Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fear and Children

I've started about four different blog posts in the past week. Somehow none of them came to fruition. They all just fizzled out midway and I lost interest. This morning a story on NPR caught my attention. It was concerning the new regulations proposed by the Department of Labor concerning youths working on farms. You can read the story in the Farm Futures blog.

Immediately I asked myself what this was really about. Is the government REALLY trying to eliminate family farms all together? Is this a cynical plan by Con-Agra to consolidate their power in producing "great food?" (Their words, not mine.) Then I heard the spokesperson for the Department of Labor. He spoke about the dangers of "children" driving farm equipment. He remembered his grandfather being hospitalized for months after an accident with a forklift or a combine or some other machinery that I know nothing about. He seemed genuinely concerned.

Of course this all left me asking more questions. Was his grandfather a child when he had his accident? I doubt it, since he remembered it. So, does that mean that if his grandfather had a horrible accident, a child is bound to have one too? I'm not trying to make light or diminish the inherent dangers of big machinery. I am trying to bring to light that there is inherent danger in any experience once you are born. Driving a car, flying a plane, climbing a mountain are all inherently dangerous, yet people do these things, often with children in tow. Climbing a tree is considered too dangerous by some homeowners associations. Walking to school is considered dangerous by most communities.

In a society where we have little to fear, (except our own power and stupidity) we have come to fear our own shadow and we are instilling this fear into our children by shielding them from all dangers, real or perceived. We do not fight wars on our land, we do not die of thirst or starvation, yet we protect our children from the joys and challenges of lives as if their lives depended on it.

It does! Their lives depend on taking risks if we want them to be fulfilled. Their lives depend on being purposeful if we want them to be productive. Their lives depend on the ability to explore their limits, talents, capabilities and curiosity to the very precipice of their being in order to be able to take the reins from these very frightened adults and make fearless decisions about their future.

There is of course another argument against this farm youth labor law which I am just as passionate about, that is the hubris of government believing that it can make better decisions in family matters than families can. How far will we allow government to reach into our lives? The Department of Labor thinks that by passing laws it can better protect children within their own families, yet the USDA wants pizza to have vegetable status. The question then becomes which of these two things is hurting more of our children? Each year hundreds of children are hurt or killed on farms but how many are being slowly killed of future heart disease and diabetes by the horrendous diets served to millions at our local public schools? How many children our we harming by restricting access to fresh air and physical activity? How many children are we dumbing down by continuously restricting them of every conceivable danger? How many laws will the government need to pass in order to keep our children safe? More importantly who is protecting them from perhaps well-meaning but terribly frightened adults?