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Adrian Crook photo
Adrian Crook’s story of being investigated by the Ministry of  Children and Family Development  for allowing his four kids aged 7 to 11 to travel independently  together on the bus has gained traction globally, even appearing on the BBC Newswire.   Naomi Buck of the Globe and Mail asks the obvious question, which I believe is also the tipping point-how did we ever get to the point that someone would object to kids using a city bus to get to school?  If we are looking at making transit good for everyone, doesn’t it mean that includes kids too? How did we ever get to a place where it was felt that there was some danger in kids using buses? How did public transit ever get the “not safe for children” label?
Mr. Crook who is the Dad behind the “5 kids 1 condo” blog has been told by the Province that “children under the age of 10 cannot be unsupervised “in the community, at home, or on transit” and a child under 12 cannot be responsible for younger kids without an adult present.”  Um. Isn’t that an adult driving the bus? While we talk about families that drive their kids a few blocks to school because of unnamed dangers, here’s an individual that practiced riding on the bus with his children to build up their independence and sense of autonomy.  And it’s not only the children’s freedom to use the bus that is at stake-the ruling precludes the logic and good citizenlike behaviour of every other transit user on the bus. The ruling makes the bus and its users appear as an  unfriendly place inhabited by unsavory adults.
As Ms. Buck observes “Defining when a child is safe to be left unattended is an arbitrary exercise, dependent entirely on the child, the parent, the circumstance. Only three provinces have set a legal minimum age – in Manitoba and New Brunswick it is 12, in Ontario, 16 – while the Canada Safety Council states that children under 10 should never be left alone at home.”   But every parent knows that kids can demonstrate the maturity at an early age to accomplish independent tasks once those tasks are practiced. Taking a city bus to school for instance.
Similar issues about children’s independence and age are happening in Australia. Parents in a town in Queensland  have been warned for allowing children under twelve years of age to walk or ride to school without “proper” supervision. You can get up to three years in jail for that. Here’s the funny part-that supervision extends to the bus stop where the child picks up transit to go to school. Apparently once you are on a transit bus, the supervision is okay.
Here’s a YouTube video from Mr. Crook’s blog of his kids taking transit to and from school.

 

Comments

  1. I feel strongly about this. I donated $50 two days ago.
    Of course the focus of this blog is on transit and planning, and this is a clear illustration of what transit means for the mobility of the large segment of the population who cannot drive – and perhaps even more for the mobility of those around them.
    But I think we are fundamentally asking the wrong question. The question should not be whether these kids should ride the bus. Honestly, that’s a relatively trivial matter (about on par with deciding how to balance convenience, nutrition and flavour of kids’ foods). No, as this post’s title implies, the real question is who decides.
    Being a parent is just about the biggest job and the biggest responsibility that one can have. Parents need to make constant judgement calls, balancing needs, unknowns and outcomes with the knowledge that every time we do something, we model it for our kids. Our primary role for them is not friendship: it is leadership.
    Responsibility is not about making the right choices. It is not about outcomes: it is about how we come to decisions under conditions that are never optimal, where there are always unknowns and trade-offs. This is probably the only time I will ever call out to Friedrich Hayek, but no-one is in a better position to do that than parents. Even poor parents are almost always better than the alternatives. We have the most information, the best understanding, the greatest motivation, the clearest view of our errors, and the commitment to stick around and deal with the consequences. Even though our judgements are frequently less than perfect, we are the best people for the job.
    Micromanagement is the quickest way to undermine responsible leadership and responsible parenting. Part and parcel of responsibility comes the freedom to make mistakes. The two are inseparable. If you aren’t permitted to screw up, then you are not responsible. Full stop. If parents are not permitted to be responsible for their decisions, then they are not permitted to be parents. Infantilize the parents and you infantilize the children. This is just about the worst thing we can do to our kids.
    Only in extreme cases (and maybe not even then) should government micromanage parenting decisions. In my view, bureaucracy has no business deciding whether these kids (or any kids) should take the bus. The only question they should ask is whether the father is fit to make that judgement. Not whether the bureaucrats agree with his choice, not whether the outcome was positive: only whether whether he is capable of making the call. If not, then the next question is whether taking the kids away from their parent would really do more good than harm (again, based not on this decision, but only on his capacity to be responsible). Otherwise, there is nothing for them to do. Nor should they be criticized if something bad happens. Because it is not their responsibility. It is his.

