There was a time.
Children could walk to school, walk home during lunch, play freely
outside, and ride their bikes to friends’ houses. Children could stroll to a nearby mom and pop grocery store to pick up bread and milk, could sled at the local park and bring friends home for the hot chocolate that waited.
Children could be children a little longer, believe in magic a bit
longer, and dream of sugar plum fairies. Children could enter their school from any outside door, have the commensurate twice a year fire drills, and drink the water from an old fashioned white ceramic water fountain. Despite asbestos
under their feet, teacher’s lounge smoke wafting through the halls, and clouds
of dust from the blackboards, children were healthy. They knew every adult in the building from janitor to lunch ladies. They also knew most of the
parents or visiting adults when they arrived for a special event.
There is a time.
Children wait with an adult and then climb aboard a bus where video
cameras are mounted in the front. They arrive at a school with one mandatory entrance sometimes supervised by security
officers or metal detectors. They practice various drills: lock downs, catastrophe drills, or ‘color coded’ special drills which dictate the level of precaution which occurs. From kindergarten onward, they receive courses regarding anti-bullying, anti-drugs, and, in many circumstances, can’t take a different bus home with a friend in the afternoon. There are water bottles, white boards, special accommodations for food allergies, and counselors galore for crisis intervention of all sorts. They know some of the adults who work in the building, and fewer of the visiting adults all of whom sport special labels after checking in at a security desk. Very few believe in anything magical much beyond second grade, and very few can ride their bikes around the block let alone to a friend’s house. And when, hearing of another tragedy like what just happened in Newtown, they absorb it as they absorb the many other disasters they see on the news.
Then, they return to their first person shooter games, the electronic
devices which assault their visual and auditory senses with digital drivel, and
put on headphones and shut the world out. The world is so fast and so busy that
families rarely eat a meal together, unless it’s delivered, let alone sit
together to talk or play a game. Everything in our world is accelerated, constantly in motion, and no one stops for anything.
No wonder they no longer dream of sugar plum fairies.
It’s time to make sure that a
future time is more like our former time.
We owe it to our children.