Friday, April 04, 2008

Lenore Skenazy is absolutely right. And, no, I'm not being sarcastic. For once.

When I was 10 or 11 years old, I was already an experienced -- and unaccompanied -- customer of the Rochester Transit System. Each weekday I'd take city buses to and from grade school, including a transfer through a sketchy neighborhood; on Saturdays, I'd head downtown for a day of wandering through the stores and rummaging through the Rundel Memorial Library... and some days, even at that tender age, I'd just ride one bus route after another, giving myself my own personal tour of the Greater Rochester area.

And in those thousands of bus rides over my youth, the worst thing that happened is that, for a while, I wanted to be a bus driver when I grew up. I got over it.

I'm not buying the "Rochester is not Manhattan" argument. Obviously there are differences in the size of the cities, but they are more than offset by the additional watchful eyes, the compactness, and the order. Skenazy's son's 30-block adventure doesn't begin to compare to the miles of often pedestrian-free, indirect routes I occasionally walked (for fun) as I taught my prepubescent self about the world... or at least my little corner of it.

At 9 years of age, a child should be able to handle this minimal amount of independence. As Skenazy writes:
The problem with this everything-is-dangerous outlook is that over-protectiveness is a danger in and of itself. A child who thinks he can’t do anything on his own eventually can’t.
Couldn't have said it better myself.