Monday, March 24, 2014

Oakland’s Gentrification Wars Expose Democratic Coalition’s Contradictions

Gentrification seems to have halted the transformation of Oakland CA into just another Third World disaster like Detroit MI, Baltimore MD, or Camden NJ. But unfortunately for those trying to return a great metropolis to the civilized world, racially-motivated black radicals are doing their best to ensure Oakland remains a dysfunctional Chocolate City.

Oakland was notorious in the late 1960s as the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. After that thinly-disguised criminal gang collapsed, blacks abandoned the pretense of opposition to the system and achieved political power with the election of Lionel J. Wilson, Oakland's first black mayor and close ally of the Panthers.

But since then, paradoxically, liberal whites empowered by Google, Facebook, and radical environmentalism have retaken the Bay Area in a campaign of ethnic cleansing far more effective than anything dreamed of by the Klan.

And blacks don't like it. They thought Oakland was “theirs” And some of them are throwing a tantrum.

Complicating matters for liberals: the battle over lebensraum in the Bay pits two parts of the Democratic coalition against each other—SWPL liberal urban-dwelling whites, many homosexual, vs. tribalistic blacks defending their turf. (Similarly, California’s Asian Democrats just squelched Hispanic Democrats efforts to reverse 1996’s anti-Affirmative Action Prop. 209).

As an unintentionally hilarious article in the San Jose Mercury News tells it:

"Steve Kopff was one of many San Franciscans who cascaded last year into sunnier, cheaper, hipper Oakland.

He bought and began restoring a historic but rundown mansion. He planted vegetables, raised backyard hens and bees, launched a neighborhood newsletter and peppered his Facebook account with paeans to his new city.

But this year, Kopff became a scorned symbol of the angst over Oakland gentrification. He wrote an online essay describing his diverse, working-class neighborhood east of Lake Merritt as "mostly undiscovered" and a "virtual food desert" in need of an organic supermarket, better restaurants and "a coffee kiosk with patisserie bites."

The entrenched forces of diversity were quick to respond that “patisserie bites” was, in effect, the new code word for white supremacy:

"Online critics swiftly labeled him a pushy colonizer with a "white settler mentality." They denounced him as representing a wave of tone-deaf newcomers trying to remake the city in their own image without consulting their African-American, immigrant and lower-income neighbors who held it together for years.
Kopff’s essay was evidently especially offensive because his home was once the headquarters of the revealingly-named “Center for Third World Organizing,” before being turned into housing for SWPLs."

In what has become a disturbingly common response to outbreaks of free speech by American whites, Kopff’s outlet essentially rescinded its own work:

The website that published Kopff's essay, OaklandLocal, agreed with him to remove it after three days of furious comments. It also published his neighbor Dannette Lambert's counter-perspective, "20 ways to not be a gentrifier in Oakland," that further exposed tensions between new and established Oaklanders.

Dannette Lambert is a local Democrat Party operative and a “Community Services Coordinator”—another nominally black, light skinned “community organizer” like the head of state of our Minority Occupation Government.

As female West Coast variant of Spike Lee, Lambert believes that blacks have the right to take over once-white neighborhoods, but whites should not be allowed to live in areas blacks claim.

Interestingly, her rant had an anti-immigrant implication:

Adopting an analogy commonly used against immigrants—of a presumptuous houseguest rearranging the furniture—Lambert advised newcomers to be more considerate.

"Why do you think you can move into someone's ancestral land and start taking it over, evicting them from their homes and pushing out their businesses?" wrote Lambert, who moved to the city eight years ago.

But, somehow, we can assume Lambert finds such objections illegitimate when expressed by Americans protesting the immigrant invasion of their country.

Nor are we likely to see Lambert make the connection to the displacement suffered by American whites during the mass black migration to California known as the Second Great Migration..

Lambert sustains her argument with predictable rhetoric about how Oakland’s blacks are oppressed by an all-powerful white political and law enforcement structure. For example, she writes that whites who don’t want to be considered gentrifiers should,

5. Really think before you call the police. Ask yourself, is this something that can be fixed by a simple conversation? Did a violent crime just happen? Then, of course you should call the police! But your neighbor playing their music too loud is not a police issue. Remember many communities have experienced, and still experience, real trauma at the hands of the police. While you may think a person has nothing to fear if they didn’t do anything wrong, an African American will always be holding Oscar Grant and Alan Blueford in their mind. A simple interaction with the police can trigger the collective PTSD from which the entire community suffers.

