Home
In this issue
December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 3, 2007 / 21 Tishrei 5768

Not even our parks are safe And I lay at least part of the blame on the cultural revolution and our obsession with the individual

By Rod Dreher


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Earlier this year, UNICEF reported that British children are the unhappiest in the industrialized world. In response, 270 academics, writers and child-development professionals signed a statement saying that aspects of modern life itself makes it hard for children simply to play. The list includes:


The ready availability of sedentary, sometimes addictive screen-based entertainment; the aggressive marketing of over-elaborate, commercialized toys (which seem to inhibit, rather than stimulate, creative play); parental anxiety about "stranger danger," meaning children are increasingly kept indoors; a test-driven school and preschool curriculum in which formal learning has substantially replaced free, unstructured play; and a more pervasive cultural anxiety which ... contaminates the space needed for authentic play to flourish.


Well, we don't watch much TV at our house. We forbid video games and don't let the kids spend much time on the computer. Relatives agreed not to give our young children expensive electronic toys for birthday or Christmas gifts. We have our school-age son in a school that doesn't put students at the mercy of constant assessment testing.


But parental and cultural anxiety? Oh, man, where to begin?


My wife and I live in a decent East Dallas neighborhood, and there's a playground right around the corner. But the day will never come when we let our kids go play there alone. In fact, the day will never come when we give them permission to play unsupervised on our front lawn.


Why not? For one thing, there are halfway houses for sex offenders in the general area, unsavory relics from our gentrified neighborhood's slum past. For another, stray dogs run loose. Sometimes we'll see dodgy older teenagers from someplace else walking the streets. And most of the people in our neighborhood are strangers to us.


And if we lived in a gated community in a well-off suburb, I would feel no different. A friend tells me about letting her young son go to a playmate's home. My friend discovered when her little boy came home that he'd seen an R-rated movie there, thanks to the playmate's older brother. "You just never know where it's going to come from nowadays," she said with a sigh.


This is not how I grew up in my small southern Louisiana town in the 1970s. It was far from paradise, but people knew each other, and they knew the rules. That is, community standards were broadly shared and enforced. My mom could be sure that other moms in town would be her proxy — and we kids knew that, too. There was safety and comfort in that. It was a good way to grow up.


That same sense of close-knit social relations felt suffocating to me as a teenager, though. I couldn't wait to leave town and follow my dreams. And so I did, going farther than my parents ever allowed themselves to imagine. Since I left home at 16, the longest I've lived at the same address was four years. Freedom and opportunity have made me a happy man.


Now, they have made me an anxious dad. The same cultural revolution that made my escape from the perceived confines of my small town possible — and enabled me to pursue my career and personal interests around the country — has helped make it impossible to let my children go unsupervised to the neighborhood playground.


What's the connection? Alan Ehrenhalt explains it in his 1995 book, The Lost City. It's about growing up in Chicago in the 1950s and the world of strong, safe neighborhoods that we've lost in the last four or five decades. Mr. Ehrenhalt, certainly no nostalgist, points out that all the good things people miss about the era — most of all, a sense of community — cannot be separated from the cultural conformity, lack of mobility and dearth of individual choice that contemporary Americans would find unacceptable.


Since the 1960s, American culture has been organized in an unprecedented way around the sovereign individual — and expanding choices to meet his desires. Liberals and conservatives buy into this model. Though they would draw lines in different places — liberals tend to exalt choice in sexual and familial relations; conservatives are keener on choice in economic matters — most Americans today have a basic philosophical stance that Mr. Ehrenhalt calls "the belief in individual choice and suspicion of any authority that might interfere with it."


When looking out for No. 1 becomes the basic social value for individuals, as well as corporations, traditional community becomes far more difficult to sustain. A community in the older understanding is far more than a group of people who happen to live in the same neighborhood. In traditional community, the shared moral sense of its members is embodied, enforced and passed on through institutions, customs and personal loyalties. This is unquestionably hard on rebels, outsiders and other individualists — and post-'60s American popular culture privileges the dissenters' stories.


Without that social authority, though, the everyday communal trust taken for granted two generations ago collapses. We are today living in the ruins and don't know how to get back what we've lost. Mr. Ehrenhalt's inconvenient truth: "There is no easy way to have an orderly world without somebody making the rules by which order is preserved. Every dream we have about re-creating community in the absence of authority will turn out to be a dream in the end."


A culture that exalts the individual and his tastes — and renounces any binding authority — undoes itself. We contemporary Americans all want to get to the heaven of a safe, wholesome and orderly world for our children to grow up in, but none of us want to die to ourselves to achieve it.


Given the economic structures and social habits of modernity, it's difficult to know if even those willing and eager to make personal sacrifices to gain real community could find a realistic opportunity to do so.


My friend Tom Kelly has lived in Washington all of his long life. During his Depression-era boyhood, families would escape the heat by sleeping under the stars in the public parks, everyone together, happy as clams. Can you imagine?


And here we are, wealthy and free beyond anything our grandparents could have conceived, but afraid to let our children go to the park on their own. How rich we have become, and how very poor.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


BUY THE BOOK
Click HERE to purchase it at a discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).

Comment by clicking here.

Rod Dreher is assistant editorial page editor of the Dallas Morning News and author of "Crunchy Cons" (Crown Forum).

PREVIOUSLY

08/22/07: The Decalogue, dangerous? Advice for a society that cringes at commandments
08/15/07: Playing the anti-science card
08/01/07: How the U.S. can avoid its own version of the fall of the Roman empire
07/24/07: Conservative author: Big business can be as dangerous a threat as big government
07/09/07: All quiet but the doleful pleas of a father who knows
06/28/07: When we let conspiracy theory masquerade as news, we fall prey to much more than deception
06/20/07: Stranded on Delta: They may love to fly, but it certainly doesn't show
06/13/07: When did conservatism start to mean never having to say you're sorry?
05/08/07: PBS darling gets abused by PC police
05/02/07: Impervious to beauty and deadened to depravity
04/20/07: What I know about being a loner
10/28/05: How the conservatives crumble

© 2007, The Dallas Morning News, Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles