November 21, 2016

"I see kids being challenged and encouraged to do things that I have never seen kids encouraged to do in the U.S.... and a lot of equipment that would be considered risky."

Said an American who teaches in Japan, where the elementary schools provide unicycles for the kids to ride at recess.



ADDED: This story made me remember this passage from Bill Bryson's "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir" — about being an American kid the 1950s:
In such a world, injuries and other physical setbacks were actually welcomed. If you got a splinter you could pass an afternoon, and attract a small devoted audience, seeing how far you could insert a needle under your skin—how close you could get to actual surgery. If you got sunburned you looked forward to the moment when you could peel off a sheet of translucent epidermis that was essentially the size of your body. Scabs in Kid World were cultivated the way older people cultivate orchids. I had knee scabs that I kept for up to four years, that were an inch and three-quarters thick and into which you could press thumbtacks without rousing my attention. Nosebleeds were much admired, needless to say, and anyone with a nosebleed was treated like a celebrity for as long as it ran.

48 comments:

TML said...

Oooooohhhh. "risky." Can't have that!

Curious George said...

And not a helmet, knee , or elbow pad to be seen.

Gahrie said...

The risk isn't the activity, it's the lawsuits afterwards.

Henry said...

At the first elementary school my older son and daughter attended, there was a no running policy at recess. The school was surrounded by several large, weedy fields. The fields were owned by the city, not the school, and were cratered with dog shit, broken bottles, and abandoned trash. The school's playground was an asphalt parking lot protected by chain-link fences. Tripping on asphalt could skin a kids knee. Hence the no-running rule.

This was also the school that wouldn't send kids outdoors for recess if the temperature was below 40 degrees. The stated rationale was that not every kid came to school with a proper coat. The parent-teacher organization volunteered to run a coat drive. The school wasn't interested.

There was one brilliant second-grade teacher in that school, but it wasn't enough.

EDH said...

Maybe a fish needs a unicycle?

David said...

Sad story, Henry, but typical. Many of our schools have decided that they are powerless to help themselves. There are lots of causes for that, many of them hard to fix because of bureaucracy.

David said...

Not a fat kid in the scene.

Curious George said...

This is a country that took two nukes to get them to surrender, so unicycles probably aren't that scary.

AprilApple said...

Now - American progressive government run schools coddle children and hand out trophies to everyone, just for showing up. They provide cry rooms and puppy loops to college aged babies.

MayBee said...

In Tokyo, you regularly see really little kids- like 4 years old- taking the train or the bus by themselves.

Lyle said...

Poor folk can't even afford bicycle helmets. You would think our betters would realize this.

khesanh0802 said...

Where are the helmets, the knee pads, the elbow pads - and the cringing parents? As Bill Bryson hints at we have become a nation of whinging wimps. (Being a guy my first descriptor was not suitable for a family blog- had to self-censor!)

traditionalguy said...

In 1950s their fathers were the few survivors of reality squared lived in places like barrages in surrounded Bastogne, Banzai Attacks on Guadalcanal Ridges, chest deep wading ashore 800 yards into machine gun fire on Tarawa, never ending underground lairs of Japs on Iwo Jima, and Tiger Tanks firing up all their Shermans in Normandy, etc.

For some reason it never occurred to our parents that playground scrapes and breaks were to be feared. And besides, by then we had penicillin

Bill said...

My friends and I (ca. 1970) wore little blotches of Caladryl all summer long.

Susan said...

The one person we did NOT want to see our injuries was mom. If she got wind of a injury she would break out the iodine. Then we WOULD have something to cry about.

Kirk said...

Nowadays those who do what we did for play as a child in the 1950's are participants in extreme sports and get paid to do it.

coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paddy O said...

The past is just another culture.

And we all know how the kids of the 50s and the Japanese are icons for psychological social health!

Fernandinande said...

They don't feel pain like we do.

aritai said...

