I don’t often reblog, but just occasionally I see a post that is so in the spirit of I do not despair that it has to be shared. Many thanks to Carlton Reid and Tim Gill who brought it to my attention through Twitter. More musings on this to come perhaps.
I wish I had had my camera with me, because just the other day I saw something extraordinary. Something so rare that I thought it was almost extinct. I was, frankly, both shocked and excited!
What was this rarity, this amazing vision? Picture this: I’m walking back from my local cafe/shopping strip on Main St in Osborne Park. An inner-city suburb in Perth, Western Australia. I’m walking down Hutton St, a very busy main suburban feeder road that leads directly to the Mitchell Freeway entries a kilometre away. It’s around 4.30pm, so the rush hour has started and Hutton St is packed with cars, heading for the Freeway and home.
And then I saw it! Or should I say saw him. A young boy on a dazzling chrome and electric blue BMX bike came whizzing down Hutton St. He’s keeping up with the packed traffic, but he’s pumping hard…
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Thanks for reblogging my post, Kevin – for this post to get attention from people like yourself and Tim Gill is a real honour. You’ve both got solid professional credentials and reputations in this area, while I’m just an passionate amateur when it comes to play, risk and cycling for children. My own area of specific expertise is play-based music in early childhood education settings – about as far from cycling as you can get, really!
But the whole issue of lack of opportunity for freedom, lack of opportunity for free play, and lack of opportunity for self-assessment and self-management of risk for children has become something of an obsession of mine. I believe that we are now on a cusp, a tipping point, where society as a whole can shake off the last 30 years of ever-increasing paranoia about risks and hazards for children, and move forward towards a rational acceptance of risk and towards increased freedom for children.
These issues are getting more and more debate, and they have moved from the scholarly and professional literature into the wider media. Increasingly I’m seeing general news reports, opinion pieces, articles and blog posts about the downsides of bubble-wrapping kids and the undesirability of helicopter parenting (sorry – buzzword overload!) I really don’t think that this is just because I’m seeing what I want to see; even 5 years ago such articles were very rare, especially in the major media outlets; now they appear there frequently.
And the academic and policy research on these issues is becoming increasingly sophisticated and the evidence is accumulating quickly that these are real issues with real importance for the quality of life and development for children, and that the deleterious effects of trying to protect children from any possibility of harm are real, serious and can have lifelong negative outcomes.
So, I’m cautiously hopeful. I’m an optimist, but it isn’t going to change overnight. It will take a long time for the hysteria about risk to subside, and without people like yourself and Tim Gill (and, to a lesser extent, people like me) pushing these issues and fighting hard the “other side” could still carry the day. So we have to make sure they don’t!
Thanks Alec, it is great to be in the same community. Calling my blog “I do not despair” was partly me raging against the constantly pessimistic voices I heard in some parts of cycling.
I expect you already know of him but if you ever get a chance to read or hear the work of Francesco Tonucci in this field do so. Even speaking in Spanish or Italian through a translator he is inspirational, as well as funny and moving. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesco_Tonucci
I heard him at Velo-city Seville and it remains one of my breakthrough moments. (Google translate does a reasonable job on his Wikipedia page)
Keep up the good work.