Driving kids (5×8 – 6/1/11)


Out in my neck of the woods — Woodbury — the Bielenberg Sports Center is the crown jewel of the city’s athletic fields. It’s also killed the neighborhood ballfield as most of the organized sports — kids don’t play unorganized sports anymore — take place there. Soccer, football, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, it’s all there. Driving home last night, the line of cars driving into the facility from the corners of the city stretched for more than a mile in each direction: SUV and mini-van after SUV and mini-van waited to get to the joint to disgorge its passenger, already in uniform and ready for organized fun.

Why did all those parents drive their little ones? In today’s MPR commentary, Charles Marohn says parents are doing their kids no favor.

The best thing we can do for the safety of our children is to get them out of the car. The most effective way to do that is to allow the construction of mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods that reduce the demand for auto trips by providing alternatives.

Let’s test this premise. In Woodbury, the city is highly regarded for its bike trails. And, in the case of Bielenberg, it sits within a 10-minute bike ride of most neighborhoods. The city also has neighborhood schools. Check the lineup of cars in the morning and afternoon, driven by parents who won’t let junior take a hike.

Disclaimer: We live two blocks from the elementary and junior high schools. We often drove them to school. What were we thinking?


I turned 57 yesterday and I’ve never paddled – or driven along — the length of the Mississippi River. This sort of factoid bothers me more and more, but there’s a living to be earned, an economy to survive, and a list of chores that need to be done before winter. Maybe you know how it is. So I’ll live vicariously, following Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing — The Okee Dokee Brothers — who have set out on a 30-day expedition down the river. They’ll write and sing songs, as well as record a documentary DVD about the river, the people and fulfilling a childhood dream of theirs. Shoot. There’s a whole bunch of other things I can’t do. Here’s colleague Mike Pengra’s interview with the fellas.

The Pioneer Press also featured the duo in an article today.

Discussion: If you could take a month off from work, what would you do?


There is irony aplenty in this video filmed over the weekend at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington. It’s related to a recent court ruling that a woman arrested for dancing at the memorial did not have a First Amendment right to express herself through dancing.

According to the National Parks Service rules for its memorials, there is nothing to prevent an individual from filming at the Jefferson Memorial.


I’m quite late getting to this story but, you know, a good story keeps well. Jennifer Darmon was paralyzed in a 2008 accident. When her boyfriend proposed to her last year, she wanted to be able to walk down the aisle. Over several months, she documented her physical therapy on YouTube

Here’s episode one:

And here’s episode 6:


This is the time of the year when we hear how silly some high school principals can be in the face of common sense. It’s senior high school prank time and the season for getting suspended and losing prom and graduation privileges. All over America, principals are unable to distinguish between levels of senior nonsense.

Fortunately, there’s still Ray Broderick of Westfield, Massachusetts who lifted the suspensions of a couple of seniors who had a light saber fight and two others who put Vaseline on door knobs in the school. Otherwise, they would not have been able to graduate with their class.

“These incidents may have been poor choices on their part but, I am comfortable that they will all go forward and succeed and have learned from this,” Broderick said.

Meanwhile, in Largo, Florida, eight students are suspended and probably won’t be allowed to take part in graduation exercises after they tried to mimic a prank they saw on YouTube, but they set off a burglar alarm instead.

Bonus: It was four years ago today that minor league manager Phil Wellman channeled the 2011 fans of the Minnesota Twins.


An agency of the World Health Organization has found that the use of cell phones may pose a cancer risk. Today’s Question: Will the report of a possible cancer risk from cell phones change your habits?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Reshaping the economy: Are we set up for a prosperous future?

Second hour: In his new novel, film director John Sayles examines an extraordinary moment in American history: The turn of the 20th century.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: What’s the matter with Minnesota’s housing economy?

Second hour: Tim Flannery, author of “Here on Earth: A Natural History of the Planet.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: NPR political editor Ken Rudin.

Second hour: The healing power of music.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – NPR will have an in-depth interview with outgoing secretary of defense Robert Gates.

Duluth writer Danielle Sosin’s first novel “The Long-Shining Waters” attempts to capture the mystery and power of Lake Superior through the stories of three women living by the lake in different times in history. MPR’s Euan Kerr talks to Sosin.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Regarding Driving Kids:

    I used to walk a mile to Nativity School in St.Paul. Sometimes by myself. At the age of 7. In blinding snowstorms. Up hill. Both ways. ( OK, maybe not up hill both ways).

    Did anything ever happen? To anyone? Sometimes we had unsupervised fun! The Horror!

    Murder rates have plummeted. The rate of rape has remained level, and that’s with exponential improvement in the rate of reporting.

    Local media everywhere sadly continues with the “it bleeds, it leads-especially if the victim is a child” philosophy of journalism, and incurable pedophiles are released from custody back into society, so fear rules.

    And the primary victims of this irrational -albeit understandable- fear are our children.

    As to why we’re driven to force our kids into organized recreation rather than simply let them have fun and create on their own, that’s a psycho-social analysis that I don’t want to get into before breakfast. :- )

  • Joanna

    Happy birthday, Bob! I appreciate your blogging, every day.

  • fasolamatt

    I park my car (it’s completely depreciated) next to the school each night, then walk with the kids (0.7 miles including a crossing of Snelling) each morning. When the school bell rings, I hop in the car and go to work. The walk with the kids in the morning is a great time to learn what they’re up to… the walk home after dropping the car off each night is a good way to relax before bedtime (or an excuse to stop at the tavern to watch an inning or two).

  • Jim Shapiro

    Yes, Bob. Happy Birthday. You wear it well. I too read you every day, and I don’t even live there. Perhaps in part because I don’t live there, but often wish I did.