Someday we'll get a fake Amazon with the credo as the earlier sears roebuck. "we sell things before they exist. "order yours today. It'll include clutch bags, purses, makeup cases, etc. and other ladies apparel with sub22 cal barrels built into the hinge clasp. As in "no means "no, b@ng" d@mn it!. Market these right along besides the male prosthesis. Will save a lot of money over today's "I'm a wimp, protect me ms. Federal Government" with program after program to perfect the human soul. Nothing like empowering the weak to stop the brutality of the strong. And with the new Trumpian approach to regulation you have an unregulated license to build and sell anything and everything including RPGs for 4months and then we'll consider complaints, criminal use, and If or not society has been harmed, at the state level. with no federal interference. Want your own personal flamethrower here it is, 50cal machine gun, ok. Ditto any and all forms of drugs. Sell relabeled Horse penicillin or Cipro, go for it. Intrauterine contraceptive devices ditto. Mind the Eula. Don't sue me, don't sue you, sue that man behind the tree at 48 months and one day.

No more entrapment using children being served booze. And the list goes on. Just like we'll treat other nations as adults and not tell them what to do, you're responsible or the consequences, we'll tell our citizens the same, only as tempered by their neighbors, states and housing associations, other forms of association. Minus a few biggies, like first amendment items, ignoring interpretations and penumbras - basically freedom of speech, unwarranted discrimination and the right to carry concealed arms, and challenge anyone to a duel without consequence. Where discrimination will fade as a problem once duels are commonplace without repercussion save another duel challenge in response, perhaps until none are left standing. Where our not-amazon also has discounts on caskets, urns and related services.

Larry J said...

Susan said...
The one person we did NOT want to see our injuries was mom. If she got wind of a injury she would break out the iodine. Then we WOULD have something to cry about.


If you're of a certain age, you remember Mom breaking out the iodine or mercurochrome to treat the routine cuts and scrapes of childhood. Those things stung and left stains on your skin. However, Mom was born before antibiotics were a thing and knew how dangerous infections could be.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Why can't we, as a society, allow risk? Lawyers.

It's an easy answer, sure, and it avoids looking at the larger cultural factors (among which has to be the increasing cost of childbearing/rearing & the concomitant reduction in the number of children the avg family has)...but let's just all blame lawyers. It's at least partially their fault.

Henry said...

Tincture of merthiolate

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Don't knock it unless you have tried it. Yes, while you are learning even a small twig in the sidewalk can cause a dismount. But a dismount is not a fall - mostly just stepping off the device. Biggest danger is to someone nearby, until you learn to grab the seat and control the unicycle during an unintended dismount.

In younger years, rode one to classes at college - about a mile each way.

Henry said...

Given my mom's love of tincture of merthiolate, I was grateful for hydrogen peroxide. Even today, with all those mild anti-bacterial creams available, I like me an antiseptic.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Japanese schoolgirls on unicycles?

I'll wait for Laslo's take.

Sebastian said...

The real difference is that Japan doesn't have the US legal racket.

But sunburn really is something to avoid.

mockturtle said...

My knees were scabbed for most of my early childhood. We played outside until forced to come in and ran around the playground at recess in all kinds of weather, often coat-less.

It's sad what has become of our children and goes a long way to understanding the generation of snowflakes and buttercups of today.

n.n said...

Not never, but recently. Not universally, but locally. Americans have always been rational and reasonable. That changed with unqualified progress in a lawyers' economy and establishment of the Pro-Choice Church that normalized a culture of avoidance exemplified by its so-called "solution".

Howard said...

Too Funny. We call this Flat-Lander Problems.

Last Friday at halftime at the Santa Cruz Warriors Basketball game, the entertainment was elementary and middle school students riding unicycles, walking on stilts and doing balancing acts on top of large exercise balls (just like the curious george avatar). A local clown and circus arts teacher has been teaching this stuff and more to the kids (the schools bring him in and he has private programs) in our true blue progressive community for the last 30-years.