The casual portrayal of an entire community as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of its tribal identification with black thugs would be called racist if it were said by a white person (well, a more white person.)

Yet it would take a heart of stone not to laugh at Lambert’s next piece of guidance:

6. Remember low-income communities and communities of color are suffering from hundreds of years of historic trauma and this trauma is very fresh in the minds of most Oaklanders.
Hundreds of years? All the first colonists in Otown were white, either Spanish or American. There are no local Indian tribesmen left and most black people have been in Otown for only 70 years.

But Lambert—herself a recent “immigrant” from elsewhere in America—shamelessly claims Oakland as black “ancestral land.” Evidently, arriving in Oakland in the 40s and not capturing the mayoralty until 1977 is sufficient to make Oakland, California, a sacred realm to the sons and daughters of the Dark Continent

She continues:

7. Recognize most of the perpetrators of crime in Oakland have also been the victims of a system you have benefitted from disproportionately.

Benefited by having to homestead in a town that was once white and prosperous? Benefiting from having to fix up a house occupied and destroyed by the Center for Third World Organizing? Benefiting from improving the neighborhood by driving up the rent to keep out organized blackness? Benefiting from suffering threats and insults because you had the temerity to suggest the neighborhood could use decent restaurants?

Lambert herself, who is in fact a participant in the very ruling system she claims to oppose, bemoans the “historic trauma” of the Third World denizens of Oakland and America. But the real trauma is that suffered by Americans who built some of the greatest cities in the world, only to see them utterly destroyed by black criminality, corruption, and incompetence.

Rather than developing an interracial partnership with their fellow Democrats to make cities better for everyone, Oakland’s African-Americans find it more amusing to declare jihad against insufficiently diverse organic foods frequented by people of the wrong color. Civic virtue can hardly be found among a resentful, entitled “community” that prefers a scorched earth policy to tolerating fair trade coffee.

Liberal whites are turning the urban tide through gentrification, no doubting feeling guilty about it the entire time. Despite themselves, they are saving Oakland from suffering the fate of the many mini-Mogadishu’s that litter the landscape of the formerly proud country that the historic American nation was once honored to call home.

The Democratic coalition is fragmenting as liberal whites take back the cities—one coffee kiosk at a time.


Biblical Bad-Asses: Elijah

For anyone not completely familiar with the term, "bad-ass" can mean dangerous or it can mean means unusually admirable.  It is used in the latter sense below

Doug Giles

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” – 1Kings 17:1

Because of the systematic emasculation of the American Church, and I’ll toss Western Europe into that insult as well, it’s become hard to square the words “biblical” and “bad-ass” without some hipster Christian spitting out his skinny milk, no foam, latte and crying “Foul!” And I mean crying. As in weeping.

The Bible, however, is filled with men and women who were absolutely, in the most holy sense of the word, stonking bad-asses.

Indeed, the Bible is chocked full of bad-asses but because we’ve been told to read the scripture through rose-colored, Hello-Kitty glasses, versus just taking these tales straight, as I do my whiskey, we miss the badassedness of Holy Writ’s heroes.

That’s what I am here for. To help you appreciate what these humans did for God and man that required a testicular fortitude that borders on the brink of extinction within our dandy church culture.

As you probably gathered from the title of my column and the cited scripture above, Elijah’s gonna be this column’s focus.

Lets unpack the first mention of Elijah and see what we can glean from this cat.

The first thing I’d like to point out is that Elijah was a Tishbite. Most Jews and Christians are familiar with Elijah. However, there was a time, thousands of years ago when he confronted wicked rulers, that no one knew squat about him. He was a “nobody” from an obscure tribe. A Tishbite? Who the heck are they? If you Google Tishbite in the Bible you ain’t gonna find much. When Elijah launched out no one knew who he was, they weren’t impressed with him and they did not listen to his rebukes. But you know what? That didn’t stop him from stomping some backside.

Elijah’s a badass in that he didn’t need all the crap most Christians think they need before they start kicking ass for the Lord.

Check it out. Elijah didn’t have a prophetic blog. He didn’t graduate with honors from Schlomo’s School of The Prophets. He didn’t have a Facebook fan page with 3,000 followers cheerleading him on. He wasn’t popular on Twitter. His family wasn’t famous and the tribe he hailed from wasn’t totes magotes. But, that didn’t hold him down because, you see, Elijah wasn’t looking to be accepted and earn a living being a professional prophet. Oh, no. He was looking to kick some ass.

