Walking to school

Few children walk or bicycle to school any more. Even among kids who live within a mile of school, only 31 percent get to school under their own power. Parents are too fearful; backpacks are too heavy. Kevin Drum and Russell Arben Fox talk about the change.

I started walking to school on the first day of kindergarten. Moms didn’t escort us, much less drive us. Of course, the sidewalks were filled with other baby boomer kids and the mothers were home with baby boomer babies. Nobody carried a backpack either. Textbooks — we didn’t use many — usually stayed at school. Homework was copied from the blackboard or handed out as a work sheet.

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  1. Bob Diethrich says:

    I am 38. I went to a small Catholic school about a mile off of our hill. My Mom would drop us off but we would walk home, (including dreaded Cable Avenue which was like Mt. Everest to six year old legs)

    We were briefed about talking to strangers, not accepting rides etc. and we grew up alright. We always walked in pairs at least and we were constantly vigilant.

    A friend of mine, who lived in a somewhat nicer neighborhood talks about how most of them got off the bus and then had between and eighth of a mile to a mile walk.

    ON rainy days a few of the parents would pick up their kids a the bus stop. Get this! Those kids were then mocked and ridiculed as babies by their walkign peers. In fact Tim and his sister told their parents not to pick them up!

    Can you imagine the scene today? SUVS and Chevy Blazers would be lined up if there was a cloud in the sky, and my friend’s parents would have undoubtedbly been charged with child abuse.

  2. We didn’t have heavy books to carry until high school, and even then the loads were small compared to what my daughter has. Mostly because the math book was about math, not “the first woman to wipe her nose” or whatever, so it was a lot smaller.

    I don’t remember stories like poor little Carlie Bucia’s, either. Our parents weren’t getting the pants scared off them every time they picked up a newspaper.

  3. I walk my daughter to school daily, except on rainy days (we live 1 mile away) because I don’t want my two year old out with us in the rain. I do not trust her to walk alone because we cross a major roadway and it would be too easy to have someone snatch her. She is in first grade and even though we have talked about strangers and what to do, watching the horror in Florida is enough to make me do all I can to keep her safe.

  4. Celisa,

    > is enough to make me do all I can to keep her safe.

    With all due respect–and I’m the parent of 4, so I’ve been there–no matter how hard you try, you are _not_ going to be able to protect your children from every possible misfortune. Reasonable precautions against specific and appropriate hazards (e.g. she may be too young to cross the major roadway safely) are one thing, but the “all I can do to keep here safe” attitude can easily lead to excess (e.g. will you still be escorting her when she’s in seventh grade?) Hopefully “all I can do” was just a bit of hyperbole on your part.

    Oh, in case you didn’t know–they do sell rain gear in sizes that fit 2-year-olds.

  5. Here you are not allowed to let your child walk to school. You must personally deliver them and sign them in. You can’t send them in a cab. You can’t send them on a city bus. They can’t walk with an older sibling or a neighbor. It’s impossible.

    That’s why my daughter did not attend last year. My SO would have had to quit his job to sign her in and out of school as she couldn’t be dropped off 15 minutes early so he could be to work on time either. (I was pregnant and on strict bed rest so could not handle the transportation.) Of course, this would have left us homeless.

    I don’t know how anyone can hold a job and be late every day to sign kids in and then leave two hours early to sign them out again. The answer is you can’t.

    Now that we’ve started homeschooling, we aren’t likely to stop so I don’t care anymore but I know a lot of single mothers who can’t work around the school schedules and keep a job.

  6. My sister’s neighbor told her that she had strange children.
    Because they actually played outside in the backyard.
    On the other hand, she still walks or drives her 12 year to school because – you know – children are being kidnapped left and right everyday.

    The information age is great-truly a wonderment; yet the Amber alerts for one child across the nation inevitably lead to the perception that it occurs more often in every locale than it actually does.

    From the age of six I walked to school. It wasn’t far, maybe 6 city blocks. In the mid 60s and into the 70s, the statistics for crime were much higher than they are today.
    News travels faster now and is repeated endlessly. I’m also now afraid of the deadly air in my living room and the approaching thunderstorm, not to mention the killer blinds on my windows. Cheers.

