Life at ‘Risk’ — Those Barbaric Eighties

Samuel_Dixon_NiagaraThe seventies and eighties were an interesting period to grow up in; public schools had started the transition from their fifties and sixties philosophies of operating to what they are today, video games had started out as a simple, two-color graphics novelty, home computer memory was still mostly measured in kilobytes, and broken bones were commonplace.

Throughout my time in grade school, junior high and high school, there were several Monday mornings when someone would arrive at school wearing a cast that wasn’t covering some limb the previous Friday. Of course, injuries had also occurred during the week, but there were more opportunities to engage in activities during the weekends which could result in a trip to the emergency room. When these accidents did happen, nobody paid much attention, since the possibility of falling prey to an accident was an acceptable risk. Everyone lined-up to sign a new cast as if it were a get-well card.

As the eighties were drawing to a close, more attention was being given to the horrors of child abuse. Since children who are the victims of abuse have been thrown into a series of cruel circumstances that they do not deserve, this attention was welcomed. Unfortunately, this was also a time when the exercise of personal discretion by children and adults was starting to be discouraged.

Zero-tolerance policies, or the beginning of the anti-discretion movement, had arrived. Supposedly, the intention of the zero-tolerance mentality is to address deviant behavior that may create repeat offenders and possibly multiple victims if left unaddressed. Thanks to these rigid policies – and the move to discourage “unsafe” behavior, such as playing on playground equipment that some bureaucrats and child psychiatrists had deemed unsafe, loving parents are sometimes treated as though they are child abusers if some accident were to occur.

When one of my nephews was around two years-old, he had run into a corner of a coffee table, causing him to cut his forehead. Right after this incident had happened, I accompanied him and my sister to the hospital. While he was being stitched-up, the doctor was asking my sister – who was still understandably shaken by the incident, the usual questions about what had happened. Near the end of his questioning, the doctor started to imply that my sister was a child abuser. With the courtroom charm of an ambulance-chasing lawyer, he all but accused her of deliberately hurting her son. Needless to say, these accusations had shaken her up even more; imagine bringing your son or daughter to an emergency room after an accident – only to be told that you are an abusive parent – but we can’t prove it.

Since my only visit to an emergency room as a child was at age twelve for an appendectomy, I’m not sure how long that this ER interrogation policy has been around.

No, I am not suggesting that possible cases of child abuse go unchecked, but just like police officers who gain vast experience by constantly interacting with people, almost all of the doctors whom I’ve met are good judges of character. By not exercising discretion and treating all parents as though they intentionally hurt their children, the needs of real victims of abuse are minimized, and possibly overlooked.

Watching small children is almost a full-time job; almost every story about a youngster causing mischief starts with “I turned away for one second….” As children grow, so does their inquisitive nature. Somehow, this natural, genetic programming of little humans now appears to contradict a formulaic mentality embraced by bureaucrats and educators – not all, just the ones who believe that real-world experience, or discretion, is rendered obsolete by gaining enough classroom and textbook experience.

Part of this textbook mentality states that children should be isolated from activities that may cause stress, such as injuries or losing at sports.

About the author: Chuck Gruenwald

Born in Chicago and raised in northwest suburban Cook County, Chuck Gruenwald developed an unfavorable opinion of machine politics quite early in life. In addition to cars, electronics, law enforcement, and politics, Chuck enjoys writing, and is also a horse racing fan. He has recently written op-eds for uncommonshow.com

View all articles by Chuck Gruenwald

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