Dutch humor is seriously underrated
July 22, 2019 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday the New York Times published a fascinating article on the “peculiarly Dutch summer rite” of "dropping", ie. driving your kids to the woods at night and leaving them alone to find their way back home, a "beloved scouting tradition". But the best part is reading the responses on Twitter...

Some examples:


— My childhood was like any other. Sense of abandonment. Confusion. Cold. Fending off packs of wild dogs with a pointed stick. Resolve. Finding my way back. Murdering my parents for plopping me alone in the woods. And that was by the age of two.

— We leave the kids alone with their ice skates in the woods, only in winter of course (August ‘till june that is.) And then they have to ice skate to home, over the canals.

— That's in summer. Winter is different. On New Year's Day, my dad would take me, aged seven, out to sea in a boat. He would row five miles out, then put me overboard to swim back by myself. Which, I must say, was relatively easy once I'd made my way out of that cloth bag.

— I really hate it when they keep coming back, i teached them too good to trust on their survival skills....

— It's probably a good thing the @nytimes doesn't know about "Tobbedansen" when we drop little girls (who have one or more brothers) on a wooden raft in the North Sea. Which resulted in the world famous expression: "Your sister on a wooden raft" (Dutch: "Je zuster op een houtvlot")

— The forest is their natural habitat: as soon as they can walk we send them there to collect their own dessert. When they are 3 years old they have to carve their own wooden shoes. At 4 they have to build their own homes (and leave us the fuck alone for the rest of their lives).

— I am Dutch. I was dropped in the woods 45 years ago and still wandering around.

For a quick roundup of some of the other highlights from that very, very long thread:

The Americans Have Learned of Dutch ‘Droppings’ and Now They’re Confused


Americans think Dutch people dump their children in the woods and the clapback from Dutch Twitter was brutal

And for those who may think it’s ALL a big joke, here’s a thread on Hacker News with people fondly reminiscing their childhood experiences with the tradition, in earnest.
posted by bitteschoen (49 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Wait, they don't do this in the rest of the world ? Droppings are great !
posted by Pendragon at 1:45 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

Yeah, did that. Not with scouting btw: church choir. Got dropped 10pm? 11pm? in the middle of the countryside. One of the assignments: you have a raw egg with you. Bring it back hard-boiled. So we knocked on some doors of farms. Fortunately we had some cute girls in our group, and there was a young man who was happy to have us in his kitchen.
posted by victotronics at 1:52 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

This was not atypical where I grew up (the deep south) and was a standard part of summer camp for those lucky enough to afford it. I was really bummed that this was reserved only for boys and girls were not included. I didn't protest too much because most of my nighttime woods excursions involved getting bitten by a lot of insects.
posted by Alison at 2:01 PM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh I loved droppings. I don't remember having GPS devices (nor a cell phone), so I have no idea how we found our way back. But it was great.
The other scouting-group drank a lot of Red Bull.
posted by Thisandthat at 2:05 PM on July 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

Reminds me of this question from two years ago: What point on the main land of The Netherlands is furthest away from any buildings?

Spoiler: around 2km. Dropping your kids off in the Dutch woods seems like it would be kinda easy for the kids to make it back. There's a max walk (in any direction) of 2km (1.24 miles) before running into some sort of civilization or building. As long as the nearest building isn't a gingerbread house occupied by a ravenous witch, the kids should have no problem at all.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 2:08 PM on July 22, 2019 [44 favorites]

I bet there are places you can still do this in the US with reasonable safety, but since over here we have a wide selection of bears, coyotes, mountain lions, venomous snakes, Lyme-bearing ticks, and just plain treacherous countryside, I’d say the kids ought to be solidly in their teens first.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:09 PM on July 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

First thought that popped in my head: commence operation child endangerment.

