Somebody vouchsafed an ‘interesting’ idea in the paper the other day: He suggested that for a host of reasons it might be a good idea for children to start walking to and from school instead of being driven by parents.
What a revolutionary and indeed retrograde comment. Children walk? Children who live more than a block from their classroom actually applying a little bit of ‘shank’s mare’ (as my granny used to call it)?
In all seriousness, I applaud the idea and I have been for years trying to get my head around why children are ferried back and forth. I mean, I know they are. I live a mere block away from an elementary school and I see the vehicles plying the roads to drop them off in the morning and then pick them up in the afternoon.
These are elementary kids from the neighborhood and I’ll bet none of them live more than a half-mile distant from the school.
In ‘my day’ (I find I say that a lot of late) we all walked (mainly dawdled as we were in no rush to arrive) we walked one-and-one-tenth mile to school and one-and-one-tenth mile from school each and every day regardless of weather. And since that was back in pre-climate change days we had (I like to think) almost incessant blizzards from September to June. But, we did it and I (and many of my peers) survived to tell the tale.
But wait, there’s more. As I look at an old class photo (the one shown is fourth grade, see if you can find me. The teacher, by the way, was a complete asshole) there ain’t a fat kid in the lot. We was too po’ to be fat. No, really, we ate OK. We actually ate pretty healthfully compared with today. It was just that we walked everywhere we wanted to go. And when school was done, we had ‘chores’ – really kids. Ask Mom and Dad what chores were – and then we just fooled around physically; played games; played sandlot sports; hiked, rode our bikes far away sometimes. Once when I was about 12 a gang of us rode our bikes to the US border (about 25 miles distant) and we were chagrined when they wouldn’t let a bunch of 12-year-olds across. Bloody Yanks. So, we rode home again.
The point being, we didn’t loll about inside watching TV. It would be decades before video games were to show up – wanna play a game, play Monopoly. There was no texting and there was a party-line land-line phone. Our lives weren’t sedentary.
And, as we were kids we had no money so we didn’t gorge out on crap. We got ‘meals’ and sometimes a snack after school. “Have some celery with cheese, Junior, it’s good for you! And that’s it until supper. You want pop? What is it, your birthday?” So, hence the picture with the paucity of fat kids. Slim kids who walked to school.
Of course, some diligent parents drive their kids because they are of the belief that the streets are crawling with perverts and other evil people dead set on harming their youngsters. Well, there were perverts and evil people throughout history and that’s sort of called ‘life and its risks’. Read Tom Sawyer and know that way back Tom and Huck ran into some pretty evil dudes, including Huck’s drunken old man.
“Don’t talk to strangers,” we were warned, and that was about it. Oh, and “Don’t play with pointed sticks, you’ll put somebody’s eye out.” Never did know anybody who got his eye put out by a pointed stick.
And when school beckoned in its ghastly way, we walked.