Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When kids were free

Things that the decay of morality has taken from us. Who can you trust in a society where "there is no such thing as right and wrong"? I myself remember a free-range childhood similar to the one described below -- JR

When I was a kid long, long ago, before time began, or anyone had thought of why time ought to begin, or what it might be good for, I lived in rural King George County, Virginia. The county bordered on the Potomac River and was mostly woods. Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground, on which my family lived, sloped down to Machodoc Creek, perhaps three-quarters of a mile wide.

Things were looser then. When I wanted to go shooting, I put my rifle, a nice .22 Marlin with a ten-power Weaver, on my shoulder and walked out the main gate. At the country store outside the gate I’d buy a couple of boxes of long rifles, no questions asked, and away my co-conspirator Rusty and I went to some field or swamp to murder beer cans.

Today if a kid of fifteen tried it, six squad cars and a SWAT team (in all likelihood literally) would show up with sirens yowling, the kid’s parents would be jailed, the store closed and its proprietors imprisoned, and the kid subjected to compulsory psychiatric examination. Times change.

In King George if a buddy and I wanted to go swimming, we might go to the boat dock, which was for public use, and jump in. We did this by day or night. Almost never were there other people around, certainly no lifeguard. Or we might take my canoe, bought with paper-route money, and paddle out into the nighttime water and glory in being young and free and jumping overboard to swim. No one thought anything of it. It was what kids did.

Today, unsupervised swimming is everywhere forbidden. Worse, swimming at night, hundreds of yards from shore. In a canoe without floation devices approved by the Coast Guard. No supervising adult? No proof of having taken a governmentally approved course in how to paddle a canoe? Impossible in these over-protected, vindictively mommified times.

We saw no need of floatation devices because we were flotation devices. We could swim, easily, fluently, because we had been doing it forever. I don’t think I knew anyone who couldn’t have swum the width of Machodoc. Nobody supervised us. Nobody thought we needed supervision. And we didn’t.

If we wanted to fish, an urge frequently upon us, we just got our poles and did. We caught mostly cat, perch, and bream and the occasional wildly combative eel. Adults had nothing to do with it. We didn’t need fishing permits. Nor did we need help.

What I didn’t notice then, but remember now, is that we didn’t look nervously about to see whether our elders might disapprove. We knew they wouldn’t. We were fishing. So what?

The whole world worked that way—unsupervised, unwatched, left alone. In winter the Cooling Pond on base froze deep, and way after dark fifty of us would sail across slick new ice on skates, unsupervised. Adults skated, but they were skaters, not Mommy. And if you wanted to stay late till you were the only one on the (huge) pond, sailing fast, ice hissing under blades, not tired because you are sixteen and don’t know what the word means—you did. No supervision.

The boys had cars. The county being mostly empty, we spent endless nights driving, driving, to Fredericksburg to get Might Mos at Hojos, or just putting miles behind us on winding roads through the woods, alone, with friends, with our girls.

What I remember is how free we were. Solzhenitsyn once told of stopping on some desert highway, getting out of his car, and marveling that no one knew where he was, or cared. That’s how it was in King George. You parked with your girlfriend for endless hours on some blind pull-off into the woods. No one asked where you had been or what you were doing or, more likely not doing. Parents didn’t care because they didn’t need to care.

In retrospect, it felt unregulated. And was. In today’s world of over-policing by militarized hostile cops, of metal-detectors and police in schools and compulsory anger-management classes and enforced ingestion of Ritalin or Prozac, King George sounds, well, dangerous. I mean, how can you let kids run around as they like, with…with….guns, (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!) and beer, and unregistered canoes without supervision by a caring adult, and…?

The answer of course is that we supervised ourselves. Within limits, anyway. I do remember lying on the roof of my father’s station wagon and looking up at the brake pedal because I hadn’t taken that unbanked downhill S-turn on Indian Town Road quite as well as I had planned.

But, being Southern kids, we boys knew how to handle guns, and the girls knew how to handle us, and though the country boys were physically tough from doing real work (consult a history book), we were not crazy in the head, as the phrase was. To the extent that adolescents are willing to be, I guess we were happy. We just didn’t know it.

The wretechedness we see today—the kid who shoots ten classmates to death, the alleged students strung out on crystal meth, the suicides, the frequent pregnancies—just didn’t happen. Why? Because (I strongly suspect) we were left the hell alone. The boys were allowed to be boys and the girls, girls. We grew like weeds, as our natures directed, and so did not have anorexia or bulimia or the sullen smoldering anger that comes of being a guy kid forced to be a girl or androgyne or flower.

I cannot speak well for the girls, except to say that they were sane, good-natured, and splendid. I do know that the boys needed, as plants need sunlight, to take canoes up unknown creeks, to swim and bike and compete—without a caring adult. In fall we used to play hours of pick-up basketball at the base gym —unsupervised. The brighter of us read voraciously. Some took up ham radio or read physiology texts. But we needed physical exertion, adventure, and freedom.

We had them. The consequence? Our heads were screwed on right. We probably even thought that the world looked to be a good place for a while. Although the entire high school had easy access to fire arms, nobody ever shot anyone. The idea would have seemed lunatic. In rare fights, boys might punch each other in the nose. Pick up a tire iron? Kick the other guy in the head? Not a chance.

The foregoing will enrage the whole sodden bolus of therapists, psychological beard-scratchers, counselors, feminists, fruit-juice drinkers, and congenitally insecure promoters of sun block. But it worked.


Appeal Court halts California homosexual marriages pending appeal

That's pretty good coming from the 9th circus. It tends to show how flimsy was the reasoning of the lower court judge

SAME-sex weddings in California are on hold indefinitely after a federal appeals court blocked the unions today while it considers the constitutionality of the state's gay marriage ban.

