December 27, 2002
I guess some people figure it's never too
early to teach our children to be paranoid.
In Edmonton they're teaching children as
young as five years old how to hide from snipers in school. Along
with fire drills, St. Boniface Elementary School in Edmonton is
getting kids to hide under their desks, stay away from windows and
generally hunker down in the face of bomb scares, chemical threats
and crazed gunmen.
Not wanting to be left behind, schools in
Saskatoon and Toronto are also working on drills and procedures to
prepare their students from assorted nutjobs, wackos and terrorists.
Great. Just what we need - a new way to make
our children feel threatened and afraid.
The League of Overprotective Parents just
shrug at all of this and say: "Oh well - with everything going
on today in this crazy world it's too bad we need to warn our kids
that a deranged maniac with an Uzi may attack them at any
minute." Let's have a little reality check here - in spite of a
few rare and isolated incidents, bomb scares, chemical threats and
crazed gunmen don't present any realistic threat to school
Forget terrorist attacks, I can't remember a
school fire drill where there was actually a fire. I'm sure it
happens, but ask around and see how rare it really is. So what do
you think the odds are of terrorists deciding to fly a plane into
Dingleberry Public School in Cowbum, Saskatchewan?
"There's no harm in being
prepared," I hear someone nervously call out from under the
bed. Baloney. It's just another way we rob children of their
childhood. As adults we have to face all kinds of unpleasant things
- war, death, taxes - but give the kids a break. Can't they just be
happy kids for a couple of years?
It's no wonder we label so many kids as
having attention problems at school. It's hard to concentrate on the
blackboard when you're looking over your shoulder every twenty
Kids need a place where they can feel safe.
They can't play in the streets anymore because vigilant parents have
taught them it isn't safe. I remember as a kid being out all day,
vaguely telling my parents I'd be down in the creek or in a friend's
yard. It wasn't time to come home until the street lights came on.
Of course we didn't have pagers, cell phones
or other tracking devices to keep us in constant contact with the
home base. If we were late coming home, no one called the cops and
assumed we had been sold into slavery. Mom might call around if we
were really late, or more likely just yell out the window.
And you know what? The streets are
statistically safer today than they were back then, although you
wouldn't know it to see how empty they are of children playing.
Child abductions get a lot of media play, but they are also
statistically becoming rarer in North America. Still, for the last
decade we've been warning our children to see every stranger as a
So why are we making five year olds huddle
in the dark pretending someone is hunting them? I suppose it all
part of what I call the "victim industry", where no threat
or danger is too small or remote, and every consequence is treated
like it will scar you for life. Grief counsellors stand ready by the
battalion to "help" kids deal with traumas they'd
otherwise forget by recess, and concerned committees look for new
ways to scare kids while wrapping them in a protective bubble.
Oh for the days when all we worried about
were the monsters under the bed.