This Is When I Despair

Hi Readers! I usually don’t like to comment on the comments — “Everyone’s entitled to his own opinion,” etc. etc. –but this time I must. This comment arrived in response to the story I posted last night (below this one) about a teacher who wanted an author to speak to her fourth grade class. Since the  school and the author are 1000 miles apart, the author suggested using the video-chat service Skype. The teacher said no — not unless he could come up with a way the kids could see HIM, but not vice versa.

Then, to add insult to injury, here is what someone commented right here, on Free-Range Kids:

“The teacher is likely (legitimately) concerned that the kids’ faces could end up plastered all over the internet.”

Excuse me? Legitimately concerned that —

1 – A children’s author she has invited will turn around and take photos of her class and post them without permission?  That that’s what men do all the time? Can’t trust ’em for a second?

2 – That boring photos of a 4th grade class are so exciting that they will take the Internet by storm? (Because, of course, there are so few photos of school children available.)

3 – That someone will see this particular photo, obsessively focus on the kid in the third row and move heaven and earth to come find this child and stalk, rape or kill him/her? And that we must keep Third Row Kid safe at all costs?

These are insane fantasies! Perfect, text-book examples of the way so many of us now jump to the absolutely WORST CASE SCENARIO and then work backward from it, preventing something harmless or even wonderful from ever taking place just in case. Using this method of risk calculation, a teacher could politely request that from now on, no one serve her students lunch at school. Because what if one of the lunch ladies is secretly a psychopath and she is intent on murdering the kids one by one? It COULD happen, right? Let’s be prepared for the ABSOLUTE WORST! After all, we’re only thinking about the good of the children!

I am so sick of this “We must protect the children” attitude when we are NOT PROTECTING THEM FROM ANYTHING! We are simply seeing everyone in every capacity as a potential nut job and then we act accordingly. Who’s the nut job there? 

In this case, take your pick:  The paranoid teacher preventing an author from Skyping her class. The paranoid commenter saying, “She has a legitimate safety concern.” Or the paranoid country that thinks every time a child has ANY interaction with ANY adult, even from 1000 miles away, those children are in GRAVE DANGER.

When people think that way — and congratulate themselves for being so “caring” (not to mention clever! And proactive!) — THAT is when I despair.


Can You Please Come Talk to My Class…But Not Look at Anyone?

Hi Readers — Here’s a note from puzzlemeister Eric Berlin, author of The Puzzling World of Winston Breen. Read it and peep. Er…weep:

I’m an author of middle-grade novels, and as such I have a lot of interaction with elementary school kids. I’m glad to say I haven’t often come in contact with the kind of paranoia you document on your blog, but today that changed: 
I was setting up a phone call with a 4th-grade teacher and her class — they live a good thousand miles across the country from me. I let her know that I have Skype, so nobody needs incur any long-distance charges. Her response via e-mail just now: “Is there a way to Skype with us being able to see you, but you not being able to see us? Due to confidentiality and other school district guidelines, I am hoping this is a possibility.”

Truly, I am speechless. I’m just glad this won’t be an in-person school visit, because it would be really awkward wearing a blindfold all day, lest I actually lay eyes on these kids.

Hey Eric: Children are our most precious resource. If we don’t protect them from technology-assisted remote-site author visits, who will? — Lenore