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Beware the 'professional opinion'...

So, I was referred to this article today, and setting aside that I quite like what Lenore Skenazy has to say about teaching children real life skills through measured freedom, I was just blown away by the hyperbole in the article. The writer refers to - as an example of her professional experience in this area, I think - how she often counsels the victims of violent crime and in doing so, the reader is supposed to be reassured about her experience in this area.

The issue I take with this is that her vast experience counselling the victims of violent crime actually makes her less able to have a balanced view of the true level of risk out in the real world.

We see this over sensitisation of professionals all the time - it also happens with lay people exposed as well - they are frequently exposed to 'worst case scenarios' and it begins to colour their view of the world. They allow themselves to believe their experience is far more common that it actually is, their experience becomes their new norm. If it can happen to them it can, and probably will, happen to everyone!

How often have we seen the dialogue between the teenage child of a police officer and their police officer parent debating the safety of the neighbourhood because the officer lives in a constant state of heightened aware of the dangers.

The dangers exist - I'm not saying they don't -, but people on the front line of disease, death and crime are going to be confronted with those dangers far more frequently than the rest of society, and the frequency with which they are confronted has absolutely no bearing on the ratio in wider society.

An obstetrician will almost only ever encounter women at risk due to pregnancy - that is their job! This is why so many OBs view birth as dangerous.

A police officer will meet more criminals in their work day than people who are not criminally minded, so they see potential criminals everywhere.

A counsellor will counsel hundreds of victims every year - far more than most people will meet in an entire life time.

Doctors only get to see the people who are REALLY sick from illnesses, this is not representative of the illness' affect on the general population though because those people who are coping don't go to the doctor, and don't end up in the ICU.

For every child who dies from measles, there are, in fact, 99 children who don't die, including 25 children who don't even have a rash!

It's the black brick phenomenon, you see. As humans we're designed to notice the bad - in order to avoid it when we actually see it again in future.

If we are presented with a red brick wall featuring the occasional black brick, our eyes will automatically be drawn to and remember the black brick. In fact, if asked to recall the number of black bricks a little while later, we will probably be able to recall the exact number! Does that mean the wall was made of black bricks, or even mostly of black bricks? Probably not. It means we notice the aberrant bricks because our human mind says there is something wrong with them...

Today The Grumpy Old Man picked up a news paper and, while it was still folded, he had a look at the front cover, the top story was about the husband whose wife died from excessive blood lose while having her tubes tied. The Grumpy Old Man was rather upset by the photo of the distraught man, so he decided to move on and read something else, he turned the paper over and the bottom half of the front cover was about the little girl who was attacked by a pitbull in St Albans last night...

If you watch the news, or read the papers, or follow police reports via Facebook, you will hear no end of horror, tragedy and sadness - that is the news, not because that is all that ever happens on this planet. Not because every tubal ligation ends in death or every dog is a child attacker, but because people are mesmerised by the black brick, they can't take their eyes away from the abhorrent lest it sneaks up on them and gets them while they are distracted by all the good and beauty the world has to offer. We live in a world that would have us live in a constant state of panic, and we listen to people who are already traumatised and over sensitised by the tragedies they see every day as part of their work.

A small hand can cast a large shadow...

None of these phenomena reflect the true balance in the world. So, beware the professional opinion and put your critical thinking caps on!

Comments

Jayne said…
I read that article-quite agree. IMO balancing safety with knowing your child and allowing freedom is a must for their mental health. Must be hard when you see so much f*cked up shit though, as this woman has not to have a skewed perspective :( I think the Daniel Morcombe tragedy has brought this issue back into the spotlight, certainly here in Australia. I know many people now who are rethinking the freedom their kids have been allowed. I think society has got to a fairly paranoid place though when 10 year olds are no longer allowed to play in the front yard. I do admit my kids (6 & 10) aren't allowed to go far beyond that-but that's more a road safety issue, and the fact the cars come hooning around the corner quite fast here. I can't wait until we love to a quiet court in a few months :)
Sif said…
The Daniel Morcombe case is just horrifying - every parent's worst nightmare. My heart goes out to his parents!

It is a very rare case, though, and i think because it happened and there was a lot of media coverage in search of anyone who had seen the boy - then the case went fairly quiet for a number of years and now is back up in the public consciousness it has had the effect of seeming like TWO incidents when recent news has really been confirming of what most people concluded over 7 years ago when the boy first went missing...

The same with the Madeline McCann... She went missing, there was a huge media outpouring of information, then every few months or so there is a new lead and it hits the news again, each time it feels lie a new story about a missing child.

And so it goes on, their same rare stories recycled over and over, giving the impression that child abduction by complete strangers in an everyday occurrence and we should live in constant fear of the child predator - even when children are in their own bed (Jon-Benet Ramsey)...
Very true Sif. Our perspectives are skewed because we are only told half the story.
In a less notable way I am giving Logan cows milk before he is one as they now recommend. I was saying this to my mother and she said I was on Cows milk at 6 months. People have been drinking cows milk long before formula was created. It may not be great for him but it certainly doesnt seem to be hurting him.
Great post. My critical thinking cap will be on.
Sif said…
I drank cow's milk from the get go, or was it goats milk, not sure now. Didn't kill me - though, admittedly I did have psoriasis and am moderately lactose intolerant, lol, okay I'm probably not the poster girl for drinking milk from birth, ha!

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