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July 8, 2009

I just finished reading Michael Chabon's essay, Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood at the New York Review of Books. In the essay he dips into some of the issues related to Nature Deficit Disorder and explores the idea that childhood has historically been a branch of cartography focusing on unstructured play and imagination. As children we roamed the streets and woodlots mapping our own neighborhoods free from adult supervision. However all of that seems to be changing:

"We schedule their encounters for them, driving them to and from one another's houses so they never get a chance to discover the unexplored lands between. If they are lucky, we send them out to play in the backyard, where they can be safely fenced in and even, in extreme cases, monitored with security cameras."

What happens when children no longer have the freedom to explore without adult supervision?

"The sandlots and creek beds, the alleys and woodlands have been abandoned in favor of a system of reservations—Chuck E. Cheese, the Jungle, the Discovery Zone: jolly internment centers mapped and planned by adults with no blank spots aside from doors marked staff only. When children roller-skate or ride their bikes, they go forth armored as for battle, and their parents typically stand nearby."

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