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Suburbia's fortress mentality
Christian Science Monitor ^ | June 1, 2007 | Melodee Martin Helms

Posted on 06/03/2007 2:38:07 AM PDT by Lorianne

Parents' fears are robbing children of their childhood. ___ My three boys sprawl on the couch, fingering their Game Boys. I wish I could shoo them outside until dusk. I wish they could tromp to the marsh to search for polliwogs. I wish we didn't have to live in a fortress.

But we don't let our children play in the front yard, because a sex offender lives two doors down. Instead, like other families in this neighborhood, we've built private playgrounds in the back.

From my kitchen window, I see two wooden play structures, three trampolines, and four basketball hoops, including our own. The kids on our street don't play unsupervised on common ground. They have play dates now, arranged by protective parents.

Carefree childhood of the '70s

The unsupervised outings of my 1970s childhood are over. When Mom told us, "Be back before dark," we'd check in sooner only if our stomachs insisted.

My family lived in a subdivision full of cul-de-sacs with small ramblers and split-level homes. I wandered freely. My sister and I traipsed past construction sites to undeveloped land beyond. We'd romp in waist-high grasses, trampling down areas we'd pretend were houses. We wandered in the woods.

We explored the creek, trying to keep the mud from sucking our sneakers right off our feet. I used to ride my banana-seat bike (without a helmet) down the busy road to buy candy at the gas station.

That would never happen today. Two-thirds of Americans say it's likely that a convicted child molester lives in their neighborhood, according to a 2005 Gallup Poll. Yet the constant supervising seems to be taking its toll.

(Excerpt) Read more at csmonitor.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: childhood; genx; suburbia
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
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1 posted on 06/03/2007 2:38:09 AM PDT by Lorianne
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To: Lorianne

Uh, if this person grew up in the 70’s, it was already way too late for running around unsupervised.


2 posted on 06/03/2007 2:43:34 AM PDT by widowithfoursons
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To: Lorianne

“My family lived in a subdivision full of cul-de-sacs...”

Faceless suburbs, not much of an upbringing...


3 posted on 06/03/2007 2:43:56 AM PDT by dakine
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To: widowithfoursons

Disagree...no supervision from dawn to dark, then very little after dark...kids just weren’t afraid of the ‘boogie-man’...


4 posted on 06/03/2007 2:45:48 AM PDT by dakine
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To: Calpernia

I thought of you when I read this.


5 posted on 06/03/2007 2:52:32 AM PDT by ovrtaxt (I would rather vote for Lindsay Lohan than Lindsey Graham.)
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To: Lorianne
Talk about living in fear.
6 posted on 06/03/2007 2:53:51 AM PDT by endthematrix (a globalized and integrated world - which is coming, one way or the other. - Hillary)
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To: widowithfoursons
We grew up ‘unsupervised.’ Yep, and it was dawn until the streetlights came on. And even then it was to check in and tell them we’d be down at so & so yard playing night tag, catching fireflies etc.

We’d go visit the aunt who had a whole forest and river in her backyard and the parents would turn us loose.

I inherited this place and a friend was over with her kids. I inadvertently encouraged her/them to go outside and play in the woods.

The kids, both boys, were raring to go! Mom insisted we tag along to supervise...you never know who might be hiding in the woods....?! Or if one got hurt what level of ‘neglect’ would be leveled against her.

There is a book out called, “Last Child in the Woods.” Sure it is about another one of the phony maladies of our times...Nature Deficit Disorder. In a lot of ways though it is true. Our kids learn about their world from behind closed doors, multimedia, etc. Ask them if they know what lives in the creek behind their house and they wouldn’t know...they are not allowed to play there. They know about conservation from what someone else teaches them, not from their own observations of the natural order of things.

There in lies a special type of problem with that. Without time in the woods exploring, like we did when we were kids...they’ll believe any Albore that comes along....

No, were not afraid of the boogeyman, poison ivy, or scraped knees. We were told not to talk to strangers and held some of the responsibility for our own protection.

7 posted on 06/03/2007 3:00:00 AM PDT by EBH (May God Save Our Country)
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To: EBH

There have always been child molesters. That was one of the facts of life and children packed around in groups in our neighborhood. If someone was funny with one of the children, they were driven out of town. We grew up not so far from the old days of tar and feathers.