    Fasolamatt – Brilliant on several fronts – Exercise, reduce driving, good interaction with the kids, ball game and a brew/spousal hiatus opportunity. Do you offer classes? 🙂

  • Heather

    Happy birthday, Bob!

  • Lucy

    @ jim-

    today we live in a society of religious fanatics who promote bullying, by justifying thatit is ok because it is in-the-name-of-god, descentized call of duty playing, cell phone toting sociopaths-in-the-making.

    Given these circumstances I would drive my kid to organized ‘fun’ too.

    in lower income neighborhoods you will find unorganized sports of all kinds, that is until the tidy whities take away the basketball hoop.

    I walked half a mile to Catholic school. People didn’t talk about abuse back then like they do now. It happened then too, it just wasn’t talked about.

  • Kassie

    Too echo Lucy, kids in my neighborhood play unorganized sports often. There are three public basketball courts in my neighborhood and they are always filled with people playing. Some are adults, but some are kids. Tennis courts have kids and adults playing tennis. I saw some kids playing bocce ball at Painter Park just a week after my friends and I had done the same. I see soccer games in my alley all too often (not really safe) and across the street has adults and kids playing volleyball all the time. There are organized sports too, and you see a line up of bikes, as well as cars, when those events are happening.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Perhaps one of the reasons for the increased and hyper-organisation of childrens’ recreational activities is the increased power of women in society. ( Mom’s “be careful” vs Dad’s “play hard and have fun” ). 🙂

  • John O.

    First off: Happy Birthday Bob!

    For some parents, the “holy grail” of having their kid(s) play organized sports is chasing a college scholarship. For other parents, it is social. In other cases, it’s an alternative to having these kids sit at home in the late afternoon/early evening by themselves since neither parent is home.

    There is also a growing industry of coaches, trainers, administrators, etc. that supplement their income operating organized sports. It would be interesting to survey coaches cycling through a facility like Bielenberg on any given night or weekend and find out what percentage of them are paid versus volunteer coaches.

    Finally, there are high school programs out there that frequently use community sports clubs as a feeder program, identifying that future star quarterback or goalie.

  • Jim Shaarda

    3) Thomas Jefferson must be rolling over in his grave right now.

    I also loved how the police captain said “no one can record” and practically everyone pulled out their cell phones and started recording.

    Anybody want to vote libertarian in 2012?

  • jay sieling

    Re: Jeffersonian Dancing. So the Supreme Court ruled that dancing at a memorial is not protected free speech because memorials have a certain purpose, an austere assumption of sincerity. hmm…then why uphold the Westboro Baptist Church’s right to protest at the funerals of soldiers? Something a bit odd, I think.

    I visited the Jefferson Memorial in high school. It was very moving. I didn’t dance, but might have swayed back and forth as I read the inscribed words of Jefferson on the walls. Would I be at risk if I were swaying while reading?

    If I took my kids when they were toddlers and they started playing hide and seek, or acting like the little unsupervised urchins I encountered at a coffee shop yesterday, would we be ‘asked’ to leave by the park police?

    Does the Supreme Court’s decision extend to all other memorials? what about memorial drives or parkways?

    I think I’m going to go watch Footloose……

  • http://dadseyeview.cartwheelmedia.com Michael

    I often bike with the kids to school about a mile away, and the most dangerous part of the ride is the school parking lot; and this is an ostensibly “environmental” magnet school, which is otherwise great about composting, recycling, and going on walking tours of the wild places in the neighborhood.

    Going just by the statistics, the car is a far more dangerous place for kids to be than on the sidewalk or even on a bike, but we get that false sense of security from the seat belts, car seats, and safety glass.

  • JackU

    #3 – First off the title of the video is bit misleading. The “mob” (flash or otherwise) was not silent. If their goal was to be a silent mob then they should have not responded to the police actions verbally.

    That said looking at the rules that Bob (happy birthday!) so carefully linked to it is apparent that the original dancers and any follow-up demonstrations are in violation of the permit requirements. I’m no lawyer but I would interpret the original action as being one of the following:

    Section 1.6.a.ii – Public assemblies, meetings, demonstrations, parades and public expressions of views


    Section 1.6.b.v – Memorialization

    Since the date on the rules is 2006 it would seem to me that the original demonstrators should have known about these and certainly the follow-up demonstration should have known about these.

    If you disagree with the rules, get your permit and then demonstrate about how absurd it is that you need to get a permit to speak or dance at the Jefferson Memorial.

    #Bonus – That tirade by Phil Wellman is a classic.

  • Bob Collins

    //. If their goal was to be a silent mob then they should have not responded to the police actions verbally.

    I could detect the one guy who was clearly part of intended action, I couldn’t tell if there were other people involved or were just swept up by cops in the heat of the moment.

    At first, I thought maybe the guy who insists he was just kissing his girlfriend was an innocent bystander, then I thought, “who kisses their girlfriend in the Jefferson Memorial?” (g)

    After that, it sounds like a typical COPS episode (“I didn’t do anything!”)

    I was less concerned about their treatment than the effort by the cops to try to thwart the entirely legal filming of their actions.

  • jon

    so, yesterday I saw that red bull is letting people play basket ball in the court yard at Alcatraz. Since the national park service controls that I presume that they are being allowed to setup a basketball court in the prisons (one of I believe only two historic prisons in the US) at the same time the folks in charge of the Jefferson monument are arresting people for dancing.

    Seems like the point here is clear, if you want to express first amendment rights, do so only with the backing of corporate sponsors. And since Corporations have the right to free speech now, and the lawyers to actually do so (unlike you or I) they will be the only ones allowed to speak. *sigh*