Utterly Meaningless » Blog Archive » TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS

    Filed at 8:04 pm under by dcobranchi

    Diane Patterson found a great blog entry by Timothy Burke at Swarthmore College about the fundamental reasons why middle-class America opts out of public institutions in favor of “suburbia.” Burke really hit close to home with this one; we have had memberships at both the Franklin Institute and the Please Touch Museum and many times have observed the tragedy he reports.

    BTW, the ideal time to go the the Franklin Institute is 1:30 on a weekday. That’s when all of the g-school field trips have to leave in order to get back to prison.

    5 Responses to “TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS”

    Comment by
    November 10th, 2003
    at 8:47 pm

    This is a very interesting blog entry. I’ll have to think about it and read it again.

    Two initial thoughts: (1) I’m actually unapologetic about being an uptight white person. When I go in my house and shut my door, I don’t want to hear anybody’s boom box. Cars going down the street with the thumping bass are one thing, cars parked at the curb in front of the neighbor’s house are something else. I think when you live in a densely populated city you give up a few things, one of which being the right to make as much noise as you want when you want. I also think my idea here is backwards from what most other people would say. (2) It actually would be possible for the museum staff at both these places to do a better job without being fascist about it. Field trip schedules could be posted so that parents bringing their kids could avoid them. Somebody at Please Touch could have approached the clueless mom and nicely told her that her 8-yr-old did not belong in the toddler area and she should take him elsewhere. I realize these are symbolic of a much larger problem. Sometimes I contemplate what would happen if a large percentage of the population, like 40%, decided to ignore traffic signals. The police couldn’t possibly keep up. Transportation to school, work, and the grocery store would come to a halt. We basically agree to act in a civilized manner, or we couldn’t function in groups at all.

    Comment by
    November 10th, 2003
    at 11:24 pm

    A few of us homeschool Mom’s went to the franklin musuem in the early summer. It was MOBBED by daycare & daycamp kids & almost zero supervision from their care takers. I was the guide mom for the smallest in our group a few kids under six.
    I really had to intervene for them to get a chance to use any hands on exhibits. It may be mean but if I see kids hogging stuff being or just plain rude w/out a mom or caretaker nearby I enforce the rules myself.
    In the little kids section that was filled with interactive water exhibits the over-age daycare kids had almost flooded the place. I went over to the musuem staff & pointed out the dangers of slippery floors & wild kids. They did then close the exhibits to older kids.

    I really feel that if the musuem wants big group $ than it should provide extra staff to help manage things not to be broken & keep lines moving so everyone can have a good time.
    (that’s good business) but big groups bring in bigger dollars, little guys like us don’t.

    Again though I must admit there have been times when I’ve been w/ homeschoolers on a field trip or party & seen unsafe & unbelievable behavior from those kids as well with MOM standing close by totally oblivious to her little angels. And Moms that have put in their own volunteer time to plan a great event for their kids & ours really take it personally when a few bad apples ruin things for everyone.

    I think there is just a huge lack of good manners & consideration of others in general in America. I now make sure that I acknowledge caring & good manners in kids where ever I see them. I love the BIG smiles the kids get when I tell them how well behaved they are when they are waiting patiently in line or take turns on playground equipment.

    Comment by
    November 11th, 2003
    at 12:19 am

    I’ve run into this dynamic at museums, too.

    However, being the parent of a child with exceptionally poor impulse control (read, none) and who is highly energetic, I try not to judge the parents of poorly behaved kids too harshly. Especially not if they can be seen to be making any effort to control their offspring.
    Not all bad behavior is the result of bad parenting!
    On the other hand, I don’t allow my children into areas meant for smaller children, nor do I allow them to just run over the little ones or shove them around. So, the mother in the article has little excuse, no matter how exhausted she was that day. I have been known to hold my dd by the upper arms and walk her in front of me, in order to maintain reasonable decorum in the museums.

    I don’t know if it’s a white middle class thing, or a Canadian thing. I’m certainly not a suburbanite. But, I believe that we have a responsibility to disturb the people around us as *little* as humanly possible. So, in the theatre, we are quiet. In restaurants we keep our conversation to our own table. In museums, we share access to the exhibits. When we are out in public we try our best not to cause others distress or discomfort. And, since my children are my responsibility, I will control them until they can control themselves. I don’t think I need to feel any guilt about that. It’s simply a matter of respect for others.

    I enjoyed the article – very thought provoking!

    Comment by
    November 11th, 2003
    at 1:19 pm

    We had an incident not too long ago like this but at a zoo. We were at the zoo for the morning and found ourselves meeting a number of school groups. My 10 year old daughter stood at the snow leopard exhibit for over 40 minutes as she made notes and drew in her nature journal. She also talked at length with the zoo keeper about the animals. (I was across the way at the elephant exhibit with my 5 year old who was busy with her sycamore seed collection.) My daughter told me later that four or five school groups came and went during the time she was at the snow leopard exhibit and she wondered how they had time to learn anything about the animals when they were only allowed to watch the animals for a couple of minutes. (“Mom, the adults were so worried about the kids being in a line! Why?”) I explained the very real issues of safety in groups and how hard it is to satisfy curiosity in a group. The whole experience provided a great example of the weaknesses and strengths in group and individual learning, and it gave my daughters another reason to be grateful for our homeschooling lifestyle. (During this same visit, the snow leopard zoo keeper ended up taking my daughters and me on a behind the scenes tour of the zoo kitchen explaining keeper responsibilities and duties.What an unexpected treat!)

    The children in the school groups we encountered were basically well-behaved, although they were scolded a great deal not to talk or zigzag or attempt to balance themselves on the sidewalk curb. I guess I prefer that behavior to the wild behavior described in the article, because it didn’t infringe on our zoo experience (and yes we are white and the group kids were mostly black children) but I felt for them. I don’t see how they could have felt too positive about the zoo except for the lunch break on the picnic grounds. (I think they were given more freedom at that point.)

    Comment by
    November 12th, 2003
    at 9:19 am

    I cannot count how many times I have taken my children to a museum or aquarium, paid $30, $40, $50 dollars in admission fees, and left the museum a couple of hours later having seen almost none of its exhibits because it was completely monopolized by school groups. Often these groups are preschoolers who can’t even see, much less appreciate, many of the displays. I have vowed to start asking for refunds in the future — why should I have to shell out big bucks for an unsatisfactory experience, while the school groups get to enjoy the facilities at my tax-subsidized expense?