8 posted on 06/03/2007 3:11:10 AM PDT by Chickensoup (.The Muzzies are hanging us with the rope we paid out to the leftists.)
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To: widowithfoursons

Exactly. I was a fifties kid; it really, really, was a different better world.


9 posted on 06/03/2007 3:24:57 AM PDT by kjo
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To: kjo

Thank you. I was waiting for someone to remember the huge difference. Those who grew up in the 70’s may think they had freedom, but they don’t have a frame of reference.


10 posted on 06/03/2007 3:34:49 AM PDT by widowithfoursons
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To: widowithfoursons

I grew up in Kemp Mill, a suburb that was a bedroom community for Washington, DC. We kids ran around a lot by ourselves - to the Nature Center, to Pine Lake, to the skating rink, up and down the street, in the woods - pretty much anywhere we wanted to go. We had to be home before dinner, but that was about it. With bikes and skates, we could cover a fair distance.

Then in the mid-70s, the Lyons sisters disappeared. It was huge news - all anyone talked about for weeks. They had gone to Wheaton Plaza together, and they never came home. I’m sure anyone my age who grew up in or near the DC area still remembers hearing so much about them.

For me and for many of my friends, that was the end of unsupervised rambles at will.

They never did find out what happened to those poor girls.


11 posted on 06/03/2007 3:37:49 AM PDT by mrs. a (It's a short life but a merry one...)
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To: widowithfoursons
Uh, if this person grew up in the 70’s, it was already way too late for running around unsupervised.

I guess it depends on where you grew up... I was born in 1962, so for me it was the later 60s and early 70s. And my mother was never worried about my leaving the house on a weekend morning, and not getting back until dark. Looking back on it now, maybe it wasn't the smartest thing to do, and if I were a parent, there's no way I'd allow that today.

Mark

12 posted on 06/03/2007 3:45:31 AM PDT by MarkL (Environmental heretics should be burned at the stake, in a "Carbon Neutral" way...)
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To: Lorianne
Two-thirds of Americans say it's likely that a convicted child molester lives in their neighborhood, according to a 2005 Gallup Poll.

"say it's likely that"? What this means: absolutely nothing.

In general, I think people are overprotective.

13 posted on 06/03/2007 3:48:02 AM PDT by Dr. Frank fan
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To: Lorianne

Liberal policies are responsible for this. Liberal policies that let criminals go free and try to take away our right to defend our lives, family and property.


14 posted on 06/03/2007 3:50:50 AM PDT by Leftism is Mentally Deranged
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To: widowithfoursons

I grew up in DETROIT in the fifties. Can you imagine Detroit today? Kids could go anywhere using public transporation. The rule was if you got lost stop any adult and ask directions.

All the men were tied and hatted; the women in business suits and high heels. What a great, great, country this used to be.

Cops used to walk beats until the late fifties. They knew everyone in the neighborhood. People sat out on their front porches all summer. You could hear the Tigers’ game on every radio through the opened screened front doors of homes.


15 posted on 06/03/2007 3:51:29 AM PDT by kjo
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To: kjo

At least we have nostalgia. If only it could be effectively communicated.


16 posted on 06/03/2007 3:54:46 AM PDT by widowithfoursons
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To: Lorianne
Weak excuse for overprotecting your children. Peverts and deviants have always been around. All you have to do is see the public records of the Pilgrims back to the mid 1600s and see how many times "buggery" and "crimes against nature" are mentioned.

Growing up myself in the "stay out until the streetlights are on" era, there were certain houses we were told to stay around from because of "funny old men." Of course we took this as an open invitation to throw rocks, snowballs and eggs at these houses at every opportunity.

The big difference between then and now is that there is simply so much to do indoors. When I was a kid, there was very little TV (only about six channels and three of them you had to keep messing around with the rabbit ears to receive) and so us kids got underfoot. SO naturally our parents told us to get outdoors and stay out until dinnertime. It was today's equivalent of sending the kids to the rec room to play Nintendo or upstairs to surf the web until dinnertime.

Of course parents want to deflect their neglect of their children so they invent these silly reasons as "the pervert living down the street" as an excuse for having their kids play video games all day and watching hours and hours of endless, mindless television.

