Monday, October 26, 2009

Should Teens Trick or Treat?

If the only scary stories you hear around Halloween these days have to do with poison in the candy, razors in the apples, trick-or-treat kidnappers, and all those young toilet paper vandals, then perhaps you'd have as good a reason as any to feel as disgusted as this "crabby old fart." Don Mills spends a lot of time venting about his frustrations with young people, but you got to admit he does more to empower them than most of the liberal, coddling, sweet-talkers out there. His recent rant: teenage trick or treaters. And here's what you can expect if you're over 10 and under 20 and happen by his house this year:

Be advised that any damned teenager who shows up at my door this Halloween won’t be getting anything but a copy of the want ads, directions to the local military recruitment centre and a cane to the side of the head.

Nobody could accuse him of infantilizing young people, that's for sure, and it's more than welcome this day in age, but he also provokes an interesting question. When is it no longer socially acceptable for an individual to trick or treat? Are we officially declaring Halloween a kids-only holiday? In the old world, the trick or treaters were not the 3 year olds dressed as Garfield like you see today, they were primarily young men impersonating the dead by wearing various costumes as a means to placate them when out souling on the Hallowmas. But regardless of it's origins, parents have taken over the practice of trick or treating (along with everything else) and shifted the emphasis to the younger set.

But we can't only blame parents for deviating from the origins of the practice. Toilet-papering houses and kicking in jack-o-lanterns isn't exactly what those old-time young men were doing when they were out souling in the Scottish alleyways. These days though, society has forced the young people out from all the festivities all together. The kids prance around and get candy. Parents drag the kids around the neighborhoods, and even the older people at least get to participate to the extent that they're the ones handing out all those confections. What is there for the young people to be doing while everyone else is enjoying the holiday? Now all this doesn't excuse the oft over-reported "young and unruly" behavior, but it certainly gives an explanation for it.

It seems to me that going around trick or treating is the least annoying thing young people could be out doing on October 31st. It may feel awkward serving candy to these individuals, but you also have to consider that half the time you're not even giving candy out to the kids anyways (unless you think the 3-year-old is the mastermind behind why they're standing on your doorstep in the pumpkin outfit). The fact of the matter is, if the parent is the one holding the bag and doing the chant, it doesn't matter what the kid is dressed like. The question becomes, if it really all comes down to age, why is it more acceptable to be handing out candy to 30 and 40 year olds than it is to be handing it out to the pock-marked 14 year olds?

And if we're also going to consider the fact that it's acceptable because the 40 year old is doing it on behalf of their incapable or shy toddler, what makes anyone think the 14 year old isn't also doing the same for a younger brother or sister?

So come on now, young and old alike, the last thing we should have to fear on Halloween is young people.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A "Walking" School Bus?

Should walking or biking to school be such a controversy, even for a 12 year old? Society is no more dangerous or hazardous for walkers than it was even just ten years ago. Banning bikers is also outrageous, since it is highly unlikely a student is going to be molested or kidnapped while riding to school. The only thing that has changed over the years is that schools are more paranoid than ever. While they do have jurisdiction over students while on the premises or riding the buses, they don't have any right to enforce the behaviors of students when they are not in either of those two places. The whole reason why it's a controversy in the first place is just an indication of how far off the deep end society has slipped over protecting young people to the point of infantilizing them.
The 12-year-old [Adam Marino] and his mother, Janette Kaddo Marino, are defying Saratoga Springs school policy by biking to Maple Avenue Middle School on Route 9. The Jackson Street residents pedal more than four miles together each way to the middle school on nice days despite being told not to by school officials and police.
First of all, if they are really pedaling four miles to school, they really ought to be taking the bus anyways. How does the school expect them to get to school at that distance, presuming the parents are unable to do it, if (for whatever reason) they are not provided a school bus? Something doesn't make sense here.
Their methods may be unconventional, but the Marinos are part of a growing number of Americans challenging the sedentary habits of today's youths and what they view as overanxious "helicopter" parenting. As fewer children walk and bike to school nationwide, parents have started groups like the "Walking School Bus," which promotes physical activity and fitness in youth by having them walk to school with adults.
These are some progressive parents for sure, and you got to applaud their efforts to resist irrational over-protectionism, but is having a "walking school bus" itself even necessary? Again, we're not talking about elementary school kids, we're talking about 12 year olds. Doesn't society know the difference anymore? But at least they're trying, and they are indeed promoting physical activity, I can see that doing a lot of good. I was just totally unaware that that a trend towards fewer and fewer walkers was happening.

Lukily, the school in this instance seems to agree that they may be over-reaching their legal limits here, and they are scheduled to meet on amending the school code concerning walkers and bikers on October 13th. It's about time someone high up in that administration said what needed to be said:
"Supervised, parent/guardian bike riding may be permitted at specific sites in the future," White said in an interview Friday. The school has no legal responsibility over what occurs on Route 9," she added.
If anything, society is actually safer these days than it was 30 years ago when walking to school was far more common. I've seen reports that indicate this. If parents or schools have anything to fear, it's fear itself. Take time to teach kids about the hazards of walking to school on their own, make sure they know what routes to take, run them through possible trouble-scenarios so that if anything does happen they know how to deal with it. Eventually though, you just have to let them get their feet wet on their own.