Philososplainin’ #2: Letting Kids Do Stuff Themselves

Making the rounds this morning is the news of parents who are being investigated for neglect for allowing their children, ages 10 and 6, to walk, by themselves, the one mile from a park to their home in Silver Spring, Maryland. There have been a rash of such stories recently, it seems, most notably one about  a South Carolina mother who was arrested (!) for allowing her daughter, age 9, to play at a park while she was at work. The Maryland parents, Danielle and Alexander Meitivs, a climate science consultant and a physicist, respectively, “say they believe in ‘free-range’ parenting, a movement that has been a counterpoint to the hyper-vigilance of ‘helicopter’ parenting, with the idea that children learn self-reliance by being allowed to progressively test limits, make choices and venture out in the world.” The mom in the South Carolina case, Debra Harrell, who worked at a McDonalds, did not appear to be able to afford reliable and stimulating child care for her daughter, and so would occasionally let her play at the park, which is about a six-minute walk from their home.

Different places, different reasons, different races, different sanctions, but at least one common issue: the government taking action against parents for granting their children a greater-than-currently-normal degree of independence.

Our previous edition of Philososplainin’ was on the relatively trivial issue of reclining airplane seats. As I put it last time: “philosophy professors are often keen to emphasize the practical value of the philosophical skill set in navigating the world: logical reasoning, critical thinking, creativity and imagination, the ability to countenance alternatives and make needed distinctions, etc. ‘Well,’ the world might ask, ‘if philosophy is so practical, what has it done for us lately?'” And so the idea is to”take an issue that is being widely discussed by the populace at large and see whether philosophers can step in to help make progress on it.”  Can we?

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