart asked them questions about where they went each day and how they felt about those places, but mostly he just wandered around with them.

Even now, as a father and a settled academic, Hart has a dreamy, puckish air.

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Children were comfortable with him and loved to share their moments of pride, their secrets. Often they took him to places adults had never seen before—playhouses or forts the kids had made just for themselves. Many of his observations must have seemed mundane at the time. The children spent immense amounts of time on their own, creating imaginary landscapes their parents sometimes knew nothing about. The forts they built were not praised and cooed over by their parents, because their parents almost never saw them. The girls were more restricted because they often helped their mothers with chores or errands, or stayed behind to look after younger siblings.

To the children, each little addition to their free range—being allowed to cross a paved road, or go to the center of town—was a sign of growing up. The furniture has been built with love and wit—the TV, for example, is a crate on a rock with a magazine glamour shot taped onto the front. The phone is a stone with a curled piece of wire coming out from under it.

The girls should be self-conscious because they are being filmed, but they are utterly at home, flipping their hair, sitting close to each other on crates, and drawing up plans for how to renovate. Nearby, their 4-year-old brother is cutting down a small tree with a hatchet for a new addition. In another scene, Andrew and Jenny, a brother and sister who are 6 and 4, respectively, explore a patch of woods to find the best ferns to make a bed with.

Jenny walks around in her knee-high white socks, her braids swinging, looking for the biggest fronds. Her big brother tries to arrange them just so. The sun is shining through the dense trees and the camera stays on the children for a long time. When they are satisfied with their bed, they lie down next to each other.

I teared up while watching the film, and it was only a few days later that I understood why. In , Hart returned to the same town to do a follow-up study. His aim was to reconnect with any kids he had written about who still lived within miles of the town and see how they were raising their own children, and also to track some of the kids who now lived in the town.

Raise Civilized Kids! Raise Civilized Kids!
Raise Civilized Kids! Raise Civilized Kids!
Raise Civilized Kids! Raise Civilized Kids!
Raise Civilized Kids! Raise Civilized Kids!
Raise Civilized Kids! Raise Civilized Kids!
Raise Civilized Kids! Raise Civilized Kids!
Raise Civilized Kids! Raise Civilized Kids!
Raise Civilized Kids! Raise Civilized Kids!

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