You can bet that if we didn't have all these entertainment that today's parents would kick their kids outdoors just like their parents did with them.

17 posted on 06/03/2007 3:57:36 AM PDT by SamAdams76 (I am 96 days away from outliving Marvin Gaye)
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To: Chickensoup
There have always been child molesters.

Yes but now they feel entitled to molest kids. The easier access to porn has led them to believe that sex with kids is "normal". Catching them has become easy because they are so brazen now.

18 posted on 06/03/2007 3:58:36 AM PDT by AppyPappy (If you aren't part of the solution, there is good money to be made prolonging the problem.)
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To: widowithfoursons

Yes, we have our memories. To this day I hate the sixties; the world changed forever in that decade. As I said, I grew up in Detroit and got caught in the sixty-seven riot. The city largely lost its business districts and it never came back.

I knew the world had changed when the tv commentators began telling the people that the riot was justified. From that point, crime and welfare became ok.

Look at the mess the liberals created.


19 posted on 06/03/2007 4:00:37 AM PDT by kjo
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To: Dr. Frank fan

http://www.familywatchdog.us/

Try this link for sexual offenders in your area.


20 posted on 06/03/2007 4:02:30 AM PDT by EBH (May God Save Our Country)
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To: EBH

How right you are..

I lived what now seems to be a privileged life as a little girl in a small fishing town on the New England coast (back then- the only liberals around were “token”).

We played outside every day in all seasons. We had freedom to explore. We weren’t afraid of the world or it’s people. By spending so much time outdoors we learned about nature...where a snake might hide, which spiders were ok (daddy-longlegs) and which weren’t (black widows)..

Each summer when my son was little we went “back home” and we’d go on hikes exploring the woods, fields and marshes .. Those times are now his favorite memories but he still doesn’t believe me when I tell him when I was little we did those same things without grownups..


21 posted on 06/03/2007 4:05:54 AM PDT by SE Mom (Proud mom of an Iraq war combat vet -Fred'08)
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To: Dr. Frank fan

325 in my zip code alone!

I must create a fortress today! /sarc.


22 posted on 06/03/2007 4:06:49 AM PDT by EBH (May God Save Our Country)
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To: Lorianne

I remember life as a kid in Reston, Virginia, in the early seventies. It was like ‘Lord of the Flies’. We built secret forts deep in the woods. We made sharpened spears from branches and tried to hunt animals. We had brutal dirt clod fights that often ended in someone getting “hurt”. We swam in the lake for hours on end. We built dams in the creek so we could create mini-floods. We’d catch frogs, turtles, snakes and lizards and bring them home. In the summer, we went out after dinner for games of ‘Manhunt’ that would last well beyond dark. Those were good times.


23 posted on 06/03/2007 4:11:10 AM PDT by Godebert
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To: mrs. a

I was working a Vitro Laboratories when that happened. It really shook the community. The fact that there was never any closure really wierded eveyone out.

Part of the problem I believe is that people rarelyspeak out when they see something going down. Conress now thinks we need a law to protect people who report suspicious activity.

Go figure.


24 posted on 06/03/2007 4:28:17 AM PDT by Jimmy Valentine's brother (Crush your enemies; see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women - Conan)
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To: EBH

Whoa...83 in my little zip code. The closet on is 1.8 miles from me, with his name, picture and address. Thanks for posting!


25 posted on 06/03/2007 4:30:08 AM PDT by GBA (God Bless America!)
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To: endthematrix
"Talk about living in fear."

The whole concept of terrorism is not manifested by a crazy with a gun or a bomb, but in the fact that people are afraid ... afraid of any and everything that could be.

It used to be that a person cornered is to be feared because they will come out swinging, possibly feeling their life was in danger.

Now, it seems frightened people just try to hunker closer into the corner.

Sort o' like that fish sandwich commercial where, upon seeing a square fish flopping on the deck of a boat, someone says .. "That's not natural"

It ain't natural for people to be unable (from within themselves) to come out swingin' when threatened.

America ... let's roll.

26 posted on 06/03/2007 4:31:03 AM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof ... but they're true.)
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To: widowithfoursons
"Those who grew up in the 70’s may think they had freedom, but they don’t have a frame of reference."

