Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pre-pubecent school crossing guards - stupidity or worse?

Here's a shocker: school kids (as young as 11) in Israel are encouraged to volunteer as school crossing guards! If you live in Israel or you have been here when our children come or go from school, you've probably seen these pole wielding groups of 11 year olds at crossings near schools during the morning rush hour 'helping' other children to cross the road, and you're no doubt wondering why I'm bothering to write a blog about it.
"Surely", you might think, "there are more serious issues to rant about? "
Well perhaps, but one of the aspects of Israeli society that I love is the way we care for our kids. Not just our own offspring, but there's a very strong attitude that all the children are all our responsibility. It is for this reason that I feel so strongly about this: Why then, do we let them take on a dangerous responsibility they are just not ready for?

 In principle I think it's wonderful that we teach kids in Israel to take responsibility, but this is a step too far, even for our independent little tykes. We are essentially asking them to attempt to control Israeli drivers, which even the police cannot do!  They step into the roads of a place where most drivers see pedestrians as opportunities for sport and stop signs are at best mere suggestions! Don't even get me started on mirrors, which the average Israeli driver sees as being as useful to cars as appendixes are to humans! It is into this tumultuous flow of honking, distracted aggressive traffic that we ask children to wave stop signs on sticks! The way they do this is also rather interesting: First the look at the oncoming traffic and make the Israeli hand gesture for "wait", then they wave the stop sign on a pole (which on a  windy day can be hard to handle), and stop out onto the crossing, with a level of trust in their fellow human beings to obey that I believe only the very young can have. A few more years on this earth and the same kids would probably look in fear at the road and hand the poles back!

This is the reason other countries use professional staff or parent volunteers for this, and this morning I saw in action why these kids should not be doing it: I was returning home in the morning rush-hour, following a car along a straight road toward my house, which is next to a grade school. I watched the car brake, swerve and speed up, then slow down. It was obvious that the driver was leaning over to the passenger side, (my guess is she was searching in her glove box). I honked, and she focused for about 10 seconds then went back to her distracted behavior. We approached a crossing manned by 6th grade boys. One of the three lads on crossing duty noticed another child wanting to cross (the other 2 were busy 'pole fighting'!). He made 'the gesture', dropped his pole and he and the other child stepped into the road. The driver didn't notice any of this until she glanced up and saw the pole signal. She hit the brakes hard, with squeals of rubber and came to a sudden halt inches from the boy's pole. Other than two very shocked boys, nobody was hurt (Thank G-d) and she then did the Israeli response to these situations: she shouted at the innocent boys!

Ok, at this point I ought to declare that I have a personal beef with this practice: I live on a corner near a boys school where on my day off at 7.30am I am invariably woken by the sounds of these crossing kids screaming at the top of their voices at their partners on the other side of the road. Sometimes the little darlings meet in the center island for some sparring practice with the pole. Last week, one lad decided to sing every Justin Bieber song every recorded at the top of his voice...badly!

So for safety's sake and for my sanity, can we please send these angels back to the classroom and find some adults to risk their lives instead?

1 comment:

  1. I'm not even sure it's "expected to volunteer," rather I believe the 6th graders are actually assigned this responsibility as a "toranut" rotation. Very much agree with your outlook on this. Unfortunately, believe it or not, the schools regard pre-teen crossing guard duty as part of their (I believe mandatory) traffic safety education(!!). As the Israeli saying goes, based on the prevailing mentality, "עד שיקרה אסון" ... "until disaster strikes" it is likely to remain status quo.