Oh, yeah... we also send our elementary to middle school kids to a military style junior lifeguard program where they run in soft sand, swim and surf in 55-degree shark infested waters. We build dangerous skate parks, BMX pump tracks and radical down-hill single track mountain bike trails in our parks.

When some of our kids grow up, they either win or dominate the Mavericks Surf contest.

Bay Area Guy said...

In 4th Grade, one day after school, I was playing one on one basketball, against the toughest kid in class, a black kid named DW.

The game started getting heated, a few elbows were thrown, a few choice epithets were hurled. As tensions rose, we took it out into the street. I was scared, but also mad. I knew I was gonna get my butt kicked, so I figured I needed to throw the first punch hard. I mustered up the courage to throw a long, hard right cross, but I hit him too high up on his head. My hand seared with pain (broken finger.)

He was stunned and surprised. He hit me a few times, but could see that my hand was in pain. "You okay?," he asked. "I think I broke my hand," I said as tears starting welling up in my eyes. "I better take you home," and he walked me back to my house.

I got a big cast on my right-arm, we forgot about it in a few days, no recriminations in school, by the parents, or anything else. Just a normal skirmish.

DW became a drug dealer, drug enforcer, then he joined the Marines. Right now, he's a preacher in Richmond, CA. Had a drink with him a few years back.

Lotta rich childhood stories like that in the 70s. No helicoptering parents, back then. Much more excitement, laughter and political incorrectness.

Balfegor said...

Re: MayBee:

In Tokyo, you regularly see really little kids- like 4 years old- taking the train or the bus by themselves.

It is a safe, safe place. That said, I am fond of murder mysteries (Keigo Higashino, Tokuya Higashigawa, Yuusuke Kishi and, um, Jiro Akagawa, because I, ah, I like cats), and I feel like one plot I have seen several times is basically a preteen schoolgirl is out playing with her friends or alone after school and is then kidnapped and murdered. So it's a risk that the media plays up, but the country is so safe that you do indeed see small children going about by themselves unattended all the time.

mikee said...

Giving children difficult and somewhat dangerous things to do has been a staple of raising them to adulthood since time began. If adults don't provide controlled situations in which children can mature, from sports to martial arts to religion to education, kids will find uncontrolled things to try, which might lead to tragedy.

And with a bit of training in almost any organized activity, kids can learn how to organize themselves to avoid adult control and have some real fun.

dwick said...

Paddy O said @ 11/21/16, 9:47 AM...
The past is just another culture.

And we all know how the kids of the 50s and the Japanese are icons for psychological social health!


You mean like the 'millenials' now either still locked in a fetal position with their cocoa and play-doh or out rioting in the streets unable to process/accept the results of our most recent presidential election?

rcocean said...

"If you got a splinter you could pass an afternoon, and attract a small devoted audience, seeing how far you could insert a needle under your skin—how close you could get to actual surgery."

Does any kid get splinters anymore? I must have gotten 10 splinters before the age of 12 and everyone of them involved a needle and probing and digging it out. First my Mom did it, and then I did it myself, even though it hurt like hell. And no it didn't "pass an afternoon" - maybe 5 minutes.

rcocean said...

Probably the biggest difference today from my childhood is my parents were completely uninterested in providing me entertainment. I was expected to watch TV, read, or go out and play. And as long as I was back by dinner time, they didn't care what i did.

Today, everything is structured.

exhelodrvr1 said...

We made our kids walk to elementary school (.75 miles) and ride bicycles to middle school (2.5 miles) in the 90's by themselves. Today we would have to worry about being reported to the authorities if we did that.

Wilbur said...

Bay Area Guy:
In high school, my friends and I finally got old enough and skilled enough to go to the public parks on summer nights to play basketball. "Public parks" is code for basketball dominated by the local black teens and adult men.
We were immediately challenged by all sorts of extraordinarily rough and dirty play which you did not see in the other games, just to see how we would react. We just dished it right back and did not back down from a fight if needed. We knew most all of them anyway from over the years, but they still physically put us through the wringer until we proved ourselves.
We got so we could hold a challenge court for most of a night, and then afterwards sat around with them for beers and doobies.
Good memories and good friends were made.

mockturtle said...

