I started telling people or I should say I would tell anyone, who would take the time to listen that our children were headed for a horrific future. I remember mentioning we would see depression/suicide rates and heavy drug use like never before. I didn’t say heroin, as drugs go through cycles. Heroin’s heavy use and popularity on the streets will eventually diminish and be replaced by some other garbage. I have been watching the drugs come and go for the past 1/2 century. My predictions and warnings to people began 20 years ago in the late 1990s. People were telling me I was crazy, a downer. “Don’t you have anything good to say about our kids. You’re so negative! Why would you ever say something so horrible about our children?!”
I’ve never been someone who argues. Arguing many times leads to something negative like hurt feelings or violence. Heck, I use to be the “Violence Prevention Educator” in the Brockton Public Schools. I always found it sad to think that it was necessary to teach anti-violence in our schools. I guess, this was a strong indicator that our society was very “sick”. An anti-gang program was piloted in my classroom over a 1/4 century ago back in 1991. Watching the news over the last 30 years demonstrates to me that we aren’t getting any better. We just keep getting “sicker”.
It was easy to see all this coming by the late ’90s. I would simply answer, “If you lived my personal life and you lived my professional life it’s easy to see what’s coming for our children. It looks like a charging out of control locomotive coming down on us with the whistle blowing and lights flashing. I hope I’m wrong. I pray I’m wrong.” Unfortunately, here we are.
During my 35 year career in public education, I worked in rural, suburban, and urban settings. With 3 teaching certifications and a graduate degree I had the opportunity to be a classroom teacher in elementary schools, classroom teacher in junior high schools (now referred to as middle schools), and also taught at the high school level. I coached track at both the junior high and senior high level, was a director at a resident camp in NH, worked at day camps, and was involved with children in other capacities.
Withdrawal became my crutch as a child to deal with turmoil and trauma. I did not withdraw to my room but went deeper and deeper into the woods. It was my escape, my refuge. Experiencing nature in solitude was my sanctuary and my way to cope.
In the 1980s the “perfect storm” was created in our society. Certain people and our government officials thought it was cruel and unusual punishment to lock certain people up. Technology was advancing at an accelerated rate and we began tracking people with ankle bracelets and registering them with computers so we could monitor their activity. We started opening up the doors of our institutions and eventually closed many of them. It certainly didn’t take a genius to figure how this might effect our innocent little children. Kids have NO RIGHTS and NO VOTE. Quite frankly our kids were “sold out” by our government officials. Horrific events began in short order for our young people.
I remember in our little town of Kingston when a 12 year old girl was missing for days and eventually found savagely murdered. The murderer was a former psychiatric patient now living next door. That horrible incident happened some 30 years ago and every time I turn on the news there seems to be another poor innocent child becoming another victim. The ’80s brought all kinds of psychologically unbalanced individuals living amongst us.Our children started being watched and hovered over by their parents and other caregivers. Being outside and in nature was becoming absent from our children’s lives. The government was responsible for our children losing their FREEDOM. After school programs, summer camps, day camps, organized sports programs, “play dates” and all this organized control of our kids began. They were removed from the natural world and the backwoods became off limits it seemed almost overnight. All its solace, its wonders and mysteries gone from their lives. There was no longer a connection with “Mother Earth”. Gone!
My first marathon was run in 1978 and by the early ’80s I was running 3 marathons a year. Most of my training was off road through paths in the woods and dirt roads. People ask me all the time, if I’m still running after all these years. “How are your knees?” My knees are fine, but I can’t run anymore at my age. I jog now. Anyone with a brain should realize you weren’t made to run on pavement or concrete. It just made sense to me that it would be better physically and for my knees to run on soft ground, plus psychologically it’s very therapeutic and more natural to run through the woods chasing rabbits than contending with drunks on the road.
No longer did I see children in the woods playing imaginary creative games, climbing trees, building forts, catching frogs, fishing, skating on the frozen ponds or swimming in summer. It was sad to witness all this joy vanishing from our children’s lives. I was totally alone now running in the woods “free as a bird” while our wonderful, frightened, untrusting children were trapped behind 4 walls. I haven’t seen a kid alone in the woods now for decades. The last time I saw a child climb a tree must be at least 30 years ago. People seemed to fear the “Boogie Man” out there. The thing is I haven’t found him yet after all these years searching. I’m in the woods every day walking or jogging with my dog, Otis, who can sniff out anything. We keep looking behind those big old white pines and in caves, but no luck. I hiked from Georgia to Maine in 2008 and now am sectioning back to Georgia and not once have I even seen a glimpse of this character. There doesn’t seem to be anything out in those woods to fear, no bigfoot, wolves, or lions. In fact, I think being in the “middle of no where” may possibly be safer than any street corner in America!
At the same time this was happening technology was marching into our homes. The first video games appeared on our kids TV screens in the ’80s. Remember “Pac-Man”, “The Mario Brothers” and the rest? It was the beginning of the “storm” and the beginning of major problems for our young people. The physical problems were easy to see a decade later. Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, a foreign disease just a generation ago came upon us. Now 1/3 of our children are obese and Type 2 Diabetes is now the fastest growing disease in America.
What about the mental and emotional damage being done to our children living this life style? After 20 years of talking to myself about what was coming, it seems a lot of people are beginning to listen and telling me I make a lot of sense…We need to help our children “unplug!!!