    1. P.S.: There is in fact something more that government can do. Government can (and does) support parenting through healthy communities, education, and so forth. If there is concern about kids taking transit, then the solution is not kicking kids off buses or telling them to stay home in front of screens: it is to make transit safer, help kids take it safely, and offer healthy alternatives for kids to get where they are going.
      If there were a real problem, I would expect to see efforts in this direction. I don’t. There is only the sledgehammer. Proof that the father is right: the whole business is an insincere instance of virtue signalling and CYA.

      1. An important post, Sandy, on the potential to become a true Nanny State and satiate the neo-con justification to elect someone to deconstruct social programs, and an outstanding commentary Geof.

      2. I’m under the impression that the constitution guarantees the rights of parents in regards to raising their children. Maybe there’s enough here for a constitutional challenge.

  2. When Geof says, “But I think we are fundamentally asking the wrong question.”, He is correct. More importantly, there’s a lot of right questions not being asked. Why is it NOT OK for kids to take take the bus by themselves to school? Two striking details in the coverage stick out .
    The complainant was anonymous, someone likely without situational knowledge and who probably did not meaningfully engage with the children, no doubt out of self interest to not be perceived and reported as a potential child predator by yet another anonymous “good Samaritan”, “looking out for the kids”.
    The Ministry declined to interview the children to get their perspective and properly guage their maturity. If anyone’s judgment needs to be examined, it should be the Ministry’s. They do not exactly have the best track record in protecting children mandated under their care as is.

    From the annals of walking uphill both ways in chest deep snow as a child, here is my story. As a 6 year old in the early 70s, I walked alone to and from school early into Grade One, by myself or with my classmates. It was a mere 4 blocks and in Kamloops, but I was six! btw: it was uphill one way and no one worried.
    At 10, in the late 70’s we moved to Argentina; not an entirely safe place, especially as a pedestrian (cross road at your peril)! This was not Japan ( see “Why Are Little Kids in Japan So Independent “, https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2015/09/why-are-little-kids-in-japan-so-independent/407590/ ).
    By age 11, once I learnt Spanish and my way around in a foreigh land, I would travel by bus, subway and commuter rail on a 18km, 90 minute trip with my 8yr old brother in tow to and from school, alone. I would go to the stores, to friend’s house miles away (bus, train, subway) etc. all on my own and without a map or a cellphone! Again, no one worried.
    At 12, a change to a boarding school and home meant every 4 weeks I now took a bus, train, subway, train and plane, with my brother in tow on a 1300 km trip. Unsupervised and figured out on my own. No one worried or was surprised.
    There were times I got lost or felt concern, but I was prepared and knew what to do. I am grateful to my parents for how they brought me up, the trust and independence they instilled in me and especially the experiences I gained. I turned out all right.
    No doubt the deck is highly stacked against Mr. Crook, but every right minded individual should be standing up and challenging society, asking what is wrong that these children, and all children, can not go to and from school unaccompanied? How many ways have we failed Mr. Crook, his and all the other kids, and each other?
    Kudos to Mr. Crook for creating no doubt what will be well-balanced and engaged future citizens.

    1. Ps: the Ministry decline remrak was as read in the paper. His blog details an extensive grilling of him and the kids, but only as part of the investigation. No mention of an interview with the complainant to establish grounds.

  3. I stopped walking my kids to school when they were nine and ten. They were ready.
    Where someone else decides what is good for children is when there is clear neglect, or abuse. Failure to provide adequate food qualifies; turning kids into porkers does as well, but not that clearly in most people’s minds. Killing with “treats” kindness is no excuse. If It were up to me, kids under the age of 18 wouldn’t be permitted in convenience stores – those purveyors of all manner of industrial junk food – and cigarettes. If kids can’t go into a liquor store, they should also not go into a store that pimps this poison. I would also rip out all the junk food machines in community centres. They have no place there. At the very least, the owners of these nasty machines (which little people are absolutely fascinated by – like Las Vegas slot machines), should provide platform scales alongside with a chart indicating ideal weight. That would be popular with adults too. It is said that you can’t outrun a bad diet. A supersize meal requires a marathon run to burn off those calories.
    Being green starts with what you put in your mouth.

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