The decision, issued by a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, trumps a lower court judge's order that would have allowed county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Thursday (AEST).

Chief US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker decided last week to allow gay marriages to go forward after ruling that the ban, known as Proposition 8, violated equal protection and due process rights of gays and lesbians guaranteed under the US Constitution.

The Proposition 8 legal team quickly appealed Judge Walker's ruling in a case that many believe will end up before the Supreme Court.


Those pesky genes again

Time machine notwithstanding, report card comments may be the best way to preview who your child will be as an adult.

So suggests compelling new research that shows teachers' evaluations of youngsters' personalities 40 years ago still hold true today, with the now middle-aged subjects behaving in ways highly consistent with their childhood assessments. The study will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

"It really speaks to the remarkable stability of personality," says study co-author Christopher Nave, a doctoral candidate at the University of California Riverside. "What people see in you as a child really does translate to behaviours that others can see throughout the majority of your life."

Between 1959 and 1967, some 2,400 elementary school students of different ages and ethnicities were recruited for a research project in which their personalities were assessed by teachers.

Decades later, many of those same people returned for a videotaped followup. Of this group, 144 were randomly selected for Nave's study, which was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging through a grant to the Oregon Research Institute.

In comparing teachers' original observations with the present-day evaluations, researchers discovered that the vast majority of participants hadn't changed in terms of core personality.

"There seems to be some wiggle room," says Nave. "But, in general, our conclusion is that we're recognizably the same person across time and across contexts."

For example, study participants rated as having low adaptability as kids were observed as adults to have awkward interpersonal styles, say negative things about themselves and seek more advice. Those with high adaptability as children were found as adults to be cheerful, possess strong social skills and enjoy novel situations.

People prone to self-minimizing tendencies in childhood grew into adults that sought out reassurance, expressed insecurity, belittled themselves and indulged in self-pity. And those youths that were highly talkative were observed in adulthood to be fluent speakers, have a high degree of intelligence and lots of ambition.

Personality researcher David P. Schmitt says the findings are "quite impressive" because of the decades-long gap between evaluations, as well as the link between teacher ratings and those of trained modern-day observers.

He hastens to add, however, that the age at which personality is "set" appears to vary according to how the term is defined. "If we're talking about highly biological traits, such as sensation-seeking versus shy, then personality is largely heritable and is 'set' at an earlier age," says Schmitt, a professor of psychology at Bradley University in Illinois.

"If we're talking about romantic attachment styles, personality is changeable at a later age, as we have lots of new opportunities to experience secure and growth-oriented relationships with new partners."

Psychologist Delroy Paulhus, a professor at the University of British Columbia, says it's also important to remember that even if certain personality attributes remain constant, their implications can still change with environment and age. "A trait that puts you in reform school as a child," observes Paulhus, "could make you the star of the theatre as an adult." [Possible but unlikely]


A truly British absurdity: Police told not to pursue stolen motorbikes... because thieves weren't wearing helmets and might get hurt

As a gang of raiders roared off on three high-powered motorbikes they had just stolen, they were spotted by police. But the officers were told not to chase the thieves, because a pursuit would put the criminals’ health and safety at risk. They were not wearing crash helmets and might have fallen off and hurt themselves.

Yesterday the decision to let the robbers escape was greeted with incredulity, and critics asked why the welfare of criminals was more important than catching them.

The balaclava-clad trio smashed into a showroom in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, late last Thursday night and stole three motorcycles worth a total of £20,000.

Officers who saw them escaping radioed their inspector but were told that because the thieves were not wearing crash helmets or protective clothing it would be unsafe to pursue them. They are still at large, although one of the bikes has been recovered.

Tony Crawford, who runs the Manchester Motorbike Store which was targeted, said: ‘It’s bizarre that a criminal’s health and safety is more important than catching them.

‘It’s not the police I blame, it’s the politicians who’ve put these ridiculous rules in place. ‘They’re effectively telling criminals that as long as they make their getaway on a motorbike and don’t wear a helmet, the police won’t be allowed to chase them.’

He was backed by Graham Brady, Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West, who said: ‘I am astonished that the welfare of criminals in the act of breaking the law should be put before the public’s expectation that they should be apprehended. ‘I expect most police officers would be deeply frustrated not to be allowed to pursue criminals because of health andsafety issues.’

Chris Burrows, chairman of the Greater Manchester branch of the Police Federation, agreed that officers found such situations ‘incredibly frustrating’ but said they had to comply with guidelines.

Superintendent Steve Nibloe, of Greater Manchester Police, confirmed the officers were following ‘a nationwide policy which gives clear guidance that motorbikes should not be pursued because of the higher risk of injury to the rider’. He added: ‘The officers were asked not to pursue the suspects as they were not wearing the correct safety equipment and were not wearing helmets, so it is clear to me the correct decision was taken.’

Police have been criticised over the number of deaths during high-speed pursuits, and new guidelines drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers are aimed at balancing the potential risk against the gravity of the crime.

Greater Manchester Chief Constable Peter Fahy said that in the case of the motorbike thefts, his officers had probably been right not to give chase. He said: ‘What are the chances of us catching a high-powered motorbike? Pretty low. ‘What is the risk to the offender? The risk is that he is probably going to get killed. It is about balance.’

But he added: ‘My main frustration is that people seem to want it both ways. ‘We get criticised hugely about deaths in police pursuits – was it worth somebody losing their life? – but then in a case like this we are being criticised that we did make a judgment that putting somebody’s life at risk wasn’t worth it.’



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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