So much this. However as I parent in Singapore I think this is also a great country to let kids roam in. Sure, maybe the locals don’t do it but I do.
Public transit is safe and any police or transit or security official is approachable and can be trusted.
I think Singapore, rather than focusing on testing so much, should actually focus more efforts on building independent, self-guided children.
Would make for a better county and better children.
I still get the funny looks when I say that yes my primary 1 daughter transits herself to and from school and yes I needed special permission from the school to do this which shows you the problem to begin with.
I regularly send them off to the not nearest mall where they can browse the bookstore, get a LiHo and then get themselves back by a certain time.
We need to fix this. Get kids out of their phones and into the great outdoors. Even if that is a concrete jungle.
THE FASTER LANE / TYLER BRÛLÉ
Learn your lesson
In case you missed last week’s instalment of The Faster Lane, I left off with a bit of a cliffhanger about a significant discovery I’ve made concerning humankind, resilience, social order and child-rearing. Today it’s time to present my findings.
To put all of this in context, we’re going to have to do a bit of time travelling: let’s head all the way back to the mid-1970s and touch down in Kitchener, Ontario. To give you a more precise fix on things, it’s a small-ish city about an hour south of Toronto and the snappily dressed kid in the desert boots, brown cords and navy zip-up sweater standing in front of Suddaby Public School is me. As it’s lunch hour, I’m waiting for a couple of friends to come out of class and we’re going to walk home for lunch. After sandwiches and cartoons we’ll walk back to class. Then at 16.00, when the bell rings, we’ll bolt outside, dig into our backpacks for coins and go to the corner shop to buy candies, gum and comics.
As it’s 1976 I’m doing all of this under my own steam and without supervision. I’m wearing a chunky wristwatch and know I need to be home by 17.00 to let the dogs out and make an effort to help set the table for dinner. Most of my friends have a similar regime – they can roam around tiny Kitchener (population circa 130,000) by bike or on foot and their parents are pretty relaxed about their comings and goings. Up the highway in Toronto, across the border in Detroit and over the Atlantic in London, kids are doing the same as us. They’re on the loose in parks, on trams, in malls and all points in between – cities are theirs to explore.
If you’re of a similar vintage to me then you might recognise yourself in this little tableau and remember a time when you roared around in a big station wagon not wearing a seatbelt, sat in airplanes where people puffed away across the aisle and parents didn’t walk or drive their kids to school. Do you sometimes look back on those easy, breezy years and wonder where we took a wrong turn and allowed health-and-safety hysteria to take over? Do you also feel that society is now divided into those who grew up with limited supervision and safety restraints versus those who were swaddled in an electric-orange hi-vis vest before they exited the maternity ward? Is Google Maps what you end up with when a generation of kids across much of the English-speaking world have never had to find their own way from home to classroom?
On Monday it was back to class for students across parts of Germany and most of Switzerland. In Zürich, the city was jolted out of its summer slumber as kids piled onto trams, jumped on their bikes or made their way on foot to school. The back-to-school scene in Zürich is much the same as you might find in the UK, Australia or Canada (fresh sneakers, new backpacks, experimental haircuts) but for one exception: most children go it alone. Where streets around schools in Manchester or Vancouver are clogged with parents dropping off their kids, in Switzerland it could be deemed that it’s part of the curriculum that youngsters learn how to navigate their way to school without the help of a parent or guardian. Indeed, it could be argued that going solo is a fundamental feature of Swiss society. So much so that expat parents (Brits, Americans, Aussies) in many Swiss cities are warned not to accompany their children to school as it’s expected that little Emma and Edward can find their own way on the tram, bus or on foot.
Iconic red-and-white flags aside, it’s perhaps one of the reasons I have a fondness for both Switzerland and Japan, as they have created societies with a high level of social capital that allows children to wander cityscapes without parents hovering overhead. This approach to child-rearing and education might be the answer to creating more resilient and less neurotic societies.