Hold the presses! Here we are having multiple conversations about the quality of neighborhood life, about walkability, about living near where you shop, work, play, about building safe, loving environments that people call home. We are seeing a huge emergence of milennials wanting to ditch autos and live a more genuine lifestyle that is not tethered to the automobile. We are celebration Celebration and urban planning that puts us all within a mile of daily activities.
So what just happened in Maryland?
The Washington Post reported last week that last month, a 10-year-old boy and his 6-year-old sister were walking one mile home from a park in Silver Spring. Someone called the cops, who picked them up about halfway and took them the rest of the way home. Their parents, Alexander and Danielle Meitiv, faced no criminal charges, but a few hours later Montgomery County Children’s Protective Services (CPS) showed up. According to the Meitivs, a CPS worker required Alexander to sign a safety plan promising not to leave his children unsupervised until the following Monday, when CPS would follow up. If he refused, the worker said his children would be removed. CPS has since interviewed both children at school and returned to the Meitivs’ house.
Does anyone know anything about Silver Spring, MD? Ben Adler, who wrote this post on GRIST, says it’s “similar to other liberal-leaning inner-ring Montgomery County suburbs, only more racially and socioeconomically diverse than most.” What could compare in North Texas, Richardson? North Oak Cliff? I have to get to a meeting so no more time to speculate, but you sure can in the comments.
This is not surprising to me at all. This is what busing did to the Dallas public schools in the ’70s. It ruined them. Stripped them of their neighborhood spirit, no matter how well-intentioned. This Monday we saw the plea of city planners from back in 1967 to create neighborhoods where grocers and schools were within an easy walk. Says Adler:
The suburban American consensus to keep children confined to cars is not actually in their interest: Cars belch asthma-inducing pollution, contribute to climate change, and make us fat. But cars seem safer to the superstitious and ignorant. And so a suburbanite calls the cops when he sees a 10-year-old walking without adult supervision, and the cops pick the child up instead of seeing that nothing is amiss and leaving him alone. And then Children’s Protective Services acts as if these scientists are the crazy ones.
Ditto piling them on a school bus, though some buses may be less polluting than autos.
This is my whole point about how the feds and bureaucrats have mucked up our lives without thinking ahead to the future, by letting good intentions for a few equalize to mediocrity, and by letting the bureaucrats with zero common sense run the show. I think that’s happening in Dallas right this minute.
Planning and transportation departments alone cannot fix these problems, especially when you’ve got so many government agencies criss-crossing each other and cancelling each other out. Because that’s exactly what’s happening.
I will say that a mother letting a playground babysit her 9 year old child while she works is going too far:
The notion that two kids walking alone on a street is unsafe assumes a lot of class privilege on the part of parents. As Grist’s Brentin Mock reported in last July, a South Carolina mother who had to go to work and let her 9-year-old daughter entertain herself at a playground, was arrested for “unlawful conduct towards a child.”
To that mother I say I sympathize, but a 9 year old girl is too young to be left alone at a playground. And Adler’s way out in left field on his free-range children notion.
Still, this is a good example of the ridiculousness that exists in government policy that cripples forward movement to improve our communities and create walkable environments that just might help us stay healthier.
Americans need to readjust their assumptions around how modern families operate, what’s actually safe or dangerous, and get their civil servants working towards the goal of fostering free-range children.
How about fewer civil servants, and directing those we need to focus on real child abuse?