Thursday, April 21, 2005

Kids and After-school Time: Filling the Void

Articles like these piss me off.

"There's a three-hour-or-so slice of late afternoon that puzzles me: the hours after school lets out and before the family gathers for dinner.
What are kids supposed to do during this time, anyway? "

The article starts off innocent enough, but really it is trying to create a problem where none exists, in my opinion. Kids are kids and should be kids, not some version of an adult that works just as much as adults do. I have met those people who have grown up way to busy and way to driven to do something, in some cases i have traced back the disorder to the early childhood years.

"We call them latchkey kids. The term derives from the image of young children carrying house keys on strings around their necks or in their pockets. When school ends, they make their way home alone and let themselves into an empty house. What they do after that is between them and the cat.
Bad stuff happens
The Christian Science Monitor says juvenile crime peaks during the after-school hours. And according to a report from the National Safe Kids Campaign, 4.5 million children are injured in their homes every year, most of them kids who are unsupervised after school.

Personally, I don't need numbers. I picture a child between the ages of 6 and 12 coming home alone, and instantly my mind fills with catastrophic images. This can't be any parent's preferred choice. There must be a better solution. But whose problem is it, anyway? "

Me too....No not really. The only reason that you cannot stand your child having free time (or free choice) is because you are a controlling liberal mother. I actually do not know if this person is a woman or not, but as an experiment i am going to check the name of the author. (tick, tick, tick) I am back. Well I was wrong. It is a guy who "is author of the critically acclaimed memoir West of Kabul, East of New York and 38 nonfiction books for children."

On to the next assumption...Raising images of kids committing crimes and kids getting injured is a good way to force feed your next suggestion down the throats of parents. I have not read any further than the first page, but I am willing to bet that he might suggest the government getting involved.

"In short, keeping kids happy and safe after school is a problem that applies to every type of parent, including minimum-wagers, part-timers, full-time wage earners, salaried professionals, entrepreneurs, independent consultants, or people in business for themselves. "

He did not quite drop the miracle idea on the second page, but he did spend the time talking about after school care and its problems.

"Part III: What kids want

If after-school care is a national need, like clean air and good highways, do we need a national after-school program?

America is already bristling with after-school programs, including mom-and-pop private operations, community centers, church programs, and on-site school programs, funded by various government entities such as school districts, cities, and counties; not to mention various national franchises like the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Girls Inc."

Damn I am good, but as I am reading he starts to move in a different direction.

"Kids weigh in

I didn't trust my own opinion, so I decided to ask some experts. I called some 9- to 11-year-olds across the country and asked them questions like, "What do you do right after school? How do you like it? How would you change your routine?" "

He asks kids what they want and he discovers that the kids have no complaints and discovers that most of them are very happy with their life as it stands now.

"No complaints
Since I already knew what I thought, I just waited with pen poised to hear it from the kids: "Too much empowerment! Please--not another drop of enrichment!"

I never heard that. Kids who had programs liked them. They wouldn't change a thing. Kids who went home after school and vegetated treasured that opportunity. They wouldn't change a thing. Some kids had activities five days a week and lived on clockwork schedules. They didn't mind: They were living a life they'd chosen. "

He then discovers what children do when they are bored. Watch TV!!! The same thing grown adults do. He then spends some time demonizing the TV. He calls TV "The real after-school menace ".

"It took ten-year-old Zoe Ching to reveal to me the full extent of my addiction.

"I used to watch TV all the time," she told me. "I would try to do my homework in front of the TV, during the commercials. But you can't really get your homework done during commercials, there isn't enough time.

Finally one day my parents said, no more TV on weekdays. I freaked out. I thought, ‘No more Nick? What? Not even Disney? How could they do this to me?' I thought my life was over. "Every day I missed TV. All day. I used to practice piano in the same room with it, and I couldn't stop looking over. I just stared at my TV with longing. If my mom went out of the room, I'd turn it on for a second. I used to hold the remote control and say, 'Oh, you remote control, I miss you soooo much!'

"But after a couple of weeks, I stopped missing it so much. I got happy. I wasn't bored anymore. Suddenly I realized I had TONS of time to do stuff I wanted, like crafts projects, like making things out of clay, like sports. In fact, without TV I was less bored, and happier.

"But when I was given the privilege of watching it again for a whole week, I watched it the whole week. If TV is there, you stare at TV. After a while you get really bored, because there's nothing good on, so you turn it off and say ‘Now what should I do?' But your brain isn't in practice to do anything else, so you just go back to the TV."

Her account chilled me because I recognized myself in it so clearly. Which brings me back to the latchkey kids. The risks for them can be minimized. Most of them won't commit crimes, get hurt, or plunge into drugs. They'll just watch TV.

But that's a good enough reason to wish for better. Don't get me wrong. I'd hate to see a national after-school program. Let a hundred flowers bloom, I say.

But parents who need after-school care for their kids shouldn't have to scramble and search like they do now. Good options should be just as available as schools, I think. Parents don't ask for all that much, really: Safety is the main thing. Kids don't demand much either, poor little tykes: Toys, friends, and freedom from obligations just about covers it.

That shouldn't be so hard to arrange, should it? "

See i knew he would get to it...Eventually. He has shown that children are happy when they do not stay at home watching TV through nice sweet stories. He then seemly grudgingly comes down on the side of a national after school program. What he fails to point out is that a every single person, whether they have children or not, whether their children come home or not, will have to pay for that after school program. As it stands now, their is plenty of opportunities for children to participate in after school programs, by the authors OWN admission.

Why he is suggesting the federal government step in, is quite unclear.


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