December 9, 2015 Where Free Rangers live
As I have written elsewhere, in parts of North America it is a crime for a child to walk alone to school. Parents feel uncomfortable allowing their children to walk for a variety of reasons, and Child Protective Services employees occasionally interpret vague laws about “child endangerment” as an invitation to create crimes out of thin air, arrest parents, and sometimes even place children in foster care (where they can be abused).
Are there exceptions to this pattern? There have been a few settings where I have seen children being willing to walk on their own:
*Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. In these high-birthrate areas, children are everywhere, I suspect for two reasons. First, if you have five or six children you really don’t have time to drive them everywhere. Second, Orthodox Jews already are required by religious law to walk on the Sabbath (rather than either driving or taking public transit) so walking is not so utterly unfamiliar to them as it would be to a secular family or one from another religion. Third, the requirement to walk to synagogue does encourage traditional Jews to live in somewhat walkable neighborhoods.
*Low-income areas. When walking through the working-class white/Hispanic parts of Pittsburgh, I have occasionally seen children on their own.
*Native American areas (well, OK, one Native American area). When I visited Wolf Point, Montana (about half Native American) I saw children wandering residential streets on their own, much as would have been the case decades ago.
What all of these areas have in common is that they are a little outside the mainstream of American life.