America in the Dark Ages — The cult of kiddie danger

Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids. Her show “World’s Worst Mom” airs on Discovery/TLC international.

The Richland, WA, school district is phasing out swings on its playgrounds. As the district’s spokesman recently told KEPR TV: “It’s just really a safety issue. Swings have been determined to be the most unsafe of all the playground equipment on a playground.”

Ah yes, those dangling doom machines. All they sow is death and despair.

But while this sounds like yet another example of how liability concerns are killing childhood (seen a see-saw anywhere in the last 20 years? A slide higher than your neck?), it’s deeper than that. Insurance underwriters are merely the high priests of what has become our new American religion: the Cult of Kiddie Danger. It is founded on the unshakable belief that our kids are in constant danger from everyone and everything.

The devout pray like this: “Oh Lord, show me the way my child is in deathly danger from __________, that I may cast it out.” And then they fill in the blank with anything we might have hitherto considered allowing our children to eat, watch, visit, touch, or do, e.g., “Sleep over at a friend’s,” “Microwave the macaroni in a plastic dish,” or even, “Play outside, unsupervised…”

What’s more, this is a state religion, so the teachings are enforced by the cops and courts. Those who step outside the orthodoxy face punishment swift and merciless…

We think we are enlightened in this quest to keep kids completely safe. Actually, we have entered a new Dark Ages, fearing evil all around us.

If we want the right to raise our kids rationally, even optimistically, it’s time to call the Cult of Kiddie Danger what it is: mass hysteria aided and abetted by the authorities. But as earlier holy books so succinctly instructed us, there is a better way to live.

“Fear not.”


Lenore Skenazy makes her case with the thoroughness of a pedant. With the heart of a warrior. Which, of course, she must be, every day.

We have added another brick to the wall of state religions. All are considered innocent until proven guilty – unless you are charged with possession of kiddy porn, accused of rape, admit to being an atheist…regardless of charge. More dangerous than someone who cuts those little labels off pillow cases that say “Do Not Remove”. Carrier of an evil more dangerous than the Interwebitubes.

This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine,The Weekly Wonk.

Are you ready to wear this?

Click to enlargeREUTERS/Benoit Tessier

A model presents a creation by U.S. designer Marc Jacobs as part of his Spring/Summer 2014 women’s ready-to-wear fashion show for French fashion house Louis Vuitton during Paris fashion week.

Ready-to-wear this to what? Signing yourself in for group therapy?

Dutch scrap archaic blasphemy law

Dutch authorities have decided to approve a motion abandoning a law under which it is a crime to insult God.

A majority of parties in parliament said the blasphemy law was no longer relevant in the 21st Century…

The legislation, introduced in the 1930s, has not been invoked in the last half century. However, it still remains illegal under Dutch law to be disrespectful to police officers or to insult Queen Beatrix, the country’s monarch…

The BBC’s Anna Holligan, in The Hague, says that there was much debate about the issue after a Dutch court ruled that the far-right anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders should be allowed to criticise Islam, even if his outspoken opinions offended many Muslims.

In 2008, a coalition government decided against repealing the blasphemy law in order to maintain support from a conservative Christian political party.

But, sooner or later, even the opportunism of professional politicians will be overcome by freedom-loving voters. Eventually, people realize that most “coalitions” are arranged to share power – not principles.

Call for a car-phone ban is about as stupid as banning passengers – How about a ban on stupid bans?

The National Transportation Safety Board’s big, bold stroke encouraging all states to prohibit drivers from using cell phones faces a long, tortuous process in the nation’s statehouses…

This political reality stands out: Since states began legislating distracted driving or cell phone use in 2000, none has gone so far as to impose a complete ban on mobile devices behind the wheel, and only one state — Alaska — has considered such a blanket prohibition, just this year…

Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said opponents don’t like big government intrusions and savor their personal freedoms. “This is a controversial issue so you can assume it’s not going to pass right away,” Harsha said. “It’s going to take a long time for legislatures to pass laws, and a long time for states to begin to enforce the laws, and then a long time for behavior to start to change.

“The first seat-belt law was passed in the mid-’80s, and we’re now at 84 percent of drivers who are buckled up nationwide,” even though all states now have laws requiring drivers and passengers to wear seat belts, Harsha said…

In the past 10 years the NTSB has increasingly sought to limit the use of portable electronic devices — recommending bans for novice drivers, school bus drivers and commercial truckers. Tuesday’s recommendation, if adopted by states, would outlaw nonemergency phone calls and texting by operators of every vehicle on the road…

The initiative would apply to hands-free as well as hand-held devices, but devices installed in the vehicle by the manufacturer would be allowed, the NTSB said…

“There’s conflicting evidence” on whether hands-free cell phone conversations would be as unsafe as those by hand-helds, Harsha said, adding that more “definitive research” is needed. “If it shows both are unsafe, then a total ban may make the most sense,” she said.

There already are beaucoup studies proving that distractions are the cause – not the effect. The source of distraction affecting the human brain ranges from your passenger [if you have one] shouting “look at that!” – to noticing a particularly attractive member of the opposite sex in another car [depending on your gender identification I guess] – to a particularly uncomfortable gas pain.

Give mental pause whilst driving today – and reflect upon the artificial need for politicians to pass regulations to impress upon their peers and constituents alike that they’re earning their keep.