New York Times, November 11, 2007
Letter in response to Times Editorial: “Childhood for Dummies” (Nov. 4, 2007)
To the Editor:
You make the necessary point that “The Dangerous Book for Boys” presents childhood things — like making snowballs, hiking in the woods and skipping stones — as technical skills they need to be taught.
Moreover, the book advises that many such childhood adventures, like climbing trees, are so risky that they must be supervised by an adult.
But your hope that “the trend dies out before the next book” misses the essential point that makes this book and its spinoffs so popular: children are no longer allowed — and thus need to be instructed — to do what used to come naturally.
Much is lost with the absence of experiences like tree-climbing, wandering around in the woods and taking public transportation. Many children no longer grow up with the self-confidence, independence and often the competencies to manage major areas of their lives — with often disastrous mental health and addictive consequences.
Chatham, N.J., Nov. 4, 2007
The writer, an adjunct professor of psychology at New School for Social Research, is the author of a book about children and addiction.