Secondly, Elijah’s calling was to confront corrupt leaders. His work was not to start orphanages. He didn’t feed the poor. He didn’t have a leprosy outreach. He didn’t start an effort to save abused camels. He was not a life coach with a Christian flare. He was not a hip and cool prophet. He didn’t seek to be a positive, motivational speaker trying to subtly blend God’s message into the corrupt culture by getting a hair cut like Ahab, dressing like the backslidden Israelites and going to formal state dinners.

Screw that noise. That was not Elijah. His job: filet corrupt leaders who were leading his country astray.

In summation, my dear wannabe badasses, here’s the walkways from today’s Bible study regarding Elijah.

First off. Don’t bemoan that no one knows you, or you hail from a goofy place that isn’t a wow city. If something needs to be done and you’re the one to do it, then pony up, play the man and get it done. What you have in badassery will make up for what you may lack in credentials to the “experts” who demand such accolades before they show one respect.

Lastly, never compare whether or not what you do is legit based upon what others are doing. Elijah’s call was not to sing kum-ba-yah. His work was to pronounce judgment on Jezebel and her jacked up ilk. If Elijah had done anything else, like dog rescues, or marital counseling, or hospital visitations he would have been in direct disobedience to the call of God. No, Elijah’s a badass because he stayed focused and did something that all the other prophets were scared to do, namely confront wicked rulers. Would to God we had some Elijah’s doing that today both to the Left and the Right. Elijah was different because he had an attitude, and this attitude was a threat to all that was evil. He was a hazard to cultural constructs that would keep him and those he loved dumb and down and beholden to shady leaders. Elijah was not a dutiful and domesticated ecclesiastical cow of the politically and culturally correct constructs. Oh, heck no. Elijah was a bad-ass.

What about you?


Australia:  Stubborn  Muslim gets kid glove treatment

A FATHER who was indefinitely jailed in Queensland three months ago for ignoring an order to return his young daughter from overseas has been released from prison.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Margaret Cassidy said it would be futile to continue the indefinite sentence, although the father had done nothing to bring back the Australian child.

The father took his daughter overseas almost two years ago, without the consent of the mother, later returning on his own to Australia, where he has permanent residency.

He has since obtained an overseas custody order that allows the girl to live in the other country, which is not a party to The Hague Convention.

Judge Cassidy said the Australian-born child now was likely to remain overseas, with the mother and daughter unlikely to have any opportunity for a relationship.

“I do not know where to begin to express the pain I hold in my heart,” the mother said in a victim impact statement.  “There is not a single day or moment in a day that goes by that I do not have a thought for my daughter.”

The court heard the father believed the mother had committed a morally reprehensible act by marrying a younger man and he needed to protect his daughter from the situation.

The father told the court if released he would go back overseas to look after his child and bring her back to Australia. But Judge Cassidy said she did not have any great confidence that he would return.

She told the father that in this country parents had equal shared responsibilities when it came to parenting.  “One parent can’t decide to have a child living in (the overseas country) against the wishes of another parent,” Judge Cassidy said.

The mother’s lawyer, Adam Cooper, asked Judge Cassidy to give the father a fixed prison term of up to 12 months. He said the ­father had expressed no regret for the mother’s suffering.

“In my view, he has no understanding of the impact it may have on the child and the mother if they are not to spend time together,” the judge said.

She ordered the father’s release from jail last Friday, deciding the three months he had spent in jail were sufficient for the breach of court orders.


The Overprotected Kid

A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer. A new kind of playground points to a better solution.

A trio of boys tramps along the length of a wooden fence, back and forth, shouting like carnival barkers. “The Land! It opens in half an hour.” Down a path and across a grassy square, 5-year-old Dylan can hear them through the window of his nana’s front room. He tries to figure out what half an hour is and whether he can wait that long. When the heavy gate finally swings open, Dylan, the boys, and about a dozen other children race directly to their favorite spots, although it’s hard to see how they navigate so expertly amid the chaos.

“Is this a junkyard?” asks my 5-year-old son, Gideon, who has come with me to visit. “Not exactly,” I tell him, although it’s inspired by one. The Land is a playground that takes up nearly an acre at the far end of a quiet housing development in North Wales. It’s only two years old but has no marks of newness and could just as well have been here for decades. The ground is muddy in spots and, at one end, slopes down steeply to a creek where a big, faded plastic boat that most people would have thrown away is wedged into the bank. The center of the playground is dominated by a high pile of tires that is growing ever smaller as a redheaded girl and her friend roll them down the hill and into the creek. “Why are you rolling tires into the water?” my son asks. “Because we are,” the girl replies.

