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Safety Patrol


John Wright


My wife and I were "catching the news" this morning and a subject of interest was broadcast. A health policy doctor was extolling the virtues of a new system of data collection that will help multiple physicians know what a given patient has or has not experienced, in inoculations, prescriptions, etc. In short, a medical database will be developed at a national level to track our recorded medical events. Wow! Isnít that just great? It is like a handgun or a law Ö okay if used properly for the right purposes Ö and a disaster (in this case of very large magnitude) if used improperly. Do you want to guess various ways the medical database might be used beyond the stated purpose? Of course, the stated purpose throws all of us into the same incompetency bucket, so I guess we wonít have to think anymore about our past and current medical information. Uh, I wonder if the records will be accurate? If not, how do we know if we stop paying attention to the details of our medical lives personally (as we do now) Ö and who has the power to update the database with corrections if we decide the system is in error? Who will be believed? Have we citizens been given a gift or entitlement or have we been put at high risk in various ways?

The news show provoked a memory of a different time in my distant past. I reflected on the fundamental difference between a society of self-responsible, independent and basically free people picking and choosing how they would live, vs. a society of drones being told what to do and having ever fewer choices. This is mostly due to ever more restrictive laws and obtrusive agencies and mandatory social programs, advertised as "entitlements." The first society created individuals who were self-motivating and free to gain or lose according to their own decisions and choices. The second one creates individuals with little motivation to think or to act independently, indeed a society where independent thinking is punished or ignored. I searched briefly in my past for a tangible example that I could compare to the present time and present practices. I found a perfect example that demonstrates just how far down we have devolved from intelligently free to hyper controlled.

Did you ever hear about an elementary school program, titled "Safety Patrol?" Back in the 1950ís and earlier certain elementary school students were selected, based on performance and behavior, to execute traffic safety control for other elementary school students in the morning as students walked to school, and in the afternoon following dismissal. There were few to no school buses. The safety patrol children were taught a few simple rules about stopping traffic so that school children could cross streets safely. The safety patrol children wore white belts with badges to identify them, and they carried bamboo poles with flags on the end to use to signal the traffic to stop. Yes, the children would stand in the street and lower the flags in front of approaching traffic.

Oddly, we experienced no accidents whatsoever at any time during my six years of elementary school. Drivers obeyed with no problem. Students followed the rules they were taught whether they were part of the safety patrol or simply students dependent on the other "elementary school children!" And in areas beyond the first few blocks around the immediate school area there wasnít any safety patrol. The children had to cross numerous streets with traffic when it was safe to do so Ö as they determined based on their judgment which in turn was based on what they were taught (walk/donít walk lights didnít yet exist). The system worked just fine. It is most interesting to think about a society that gives significant responsibility to and has significantly high expectations of children between the ages of six and twelve. Now letís look at the present environment.

You drive down the street or road and approach an area that contains an elementary school, a middle school or a high school. Speed limit signs tell you to slow down to anywhere from 35 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour. You see no children crossing any street or road because they are using school buses or they are being discharged or picked up on school grounds by parents, or, there are walk/donít walk lights in use along with traffic signals. When dismissal buses later discharge children they have flashing lights that signal you to halt/stop until some or all of the children cross the road or leave the road area to the bus driverís satisfaction. Parents are often present at the bus stops to embark or to collect their children. Then the bus driver proceeds and turns off the signal lights so other traffic can also proceed. I wonder if the children are too uneducated or too mentally deficient to cross a street or a road without that interaction? Or are the automobile/truck drivers too irresponsible to keep an eye out for children crossing a street or road after leaving a plainly marked school bus? Why are the parents present? Why werenít they present when I was a child and our country operated with one income families? The "stay at home" moms could have chosen to shepherd their children. Why did they not do that?

Clearly major changes are evident in comparing the two different environments. Yet, if we experienced no traffic safety problems with the earlier environment of my childhood then why was the later environment created? Was it a good idea to use the new methods in certain very dangerous areas, that was then mindlessly extended to encompass all environments? What, pray tell, drove our society to declare elementary school children to be incompetent? Why do so many police haunt the areas with the reduced speed limits? Is it a real safety need?

Now letís segue to a related issue. When I was a child there were rare abductions of children for bad purposes. Those abductions still occur, around or external from the school environment. The numbers then and now were/are indeed extremely small. But if you look at the school bus environment and the police presence and the parental presence it is obvious that someone, somewhere decided that our children have somehow become greatly at risk of being abducted. Why? What is it other than implanted false fear that keeps our children indoors instead of playing outside as we did when we were children? Have more of our adults or older children become monsters? Why? Where is the proof? What level of permanent psychological damage have we done in undermining the intellectual and experiential development of our children in the name of the bogeyman?

If we can whine about our children showing little motivation to compete regarding education and later careers, can we at least look at possible causative factors? If our children are increasingly sedentary and obese (and they really are exactly that) there are reasons far beyond the existence of fast foods, TV and video games, and we are refusing to accept guilt and responsibility for the causes and the results. These problems simply did not exist fifty years ago. There is no physical reason for obesity and lack of self-driven purpose to exist more now than fifty years ago Ö yet it is an absurd undeniable reality. We are doing something terribly wrong and refusing to own up to the fact.

My thesis is that loss of freedoms and self-responsibilities leads to a society of drones Ö damned useless drones opposite what other nations are producing in their offspring in learning in general and especially in terms of competence to face life anywhere on the globe successfully. The USA has devolved as an expected byproduct of excessive control of the citizens by the government. There are high and unfounded levels of fear in the citizenry produced by control oriented government functionaries, aimed at reducing resistance to excessive laws and excessive control.

Safety patrol? A child can do it, safely. Excessive governmental control? Look around you at what we have become. Do you even realize to what extent we have devolved, and why? How many of you can even remember freedom and individual choice? How many of you are not intimidated by the thought of Social Services showing up at your door, and possibly taking your children from you based on any accusation of abuse or neglect? Recognize the source of this lying, deceiving "caring culture" and reject it massively.