  7. Walter Wallis says:

    Back then, it took about 6 months to try, convict and gas anyone who messed with kids – then Marlon Brando and his Hollywood asshole buddies paraded for Carl Chessman and to remove the death penalty for kidnapping with bodily harm.
    I would rather take the responsibility for an occasional erroneous execution than for letting killers loose to prey again.

  8. When I was in young, every day I walked to and from school through 2 feet of snow. And it was uphill … both ways!

    Oh wait … that was my father!

  9. I also rode my bike to school for 5rd through 7th grades, as well as took buses and the streetcar for grades 8th through 11th. I think that the act of getting oneself to school is a great way of fostering independance in a youngster. Granted, these ares some time bad neighborhoods or too distant schools make this an impossibility, but if those aren’t issues, I think that it’s a great idea. Similar to this thread’s theme is the paucity of kids playing football on the street, riding their bikes over the whole neighborhood, and just wandering around the neighborhood with their friends. Kids afternoons now seem to be filled with organized sports and video games which are both great, but there’s been a dramatic drop in unorganized play and sensible independance allowed for today’s kids.The effects from the dearth of kids playing outside and riding their bikes to school, I’m worried that we’re raising a generation too removed from the joyous outdoor unstructured freedoms that will eventually help make for a happier self-reliant adult.

  10. Yeah, this is one of my pet peeves too. Difference is, I had school at 9:00 AM (g1-g12), and an hour for lunch (for which I walked home for as well). And it was slightly less than a mile, one-way.

    Maybe that’s why I wasn’t obese growing up? Getting in almost 4 miles in a day had to have some effect.

  11. I walked to school every day until I started junior high (they call it middle school now). I grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood full of Cuban immigrants in Miami. I used to walk about seven blocks to the elementary school; my father was a teacher, but he taught at a junior high across town and so had to leave early, and we only had the one car. In any case, there was never a problem, until I started riding my bike to school. Then occasionally I fell down and skinned my knees (we didn’t have to wear kneepads and helmets in the seventies — in fact, we had never heard of them, and the idea would have seemed ludicrous). I had to take the bus to junior high, though, because it was more than a mile away. (Forced busing to prevent segregation, you know.)

  12. Wacky Hermit says:

    Echoing Bob B.’s sentiments:
    My husband does an excellent Filipino version of the “30 miles uphill both ways in the snow” speech, that makes his relatives just scream with laughter. It goes something like this (imagine it with a thick Filipino accent):

    “When I was a child, we walked many-many-miles to get to school. And we did not eat lunch; we walked many-many-miles back, and we had to work in the pields growing rice. And then we went back to school, and after that we walked many-many-miles home again and worked in the pields after school. And we did not have no Reebok. We wore coconut shells on our feet for shoes!”

    The saddest thing is, everything in it is actually true, except for the many-many-ness of the miles, and possibly the coconut shoes. Kids have no idea what people all over the world will go through to get an education. Those little minority vignettes in the textbooks don’t really inspire, but the true stories of people who sought education to advance their lives do.

  13. Jodi Miller says:

    I will do what ever i can to keep my children safe.It is my job to protect them.I take my son to school every day.I walk him in to his classroom.I pick him up at the end of the day.I walk to his room and wait for the bell.When i can’t do this,my mother does it.As long as there are sick people in this world,and there will always be.I will do what i feel is right.We live in a small town.The crime rate is really low,but you can never be to carefull.I know i may not always be there to protecr them from everything. But seeing what happen to that little girl i sure will try a lot harder.It is a sad thing you havr to warn your children about other people,but the fact is you do.I will not send my kids to school,or to the bus stop alone.If i feel it is unsafe,i will do this when they are in the tenth grade if i feel the need.I will tell them of the horror’s of this world,and teach not to talk to strangers,accept rides,ect,ect,ect, But that’s not the best i can do,and i will do nothing lower than the best.

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  15. Misty Dechert says:

    I am an 18 year old high school student trying to finish my senior year in school. As I get older I feel that parents are not stoping to think about some of the things that they do or don’t do to protect their children. When I am driving around town I see six and seven year old children walking aroud town with out an adult there to protect them. I feel that at that age children can not deal with things that the out side world holds. My friends call be up tight because I believe parents should still walk their kids to and from school. Am I wrong to think this?