It’s still morning, but someone has already started a fire in the tin drum in the corner, perhaps because it’s late fall and wet-cold, or more likely because the kids here love to start fires. Three boys lounge in the only unbroken chairs around it; they are the oldest ones here, so no one complains. One of them turns on the radio—Shaggy is playing (Honey came in and she caught me red-handed, creeping with the girl next door)—as the others feel in their pockets to make sure the candy bars and soda cans are still there.

Nearby, a couple of boys are doing mad flips on a stack of filthy mattresses, which makes a fine trampoline. At the other end of the playground, a dozen or so of the younger kids dart in and out of large structures made up of wooden pallets stacked on top of one another. Occasionally a group knocks down a few pallets—just for the fun of it, or to build some new kind of slide or fort or unnamed structure. Come tomorrow and the Land might have a whole new topography.

Other than some walls lit up with graffiti, there are no bright colors, or anything else that belongs to the usual playground landscape: no shiny metal slide topped by a red steering wheel or a tic-tac-toe board; no yellow seesaw with a central ballast to make sure no one falls off; no rubber bucket swing for babies.

There is, however, a frayed rope swing that carries you over the creek and deposits you on the other side, if you can make it that far (otherwise it deposits you in the creek). The actual children’s toys (a tiny stuffed elephant, a soiled Winnie the Pooh) are ignored, one facedown in the mud, the other sitting behind a green plastic chair. On this day, the kids seem excited by a walker that was donated by one of the elderly neighbors and is repurposed, at different moments, as a scooter, a jail cell, and a gymnastics bar.

The Land is an “adventure playground,” although that term is maybe a little too reminiscent of theme parks to capture the vibe. In the U.K., such playgrounds arose and became popular in the 1940s, as a result of the efforts of Lady Marjory Allen of Hurtwood, a landscape architect and children’s advocate. Allen was disappointed by what she described in a documentary as “asphalt square” playgrounds with “a few pieces of mechanical equipment.” She wanted to design playgrounds with loose parts that kids could move around and manipulate, to create their own makeshift structures. But more important, she wanted to encourage a “free and permissive atmosphere” with as little adult supervision as possible. The idea was that kids should face what to them seem like “really dangerous risks” and then conquer them alone. That, she said, is what builds self-confidence and courage.

"Back in graduate school, the clinical focus had always been on how the lack of parental attunement affects the child. It never occurred to any of us to ask, what if the parents are too attuned? What happens to those kids?"

The playgrounds were novel, but they were in tune with the cultural expectations of London in the aftermath of World War II. Children who might grow up to fight wars were not shielded from danger; they were expected to meet it with assertiveness and even bravado.

Today, these playgrounds are so out of sync with affluent and middle-class parenting norms that when I showed fellow parents back home a video of kids crouched in the dark lighting fires, the most common sentence I heard from them was “This is insane.” (Working-class parents hold at least some of the same ideals, but are generally less controlling—out of necessity, and maybe greater respect for toughness.) That might explain why there are so few adventure playgrounds left around the world, and why a newly established one, such as the Land, feels like an act of defiance.

If a 10-year-old lit a fire at an American playground, someone would call the police and the kid would be taken for counseling. At the Land, spontaneous fires are a frequent occurrence. The park is staffed by professionally trained “playworkers,” who keep a close eye on the kids but don’t intervene all that much. Claire Griffiths, the manager of the Land, describes her job as “loitering with intent.” Although the playworkers almost never stop the kids from what they’re doing, before the playground had even opened they’d filled binders with “risk benefits assessments” for nearly every activity. (In the two years since it opened, no one has been injured outside of the occasional scraped knee.)

Here’s the list of benefits for fire: “It can be a social experience to sit around with friends, make friends, to sing songs to dance around, to stare at, it can be a co-operative experience where everyone has jobs. It can be something to experiment with, to take risks, to test its properties, its heat, its power, to re-live our evolutionary past.” The risks? “Burns from fire or fire pit” and “children accidentally burning each other with flaming cardboard or wood.” In this case, the benefits win, because a playworker is always nearby, watching for impending accidents but otherwise letting the children figure out lessons about fire on their own.

