Outrage of the Week, Cont’d: Kids in Developing Country Doing Better Science!

Hi Folks — Here’s an update from Bree, the Boulder, Colo., mom who sent in her daughter’s No-Science at the Science Fair rules (see post below). Turns out Bree’s parents are living in Myanmar (formerly Burma, as in Shave, as in something you do with a sharp object that children should never get anywhere near) and they happened to visit a local  science fair. Writes Bree:

They told me that not only was EVERYTHING on this restricted list allowed, kids there were actually outperforming kids here in innovation, outlandish ideas, and actual science!!  And they don’t even have electricity, computers, or potable water!  But they were allowed not only to experiment, but also to bring those experiments into their school.

The best part – no one was hurt by plants in soil.

What a relief! And I suppose that a little knowledge turned out not to be a such dangerous thing, either. Time to tell the folks in Boulder!  Or maybe they should just start studying Burmese.– Lenore

Myanmar kids make me hoppy! PHOTO CREDIT: Meneer Zjeroen flickr.com/photos/nuskyn/ / CC BY 2.0

What Age Can Kids Start Walking to School?

Here’s my take on the issue, published in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune. Some of it will sound a little familiar to Free-Range Kids regulars, but it bears repeating: 

Most of the world’s kids walk to school by themselves starting in 1st grade. But here? Are you kidding? While the majority of us parents walked to school, today only 10 percent to 15 percent of kids do. How come?

The usual reason parents give is, “Times have changed,” and that’s true. Surprisingly, they have changed for the better.

Nationally, according to U.S. Department of Justice figures, we are back to the crime rate of 1970. In the ’70s and ’80s, the crime rate rose.

It peaked around 1993 and has been going down ever since, dramatically. So if you played outside any time in the ’70s or ’80s, your kids are actually safer than you were.

How come it feels just the opposite? When our parents were raising us, they were watching “Dallas” and “Dynasty.” The biggest crime was big hair. Today’s parents are watching “Law & Order” and “CSI,” shows overflowing with predators, rapists and maggots. TV has gotten so gross and so graphic, “I don’t think there’s a single episode of ‘Law & Order’ that could even have been shown before 1981,” says TV historian Robert Thompson.

Those scary shows — coupled with cable stations running off to Aruba or Portugal every time a white girl disappears — make us feel as if kids are being abducted 24/7. But the truth is: If, for some strange reason, you actually WANTED your child to be abducted by a stranger, do you know how long you would have to keep her outside, unattended, for this to be statistically likely to happen?


Now guess again.

Oh, forget it. The answer is 750,000 years, according to Warwick Cairns, author of “How To Live Dangerously.”

So what age can your kids start walking to school? Same age that you did. And that goes for waiting at the bus stop and taking public transit too.

The rest of the piece deals with what age kids can make lunch, learn to cross the street, and play outside.

Here in New York City, school doesn’t start for another three weeks, but it is zooming toward us faster than a science fair project  deadline. Let’s try to make this a year that our kids learn to do something new on their own.

Including, maybe, the science fair project! — Lenore