When he was in kindergarten, my father-in-law would wander town for hours, unaccompanied, and make it back home in time for dinner, no big deal. I wish I had the faith in my children, and more importantly other people, to let them do that now.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:10 PM on July 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

crime of all sorts (aside from white supremacist violence) has been on the decline in the united states for decades.

the chief danger of doing this in the united states is busybody assholes exposing your children to american law enforcement and/or siccing cps on you.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:18 PM on July 22, 2019 [71 favorites]

Jesus I fucking hate the Internet.
The serious tone of the article, the full one can be read here, left Dutch on social media laughing.
So like, assume I'm an American actually curious about another culture and would like a straight answer instead of stochastic Twitter HAH-HAH truth-chaff—is the NY Times article accurate? Or did they miunderstand/mischaracterize the tradition? Or did they fall for a big hoax?
posted by The Tensor at 2:18 PM on July 22, 2019 [10 favorites]

I spent a lot of my childhood from (I think) around eight onwards just exploring the countryside by myself. Sometimes i got a bus onto Dartmoor and walked back. I had to be back before dark, but otherwise...

It was, of course, absolutely terrific. And far safer than being in town when the local bovver boys decided to have some fun, let alone Saturday night when the fleet was in...
posted by Devonian at 2:20 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

(tangent: watching stranger things, specifically watching the 80s kids tool around in kid-packs on their bikes and skateboards, made me deeply sad for kids growing up these days, who have to live stuck inside under house arrest, more or less like eleven lived at the start of season 2. no amount of perceived crime risk is worth clipping a kid’s wings like that. hell, no amount of monsters from the upside down are worth clipping a kid’s wings like that.)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:21 PM on July 22, 2019 [20 favorites]

the chief danger of doing this in the united states is busybody assholes exposing your children to american law enforcement and/or siccing cps on you.

no, it's cars.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:23 PM on July 22, 2019 [43 favorites]

A people's relationship to nature is one of those things that I find endlessly fascinating.

In Iceland you grow up knowing that nature has more ways to kill you than a superspy holding a rolled up newspaper. Volcanoes, frost, avalanches, waves, sandstorms, downpours, cave-ins, wind, whatever... Iceland will find a way to kill you. All my life I had it drilled into me that you should never go out into nature without letting people know where you're going, over-prepare for everything, and for jebus' sake check the weather forecast.

Now I'm living in Finland. Finns just simply... walk into Mordor. Well, the forest (basically most of Finland is a forest, with some lakes in between more forest. They just wander around, come back, without much forethought. Sure, they might make plans if they're going on an extensive trip, but they're nothing like the preparations I grew up doing for even a simple half-day hike. I honestly can barely cope with living in a country that isn't at all times actively trying to kill me.

My wife, who's Finnish, and I were once sharing these observation with an Irish poet. He said, and I paraphrase, that no one goes out in nature in Ireland, because all of it is owned by someone, and unless you pretend to be a hunter and carry a shotgun at all times, you're liable to get shot for trespassing and no one will have any sympathy for you.
posted by Kattullus at 2:24 PM on July 22, 2019 [62 favorites]

You can't have brutal self-senecidal rituals if you don't have your scouting. Seems fair to me.
posted by boo_radley at 2:30 PM on July 22, 2019

Everybody Leaves Droppings
posted by dirigibleman at 2:36 PM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon: crime of all sorts (aside from white supremacist violence) has been on the decline in the united states for decades.

the chief danger of doing this in the united states is busybody assholes exposing your children to american law enforcement and/or siccing cps on you.

prize bull octorok: no, it's cars.

And guns. Cars and guns (NPR 2018 report on major causes of death for children in the U.S., compared to other countries).

But also people reporting parents to police for letting children play outside unsupervised (Reason.com)
posted by filthy light thief at 2:36 PM on July 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

Is the NY Times article accurate? Or did they miunderstand/mischaracterize the tradition? Or did they fall for a big hoax?
posted by The Tensor

It is accurate for sure. But I personally wouldn't call it a 'tradition'.
I will ask around tomorrow at work and see what the percentage of dropped kids is.
But yes, when I as a girlscout was dropped, we were indeed driven somewhere blindfolded, left in the middle of nowhere (which indeed isn't very far in the NL from a building or one of the gazillion bike-direction-signs), and we'd walk, and then stumble our way back towards the campsite, where the scoutleaders would be drinking beers around a campfire.
We'd be so tired, so we'd be off to sleep rightaway.