“I’m gonna put this cardboard box in the fire,” one of the boys says.  “You know that will make a lot of smoke,” says Griffiths.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” he answers, and in goes the box. Smoke instantly fills the air and burns our eyes. The other boys sitting around the fire cough, duck their heads, and curse him out. In my playground set, we would call this “natural consequences,” although we rarely have the nerve to let even much tamer scenarios than this one play out. By contrast, the custom at the Land is for parents not to intervene. In fact, it’s for parents not to come at all. The dozens of kids who passed through the playground on the day I visited came and went on their own. In seven hours, aside from Griffiths and the other playworkers, I saw only two adults: Dylan’s nana, who walked him over because he’s only 5, and Steve Hughes, who runs a local fishing-tackle shop and came by to lend some tools.

Griffiths started selling local families on the proposed playground in 2006. She talked about the health and developmental benefits of freer outdoor play, and explained that the playground would look messy but be fenced in. But mostly she made an appeal rooted in nostalgia. She explained some of the things kids might be able to do and then asked the parents to remember their own childhoods. “Ahh, did you never used to do that?” she would ask. This is how she would win them over.

Hughes moved to the neighborhood after the Land was already open, but when he stopped by, I asked how he would have answered that question. “When I was a kid, we didn’t have all the rules about health and safety,” he said. “I used to go swimming in the Dee, which is one of the most dangerous rivers around. If my parents had found out, they would have grounded me for life. But back then we would get up to all sorts of mischief.”

Like most parents my age, I have memories of childhood so different from the way my children are growing up that sometimes I think I might be making them up, or at least exaggerating them. I grew up on a block of nearly identical six-story apartment buildings in Queens, New York. In my elementary-school years, my friends and I spent a lot of afternoons playing cops and robbers in two interconnected apartment garages, after we discovered a door between them that we could pry open. Once, when I was about 9, my friend Kim and I “locked” a bunch of younger kids in an imaginary jail behind a low gate. Then Kim and I got hungry and walked over to Alba’s pizzeria a few blocks away and forgot all about them.

When we got back an hour later, they were still standing in the same spot. They never hopped over the gate, even though they easily could have; their parents never came looking for them, and no one expected them to. A couple of them were pretty upset, but back then, the code between kids ruled. We’d told them they were in jail, so they stayed in jail until we let them out. A parent’s opinion on their term of incarceration would have been irrelevant.

I used to puzzle over a particular statistic that routinely comes up in articles about time use: even though women work vastly more hours now than they did in the 1970s, mothers—and fathers—of all income levels spend much more time with their children than they used to. This seemed impossible to me until recently, when I began to think about my own life. My mother didn’t work all that much when I was younger, but she didn’t spend vast amounts of time with me, either. She didn’t arrange my playdates or drive me to swimming lessons or introduce me to cool music she liked.

On weekdays after school she just expected me to show up for dinner; on weekends I barely saw her at all. I, on the other hand, might easily spend every waking Saturday hour with one if not all three of my children, taking one to a soccer game, the second to a theater program, the third to a friend’s house, or just hanging out with them at home. When my daughter was about 10, my husband suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult. Not 10 minutes in 10 years.

It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting.

One very thorough study of “children’s independent mobility,” conducted in urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods in the U.K., shows that in 1971, 80 percent of third-graders walked to school alone. By 1990, that measure had dropped to 9 percent, and now it’s even lower. When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn’t true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost—and gained—as we’ve succumbed to them?

In 1978, a toddler named Frank Nelson made his way to the top of a 12-foot slide in Hamlin Park in Chicago, with his mother, Debra, a few steps behind him. The structure, installed three years earlier, was known as a “tornado slide” because it twisted on the way down, but the boy never made it that far. He fell through the gap between the handrail and the steps and landed on his head on the asphalt. A year later, his parents sued the Chicago Park District and the two companies that had manufactured and installed the slide. Frank had fractured his skull in the fall and suffered permanent brain damage. He was paralyzed on his left side and had speech and vision problems. His attorneys noted that he was forced to wear a helmet all the time to protect his fragile skull.

The Nelsons’ was one of a number of lawsuits of that era that fueled a backlash against potentially dangerous playground equipment. Theodora Briggs Sweeney, a consumer advocate and safety consultant from John Carroll University, near Cleveland, testified at dozens of trials and became a public crusader for playground reform. “The name of the playground game will continue to be Russian roulette, with the child as unsuspecting victim,” Sweeney wrote in a 1979 paper published in Pediatrics. She was concerned about many things—the heights of slides, the space between railings, the danger of loose S-shaped hooks holding parts together—but what she worried about most was asphalt and dirt. In her paper, Sweeney declared that lab simulations showed children could die from a fall of as little as a foot if their head hit asphalt, or three feet if their head hit dirt.

