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Scot Wertin
Prof. Kreitner
English 1A/91
9th of September 2019
The Fragile Generation Explored
In a misguided bid to protect their children from being stolen from them, parents are

taking away their childhoods and as a result, their success as adults. Fear of kidnappings, societal

norms, and taboos in the early 1990’s and 2000’s have created an interesting reaction in how

parents treat the children of the twenty-first century, which can often have the opposite effect of

what they hope to achieve. In the article, “The Fragile Generation: Bad Policy and Paranoid

Parenting Are Making Kids Too Safe to Succeed,” the authors Lenore Skenazy, president of the

nonprofit Let Grow, and Jonathan Haidt, a professor of ethical leadership, explore the effects that

overprotection and paranoia have on parents of and members of the “iGeneration”, people born

between 1995 to 2012. Skenazy and Haidt are correct in believing the positive impact free play

has in developmental periods as well as the negative impacts of being overly paranoid about the

safety of our children.

In the article, Skenazy and Haidt talk about the idea of “free play” becoming less free.

They call it “the best resilience training known to man” which we, as a society, have stolen from

our kids in the pursuit of protection. I agree with them, free play creates more developed,

tougher, and mature adults who are typically better prepared for adulthood and, as a byproduct,

for life. They use a fantastic example of Little League baseball to expand on their point,

explaining how the use of free play on the field translates to real world skills being taught to the

next generation of the workforce such as maturity, participatory democracy, and problem

solving. I have seen firsthand the necessity of these skills while I was working as a
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superintendent doing interior construction in New York City. I had no experience in the field, so

in order just to keep up with my much older peers, with decades of experience, I had to utilize

these skills which I had learned by being allowed to make mistakes, by being given the freedom

to fail as a kid and on the jobsite. Within weeks of working there, I had been given the job of

organizing and ensuring we were going to receive all the hollow metal and hardware, which is

the doors, frames, and all installation and locking hardware, within the twenty-week schedule we

had bought. This includes confirming we were going to receive the correct amount of screws,

hinges, locks, and other hardware, in correct specifications and colors, as well as door frames

and doors which were to be fabricated with the exact size and specifications we had given the

manufacturer. With my lack of experience, I had made a mistake by sending the fabricator

measurements taken using openings which had been constructed as the wrong size and were

being reconstructed. Fourteen weeks later, we received sixteen double leaf door frames which

were from eight to twelve inches too tall. It was a $6,000 mistake for our company, but they did

not fire me; instead, they told me to fix the problem. After a lot of brainstorming, I fixed the

problem by having the frames cut down and welded to the correct size on site and relocating

frames I was unable to have cut as they were fire rated. In the end, I used my problem-solving

skills and maturity to fix my mistake and learned a $6,000 lesson on making sure I never

measure door openings by myself. More importantly, I learned I needed to know all the

information before I give any answer. Anybody who does not or is not allowed to make mistakes

cannot learn the skills which will lead them to success in life.

Another important point and underlying cause of this “epidemic” which the authors

explore is the idea where “culture is conjuring dangers out of thin air, just to have something to

worry about.” They support this with a line by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker who says,
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“The press keeps pushing paranoia”, and talk about multiple symptoms which this paranoia is

causing. One such symptom they speak about is the Boulder Public Library in Colorado

releasing plans to ban anyone under the age of twelve to be unsupervised, presumably because of

the potential liability of the features of the library such as the elevators, stairs, and more. Given

my experience with liability in modern day America, the attempt made by the Library to limit

their liability makes sense to me. This is exactly what the problem is. Their reaction, albeit

poorly executed, is logically sound to me. It is an involuntary reaction to the culture of our

society in America, with how widespread lawsuits are becoming and their visibility increasing

from the press filling everything we see with stories of lawsuits, potential dangers to Americans,

and what the Kardashians did yesterday. The press is not doing their job of reporting what

matters to the point where we can hardly find a story with a happy ending anywhere on the front

page of popular news channels. This is creating a fear in every American where they need to

bubble wrap everything they love, and if they get hurt, it is the fault of somebody else.

Society needs to step back and look at how childhood is changing from generation to

generation. In order to accurately prepare the next generation, we need to figure out what is

necessary for children to learn by themselves, and what we can teach them. The next generation

could be underdeveloped, unprepared, and unable to do what our nation needs to keep it running

and responsible in terms of global politics and the impact America has on the world. It is

common knowledge that between the ages of 12-25, the brain of an adolescent is still

developing, and therefore we need to ensure they are developing with the best possible material.

This will provide the best start for young adults as they mature, age into independence, and enter

the real world of taxes, nine to five jobs, and mortgages. If we cannot prepare them to roll with

the punches of adulthood, then we will be doing them, and ourselves, a grave disservice.