The same could apply to our political situation today. We really don't know what it is to be truly free.

Carolyn

27 posted on 06/03/2007 4:32:40 AM PDT by CDHart ("It's too late to work within the system and too early to shoot the b@#$%^&s."--Claire Wolfe)
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To: widowithfoursons
Uh, if this person grew up in the 70’s, it was already way too late for running around unsupervised.

Oh poo. I grew up in the 60's and 70's in inner city Chicago and ran around unsupervised. We had to check in when the street lights came on, and then could still play on our block. I and all my friends survived unscathed.
28 posted on 06/03/2007 4:34:12 AM PDT by Kozak (Anti Shahada: " There is no God named Allah, and Muhammed is his False Prophet")
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To: Lorianne
We see this over protectiveness in many forms, like the rules against smoking, my mom sent me on countless trips to the store to buy her more cigarettes. Now a kid faces 30 years of hard labor for just buying a pack of smokes.

Kids should not smoke, but it should not be illegal. We are heading towards a society where we can only do what the law gives us permission to do, and the concept of Freedom is lost.

29 posted on 06/03/2007 4:42:41 AM PDT by Mark was here (Hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance?)
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To: widowithfoursons

Not for me....i stayed out fishing all night during the summer back in the 70’s...10 and 11 years old...no big deal....the 80’s is when it started changing.


30 posted on 06/03/2007 4:52:27 AM PDT by chasio649
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To: mrs. a

The Lyon’s sisters case is a cold one. There were some suspects and an actual sighting, but no evidence. My husband grew up in Springfield; he remembers that every thing changed after their abduction. That is when the close supervision began - especially for his sisters.


31 posted on 06/03/2007 4:59:42 AM PDT by SoftballMominVA (Never argue with an idiot. He will bring you down to his level and beat you with experience)
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To: Lorianne
I live in an older development in an outer suburb that is considered rural by many. It means that my husband and I have a 45-minute commute to work.

However, it also means that I can tell my 12-year-old when he says he's going outside, "Come home when it gets dark". It means my kids could ride their bikes unsupervised -- although kids don't ride much at all these days because no kid over the age of nine wants to wear a helmet (another example of government screw-up). It's meant my kids have had lots of neighborhood kids to play with. We've been fortunate that way.

32 posted on 06/03/2007 5:11:04 AM PDT by ContraryMary (New Jersey -- Superfund cleanup capital of the U.S.A.)
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To: EBH
My buddy and I used to take our uncased .22 single shot rifles on our bicycles to a retired teacher's house and shoot frogs out of his pond (as I remember they were so big I'm surprised a .22 would kill them). My mom fried up the legs for me after I skinned them.

I'd have a juvenile record if I tried that today.

33 posted on 06/03/2007 5:14:35 AM PDT by Hardastarboard (DemocraticUnderground.com is an internet hate site.)
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To: Lorianne
But we don't let our children play in the front yard, because a sex offender lives two doors down.

Same could have been true in the 1970s except that you wouldn't have known about it

Now, are your kids safer when you are more likely to know where the pervs are or when you are less likely to know where they are?

Maybe rational thought is required.

34 posted on 06/03/2007 5:16:28 AM PDT by Tribune7 (A bleeding heart does nothing but ruin the carpet)
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To: Lorianne
A lot of this is driven by changes in demographics and economics.

I grew up in the 60's and 70's in a family 4 children. Today, we have 2 children, as do each of my siblings. The house I grew up in sat on a 1/6 acre lot. The house I live in today sits on a 1/2 acre lot. Simple math says that the 'density' of kids running around my neighborhood today is many times less than it was when I was a kid. Where kids used to run around in groups of 6 or 8 when I grew up, I see a lot of kids in groups of 1, 2 or 3 today. There was some safety in numbers.

Tolerance for risks are different than they were. If you look back to the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, most large families had children who didn't survive to adulthood. My mother (who grew up in the 20's and 30's) had a brother died of polio. Her uncle had a family of 9 kids of whom 6 survived to adulthood. They didn't love their children any less back then, but with so many dying of childhood disease, the risk of an accident from playing in the street or in the woods or by a stream seemed relatively miniscule. My wife and I would feel devastated if one of our two kids didn't survive into adulthood. In past years, large families accepted losses a part of life and moved on.