A federal-government report published around that time found that tens of thousands of children were turning up in the emergency room each year because of playground accidents. As a result, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1981 published the first “Handbook for Public Playground Safety,” a short set of general guidelines—the word guidelines was in bold, to distinguish the contents from requirements—that should govern the equipment. For example, no component of any equipment should form angles or openings that could trap any part of a child’s body, especially the head.

To turn up the pressure, Sweeney and a fellow consultant on playground safety, Joe Frost, began cataloguing the horrors that befell children at playgrounds. Between them, they had testified in almost 200 cases and could detail gruesome specifics—several kids who had gotten their heads trapped or crushed by merry-go-rounds; one who was hanged by a jump rope attached to a deck railing; one who was killed by a motorcycle that crashed into an unfenced playground; one who fell while playing football on rocky ground. In a paper they wrote together, Sweeney and Frost called for “immediate inspection” of all equipment that had been installed before 1981, and the removal of anything faulty. They also called for playgrounds nationwide to incorporate rubber flooring in crucial areas.

In January 1985, the Chicago Park District settled the suit with the Nelsons. Frank Nelson was guaranteed a minimum of $9.5 million. Maurice Thominet, the chief engineer for the Park District, told the Chicago Tribune that the city would have to “take a cold, hard look at all of our equipment” and likely remove all the tornado slides and some other structures. At the time, a reader wrote to the paper:

Do accidents happen anymore? …  Can a mother take the risk of taking her young child up to the top of a tornado slide, with every good intention, and have an accident?

Who is responsible for a child in a park, the park district or the parent? … Swings hit 1-year-old children in the head, I’m sure with dire consequences in some instances. Do we eliminate swings?

But these proved to be musings from a dying age. Around the time the Nelson settlement became public, park departments all over the country began removing equipment newly considered dangerous, partly because they could not afford to be sued, especially now that a government handbook could be used by litigants as proof of standards that parks were failing to meet. In anticipation of lawsuits, insurance premiums skyrocketed. As the Tribune reader had intuited, the cultural understanding of acceptable risk began to shift, such that any known risk became nearly synonymous with hazard.

Over the years, the official consumer-product handbook has gone through several revisions; it is now supplemented by a set of technical guidelines for manufacturers. More and more, the standards are set by engineers and technical experts and lawyers, with little meaningful input from “people who know anything about children’s play,” says William Weisz, a design consultant who has sat on several committees overseeing changes to the guidelines. The handbook includes specific prescriptions for the exact heights, slopes, and other angles of nearly every piece of equipment. Rubber flooring or wood chips are virtually required; grass and dirt are “not considered protective surfacing because wear and environmental factors can reduce their shock absorbing effectiveness.”

It is no longer easy to find a playground that has an element of surprise, no matter how far you travel. Kids can find the same slides at the same heights and angles as the ones in their own neighborhood, with many of the same accessories. I live in Washington, D.C., near a section of Rock Creek Park, and during my first year in the neighborhood, a remote corner of the park dead-ended into what our neighbors called the forgotten playground. The slide had wooden steps, and was at such a steep angle that kids had to practice controlling their speed so they wouldn’t land too hard on the dirt. More glorious, a freestanding tree house perched about 12 feet off the ground, where the neighborhood kids would gather and sort themselves into the pack hierarchies

I remember from my childhood—little kids on the ground “cooking” while the bigger kids dominated the high shelter. But in 2003, nearly a year after I moved in, the park service tore down the tree house and replaced all the old equipment with a prefab playground set on rubber flooring. Now the playground can hold only a toddler’s attention, and not for very long. The kids seem to spend most of their time in the sandbox; maybe they like it because the neighbors have turned it into a mini adventure playground, dropping off an odd mixing spoon or colander or broken-down toy car.

In recent years, Joe Frost, Sweeney’s old partner in the safety crusade, has become concerned that maybe we have gone too far. In a 2006 paper, he gives the example of two parents who sued when their child fell over a stump in a small redwood forest that was part of a playground. They had a basis for the lawsuit. After all, the latest safety handbook advises designers to “look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.” But adults have come to the mistaken view “that children must somehow be sheltered from all risks of injury,” Frost writes. “In the real world, life is filled with risks—financial, physical, emotional, social—and reasonable risks are essential for children’s healthy development.”



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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