Today, everything is structured.

Like 'play dates'. Good grief!

Paddy O said...

"You mean like the 'millenials' now either still locked in a fetal position..."

No... I was talking about the kids of the 50s and the Japanese, not the American kids of the 80s and 90s.

readering said...

What a great video. NY Times does some things well.

Harold said...

Counter intuitively, I think one of the safer things you should do for kids is teaching them the basics of martial arts, in particular, judo. I only took a few months of judo as a teen before my parent stopped paying for the lessons. But the first few lessons are learning how to fall. Really- learning how to fall. There is an art to falling so you don't injure yourself. At age 61, I can tell you that in the last few years knowing how to fall has saved me from serious injury a few times. The lessons never leave you.

My kids, all 5 of them, including my girl, took karate until they tired of it. Again, the basics never leave. And all the boys have had multiple occasions to use the defensive moves.

And I've always wanted to learn how to ride a unicycle myself...

Joanne Jacobs said...

I just read Ransome's 1930 novel, "Swallows and Amazons." Four kids -- aged seven to maybe 11 or 12 -- write their father, serving aboard a ship, for permission to sail to an island and camp there for several weeks. (They're vacationing in England's Lake District.) He responds in a telegram: "Better drowned than duffers If not duffers won't drown."

JML said...

When I was in Jr. High, we had a shooting class. We would take our bb guns to school and put them in our locker until class. I think we earned the required Hunter Safety Certificate so we could get our hunting lic. No eyes were lost. (But we did have one kid jump a teacher after class, try to knife him and did manage to beat the hell out of him. It was a rough school...) We are now raising a bunch of pussies.

The Bear said...

And herein lies the doom that our "open borders" crusaders and "refugee haven" acolytes are buying us in job lots.

They are bringing in millions of "immigrants" who were not raised in bubble wrap. They give birth quickly to large numbers of their next generations here - free of the constant population control caused by the harsh conditions of their native lands.

These people don't allow their children to be "infected" with the snowflake virus and strive to retain all the viscousness of the ideals of their native cultures and the purity of their hatred of our culture while benefitting in every manner from the wealth and safety of their new homeland.

Thanks to the political correctness of our culture there is no effort on the part of our own civilization to try force or even just to encourage them to assimilate to the ideals of the people already here - in fact they are encouraged to retain their previous loyalties and ideals ... and the hostile nations from whence they came are even allowed to continue their indoctrination in hating us and to not only discourage any sort of loyalty to their new home - they are encouraged and some even trained to be the kernal of an army of conquest.

And facing the potential of two large hostile internal armies of potential conquest - we are presenting as an army of our own cultural defense a bunch of whining little brats wearing safety pins as a badge who need a safe space, hugs, and pillows to try to cope with the results of the last election.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

I had a girlfriend who taught at a grade school that shared a field with a Higashi School. She said she'd hear all this shouting and look out the window to see a score of kids racing around on unicycles while teachers followed, yelling at them.

Rusty said...

"And with a bit of training in almost any organized activity, kids can learn how to organize themselves to avoid adult control and have some real fun."

AH. So THAT'S how it's supposed to work. My parents missed out on the 'training' part. Mostly it was "Go outside if you're going to do that."
Outside.
The mystical, wonderful place where you could wander streams and fields and a railroad marshaling yard and ponds and factory dumpsters.

mikee said...

Rusty, tomato, tomahto. My mother started every summer by telling us to take off our shoes, so we would not ruin them whiole we spent all day in the miles of woods behind our house. With pastures of cows and horses, blackberries and plums to pick, creeks for fishing, trees for climbing, lots of wood for fires and even houses far on the other side where our friends lived.

I envy you your factory dumpsters, but raise you a real barn.