Perceived risks have also changed a lot. FoxNews and Nancy Grace give us breathless reports of every detail of the most purient kidnapping or molestation case in each day's news. In a nation of 300 million people, there's always going to be something bad happening somewhere. As parents, we probably greatly overestimate the relative risk of a stranger snatching our children, compared to simple dangers like being in a car accident (or letting MTV teach them that all the cool kids experiment with drugs and sex).

Some things have actually changed for the better. We know now that there were a small but very real number of authority figures in the 60's and 70's who were able to use their positions to take advantage of children, and often got by with only a slap on the wrist when there were signs of trouble. At my high school, there was a driver's ed teacher that girls knew to avoid being alone in the car with, because he had a tendency to get frisky with his hands. Today, that fellow would be gone awfully fast.

Overall, however, we are giving our kids a very different childhood experience than the one we had. In some ways, we are focusing more energy and attention on fewer kids and that may benefit them. However, they will have less opportunity to act independently, make choices on their own, and live with the consequences of their choices.

35 posted on 06/03/2007 5:26:21 AM PDT by CaptainMorgantown
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To: Chickensoup
There have always been child molesters.

Yes, but in the old days, they were sent to prison and were permanently dealt with by the other inmates.

36 posted on 06/03/2007 5:32:21 AM PDT by reg45
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To: Lorianne
Ah, the opportunity in the wee hours of a Sunday morning to wax nostalgically (and indulge our vanity) about a time of innocence.

I was born just before Pearl Harbor, and so got to spend my pre-adolescent and teen years in the 50's, in what was one of the larger cities in Indiana, but which would be considered a small town compared to my present home. We didn't even have a local TV station for most of that time. We would spend winter nights listening to the radio (Ozzie & Harriet, Gunsmoke, Innersanctum) and playing cards or board games. (After coming in from sledding or trying to ice skate on the little ponds in the neighborhood.) I can still remember listening to a radio broadcast of a particular state championship high school basketball game. In later years, I thought of writing about that game, but someone beat me to it: it bacame the movie, Hoosiers.

In the summer, we played baseball (no, not Little League, no parents involved -- just a bunch of guys who felt like playing, using whatever we could find at the time for bases, in a field where a long hit could be lost in the weeds) or went to the river to fish, or went swimming at the pool in the park. After swimming, we might hang around to peer between or under the canvasses to try and see a Daisies game. (Yes, another movie, "A Field of Their Own.") Along the way, we might place pennies or nails on the railroad track.

After dinner, and well into darkness, it was "Hide and Seek" or, as we grew a little older, "Capture the Flag."

In the fall, the same fields or empty lots became football fields. Two or three to a side, "everybody out for a pass."

And, it being Indiana, basketball at any time. We often played in the snow.

You'll find another thread today about Australians who want to begin teaching their youth how to handle BB guns. That little boy in A Christmas Story who just had to have the Daisy Red Ryder gun was me. (Not literally, of course.)

In our high school years, very few of us had cars, but when one could get Dad's wheels, we cruised the drive-in restaurants (yes, there were car-hops,) went to drive-in movies, or to the basketball game, followed by a record hop at the skating rink or in the school cafeteria.

I was on a cruise ship a few months back, where one of the events was a "sock hop." The thirty-something hosts were surprised when I actually took off my tennies to dance in my socks. I had to give them a little oral history about the origin of "sock hop:" at my high school, a P. A. system would be set up in the gym for lunch hour dancing. Since street shoes were not permitted on the gym floor, we danced in our socks.

Today, when I visit my sister, that town no longer exists. Oh, There still is a Fort Wayne, but downtown is a ghost town. I was told several years back that it is "the cocaine capital of Indiana." Everybody now lives five miles outside what used to be the city limits. My present home, San Pedro, CA, gives me more of a community feeling than does my own home town. Geography separates us from the metropolis, and there are many whose families have lived here for generations, and who want to raise their own kids here. Sadly, those kids will never know what real innocence is.

