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Friday, January 26, 2001

Opinions



The Hurried Child, 2001

The Hurried Child, Growing Up Too Fast and Too Soon, by David Elkind, a child psychologist of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study at Tufts University, was published in 1981. Are there many parents, young or old, who haven't read this book or seen references to it in print or on TV over the past 20 years?

In 1998 Michael Medved, co-host for 12 years of PBS's "Sneak Preview," and his wife, clinical psychologist Diane Medved, wrote another book titled Saving Childhood, following up on some of the same concerns that were raised by Elkind. Recent social events that have occurred in our middle school in Carlisle and at the regional high school in Concord bring us back to some of the concerns raised by these authors.

The student government at the Carlisle Middle School, a group created to develop leadership skills and a sense of responsibility, sponsored a December dance for sixth, seventh and eighth graders "The Snow Ball." Initially, this was seen by students and faculty alike as a festive occasion with an opportunity to dress up. Plans took an unfortunate turn when a group of students decided it would be cool if boys and girls paired off and went as dates. The girls would wear formal dresses, and the boys who had asked girls would buy them wrist corsages. According to Principal Andy Goyer and student council advisor Kim Reed, this was not what the school had had in mind when they encouraged dressing up. As a result of the rumor mill or peer pressure, the focus of the dance had changed. Once the school realized what was happening, word immediately went out in The Buzz and through notices posted at the school that formal dress was not required and all students were encouraged to attenddate or no date.

But the stage had been set. Some of the girls came in expensive dresses bought specifically for the occasion. A number of boys bought corsages, and couples had their pictures taken to take home after the dance. As for the dancing, some concern was voiced as to its appropriateness and suggestiveness.

What was meant to be an inclusive event sponsored by the school's student government turned into an affair that was uncomfortable for many students, their parents, and school personnel as well.

This situation could be examined from the topic of civility, a subject that has prompted a good deal of discussion at the school this year. Wouldn't a more civil approach have been to consider the feelings of all the students, some of whom are as young as eleven, when planning a special dance?

In Concord, another student dance has prompted CCHS principal Elaine DiCicco to suspend winter and spring dances at the high school due to pervasive inappropriate student behavior and dress. In the school newsletter DiCicco informed parents that dances were suspended due to students arriving at the school intoxicated, wearing scanty attire and dancing in a provocative manner. "None of these behaviors is healthy; none is acceptable at CCHS," said DiCicco.

DiCicco has asked the student body to address these problems and come up with solutions. Student government president Jenni Bryant, a senior, supports DiCicco's decision and agrees it's the students who must find a way to preserve dances, to make them acceptable to the administration and enjoyable to all students.

Elkind's The Hurried Child is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago. In 1981 he wrote, "Hurried children are forced to take on the physical, psychological and social trappings of adulthood before they are prepared to deal with them." We would be wise to heed his thoughtful words today.



Fikal the Dog

I put the snow shovel back in the shed and went inside to put on my running stuff. On the way back out, I stopped by the burial site and spent a brief moment. Then I headed out the driveway for my standard loop around the Greenough pond. In retrospect, it was a memorial run. I used to do this loop with Fikal all the time. He would stay close until we got off the road and into the woods. Then he would fall back and I wouldn't see him for a half mile. After crossing the footbridge over Greenough pond, I'd hear the tinkling of the rabies tag and dog license on his collar. And then he was right there on my heels with that foolish dog grin of his. When we'd come out of the woods at the Greenough barn, Lyle the dog was often there and they'd play "Who's top dog?" Lyle would always give Fikal a run for his money, but Fikal would always prevail. Now, as I come out of the woods without Fikal, Lyle looks at me sadly. Of course I have no way of explaining the situation to him.

I continued over the dam and ran diagonally across the field, remembering how Fikal would spot a flock of Canada geese in the meadow and try to catch them. The greyhound part of his Doberman breed shone through gracefully in moments like this, as he tried valiantly to keep up with the geese in low-level flight. Gradually, the geese would pull away and he would slow down and watch them vanish into the sky.

It didn't matter to Fikal what time of day it was. He would eagerly run with me at any time, in any weather. His night vision was superb. He could navigate through dark woods that required me to use a flashlight. But on nights with a full moon out in the open field, I could look over my shoulder and see him bounding along full of enthusiasm, as if it was the middle of the day.

After the field it's back into the woods. When it's not raining and there are no mosquitoes, I often lie down at the base of a large pine bordering Pages Brook and contemplate the tree canopy against the sky, with the sunlight or moonlight streaming in. Fikal would always check to make sure I was all right. He would stay within earshot, making noise as he wandered through the brush sniffing for rodents. If it was hot, he availed himself of his greatest pleasure and plopped down up to his chest in the blackest mud he could find at the edge of marshland. Then he would come back to me, dripping black ooze. By the time we returned home, the black ooze had dried up. I would grab him by the collar and give him a thorough rinsing with the garden hose. He reluctantly acquiesced to this indignity, and when I released his collar, he would race around the yard as if to dry himself off more quickly. Eventually he would circle back, taunting me to try to catch him. The best I could ever do was barely tag him.

Yes, Fikal was a good dog!


2001 The Carlisle Mosquito