Saturday, September 12, 2009


There is a fairly heartbreaking story in today's New York Times about walking to school, and how few students do it. The Times cites a National Household Travel Survey that reveals that in 2001, only 13 percent of children either walked or biked to school, down from 41 percent in 1969. During the same period, children either being driven or driving themselves to school rose to 55 percent from 20 percent. Of course, this reflects suburbanization and the ensuing de-densification that makes walking infeasible, but it also reflects a fear of the public realm. As one woman put it: "I wouldn’t trust my kid with the street” (the woman who said this asked that her full identity be withheld "to protect her children").

The "transferring children from the private world of family to the public world of school" has become an increasingly worrisome affair. Motivated by national headline-grabbing stories of abduction, parents have resorted to some extreme tactics, including driving their child to a school that is only a lock away, installing surveillance cameras, or insisting that their child wait for the bus with them in a car parked at the end of the driveway.

I don't have a kid, but it seems obvious that this violates healthy rapprochement. Can instilling such an intense fear in a child of the public realm possibly be healthy? No, it can't, and that's why "driving to school" merits a place on our Arsenal of Exclusion

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