37 posted on 06/03/2007 5:33:56 AM PDT by LantzALot (Yes, itís my opinion. No, itís not humble.)
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To: EBH

None within 10 miles of me. There was a highly publicized one about a half mile away a couple years ago but his trailer home burned up. The sheriff said, “These things sometimes happen.”

I grew up playing in the woods all day, I find today’s childhood whirl of arranged soccer games, play dates, electronic toys, and the omnipresent leash of the cell phone abhorrent.


38 posted on 06/03/2007 5:42:45 AM PDT by Tijeras_Slim
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To: LantzALot

Yes, I remember the world you described. At the time we did not know how really wonderful it was. I feel sorry for kids today. With all their computer toys they will never learn how to play.

I’m a public school teacher. My experience is that kids have almost no attention spans today. Cheating on tests is considered normal behavior, and if you are caught it’s because you did something stupid. That’s the only sin.
There’s no morality. No right or wrong, only “what works”. My high school kids live in homes where their mom has a boyfriend. Divorce is the norm.

What a world the liberals created.


39 posted on 06/03/2007 5:45:05 AM PDT by kjo
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To: Lorianne

maybe if criminals were in jail instead of being “compassioned” out into the streets, then we wouldn’t have a fortress mentality


40 posted on 06/03/2007 5:45:37 AM PDT by InvisibleChurch (Forty on the highway, forty in the driveway.)
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To: ovrtaxt

Yes and bump.

Thank you.


41 posted on 06/03/2007 5:45:42 AM PDT by Calpernia (Breederville.com)
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To: widowithfoursons

Not at all. I grew up in the 70’s. We were out and about from morning ‘til evening.


42 posted on 06/03/2007 5:46:35 AM PDT by Calpernia (Breederville.com)
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To: Lorianne

I’d say it’s no accident. Too many criminals loose on the streets for a reason. It keeps people inside, where they are more susceptible to media ideology-hype and materialism. “Life lessons”, as it were, are handed down by social architects, rather than by the forces of nature.


43 posted on 06/03/2007 5:49:51 AM PDT by P.O.E. (Vote Hillary in '08 - let's restore America's silverware to the White House.)
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To: Nailbiter

ping to self


44 posted on 06/03/2007 5:58:09 AM PDT by Nailbiter
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To: kjo
With all their computer toys they will never learn how to play.

My eldest grandson just HAD to have a "Game Boy;" (I guess, in the same way I HAD to have a BB gun) and finally wore his (divorced) mother down. He became a social recluse with that thing. But some years later, as we watched the younger grandchildren playing at a family gathering, he turned to me, and said, "These kids just don't have the imagination we had." I guess these things are relative, just as the author's 70's seem as innocent as our 50's.

45 posted on 06/03/2007 5:58:26 AM PDT by LantzALot (Yes, itís my opinion. No, itís not humble.)
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To: widowithfoursons

I grew up in the 70’s, and ran around the neighborhood with my friends. We rode bikes, played ball, etc. Never had a serious incident. I am stunned how kids today just don’t want to get off the couch and go outside.


46 posted on 06/03/2007 6:02:32 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: patton

lots of wonderful reads here!


47 posted on 06/03/2007 6:18:01 AM PDT by leda (19yrs ... only 4,981yrs to go ;))
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To: Chickensoup; AppyPappy
There have always been child molesters.

True, but the question is, are there more now and if so why? (And for the 'why' I'd want to know the real reasons and not ideologically constructed ones). It sure seems like there are more child molesters now, just as there are more serial killers.

I know that I would never allow my kids to have the unsupervised freedom that I had. Of course some of the things we did were also physically dangerous.

Yes but now they feel entitled to molest kids.

And even to kidnap them. The increased communication that allows parents to be more aware of child molesters also tells child molesters about the crimes that others have attempted and gotten away with. But why do some people feel sexually attracted to children? Is this number going up?

48 posted on 06/03/2007 6:33:19 AM PDT by wideminded
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To: Dr. Frank fan

They call them “helicopter” parents, continually hovering over their kids even after college.


49 posted on 06/03/2007 6:35:46 AM PDT by tom paine 2
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To: reg45

Shoot, shovel, and shut up was also used before the police could ever get involved.


50 posted on 06/03/2007 7:26:26 AM PDT by seemoAR (Absolute power corrupts absolutely)
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