30 May 2011

Get the Hell Away From My Children

My son brought this home from school the other day. He showed it to be with a smile and said "Daddy... I think you better put this on your website..."

Clever boy. By and large I have faith in the Danish education system. My boy goes to a good school and has brilliant teachers. Once in a while, however, they let people from the wrong side of the rationality tracks into the classroom. Without me, the parent, knowing about it or allowing me to choose if I want my children to particpate.

Denmark is largely a secular nation. Only 7% attend church in Copenhagen. When my son started going to school, however, I was rather amazed to hear that they were led down the street to church on occasion. So much for separating church and state. Now, he let's me know when it will happen and I take him to the Zoological Museum or the Science Museum to talk about Darwin and/or science instead - when work allows me to.

It's the same thing with this ridiculous reflective vest that was handed out to his class recently. Without any prior knowledge, some safety freaks from something called Børneulykkefonden - something like Childrens Accident Foundation in English - were allowed in the classroom.

They handed out reflective vests and flyers to the children. The headline on the flyer reads "It's Cool to be Seen in the Traffic". The text starts out with the bold claim that "Reflective vests save lives".

The funny thing is that there is very little scientific evidence that backs up this claim. One study from Norway is all they're basing their claim on. One study.

They go on to say that you should always wear a vest in the dark, the rain and in fog. Which is basically 7 months of the year in Denmark.

Seriously. This is what this little flock of worryworts wants. That everyone wears reflective vests.

250,000 years of Homo sapiens and now THESE ridiculous people are flogging their personal perception of fear to MY children.

These are the poster children for The Culture of Fear. These are the people society at large should be wary of. Together with The Danish Road 'Safety' Council (Rodet for Sikker Panik), this group of unelected safety nannies are allowed free access to society so that they can preach their fears. All so neo-religious. All so North Korean.

Regarding my son, he has great humour and knew that this reflective vest thing would be right down my alley. However, it's not all flippant. We have great conversations about safety and traffic and I try to be as balanced as possible when I try to explain the mentality of these safety nannies and why indepedent thought, based on experience and research, is more important than a little group of communication consultants vainly attempting to project their personal fear on the population at large.

Nowhere on the website for this little Borneulykkesfonden.dk website is there a call for lower speed limits, fewer cars on the streets, switching short trips to the bicycle or anything remotely rational and positive for society. Just the usually scaring people off of bikes and attempting to wrap citizens in bubble wrap while blatantly ignoring the bull. They are merely spokespeople for a car-centric society. Together with the rest of the Fear Culture Safety Brigade we should send them to a remote island with suits like these:

I spoke with a teacher who teaches a 7th grade class a month or so ago. She had given the students the task to research bike helmets. They all agreed that the only reason some of them wore them was because "their parents told them to". The teacher told them to research the subject thoroughly, looking at science and other sources and to reach their OWN conclusion. That's it. Nothing more said.

She told me that the conclusion made by these students was that here in Denmark - where they've from - there was little reason to wear or promote bike helmets and that their parents knew little about the subject.

What thrills me is that this cool teacher gave these 7th graders a task in independent thought, research and collective decision-making. Whatever the outcome of their project, independent thought was the winner at the end of the day.

And independent thought and rationality will defeat the Safety Nannies. Until then, stay the hell away from my children.