As older scouts, we competed in staying up as long as possible, and walking to the neighbouring town in the middle of the night. (4km maybe).

For further info: Scout camp is where I smoked weed for the first time (and never do now btw), and the group that smoked the most weed actually ate pancakes for breakfast lunch and dinner because they were too lazy (and probably too high) to cook anything else.
posted by Thisandthat at 2:58 PM on July 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

"primitive GPS" is an entertaining collocation.
posted by Earthtopus at 3:08 PM on July 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

I mean...countries are different?

The US is full of guns, paranoia, drug epidemics in devastated counties, potentially dangerous ruins, a total lack of healthcare, broken, inefficient m, and corrupt networks of jurisdictional authority, vast stretches of rugged and dangerous terrain the size of actual countries with no ready access to civilization, and actual animal apex predators, depending on location. I mean, there are bears in New Jersey, and large motherfucking coyotes in New York City, just to top off all that other dystopian crap, and that’s about as populated as it gets. Most other states have like...many, many more things that want to kill you.

The Netherlands is...not full of those things. It sounds like it’s like letting your kids hang out in someone’s wooded acreage, if everyone had amazing health insurance and trusted the authorities. And there were no bears or venomous snakes or nearby communities completely devastated by drug addiction.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:27 PM on July 22, 2019 [23 favorites]

My brothers used to do something similar with me when my parents were out. Not in the woods though, like a park, or just some other part of town.
posted by rodlymight at 3:55 PM on July 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

He said, and I paraphrase, that no one goes out in nature in Ireland, because all of it is owned by someone, and unless you pretend to be a hunter and carry a shotgun at all times, you're liable to get shot for trespassing and no one will have any sympathy for you.

That may be the case now (and in recent decades), but in the first half of the 20th c. and earlier, it was fear of The Good People (aka the fairies) that kept the Irish out of the woods.
posted by tenderly at 4:30 PM on July 22, 2019

I will say, I do this a lot myself. Just take off and walk or bike wherever. You can plan your hike or ride to the nth degree, but by far the most enjoyable times are when you take a trail or a road you've never tried before and get lost for a very long time before finding your way home.

Just for example, one 4th of July I hiked to the top of a nearby mountain. Or to be more precise, I took off on a nice morning bike ride, took a road I'd never taken before, then when it ran out I thought, hey, I could just keep walking up the mountain, and then a while later, hey, I'm like halfway up, I could make it to the top! (I was probably 1/5 of the way up, in reality . . . ) In fact I did make it to the top, the view was well worth it, and it was one of the most memorable days of my life.

Nowadays mountain ranges are not so near so the ramblings are more likely to be to various neighborhoods in our metro area--many of which, I hear later from friends, they would never dare enter even in a well armored automobile and packing all the heat they could get their hands on.

I used to be that way.

Now I'm over it.

Anyway, I would say that as a people, we are far too scared and far more of us ought to be doing this instead of spending all of our time in our comfortable living rooms in front of glowing screens.

One time I was camping with a bunch of relatives, 99% of whom never left the 100-foot radius surrounding the motor homes for the entire week.

Every night after dinner I would go for walk through the wood for an hour or two. Every night I would ask around the group to see if, perchance, anyway else wanted to come.

"Aren't you scared? Won't you be eaten by bears? Won't you get lost?" and all the rest.

It was at that moment I realized the degree we really do let fear rule our actions and our lives. People literally never leave their yards--or in this case, the developed campsite area where campers are backed as close together as sardines--because "something scary" is out there. They have heard.

My after-dinner stroll is on a trail and a road I know very well and have been on a dozen times. I might see a deer, I might hear a coyote. I've got a flashlight and a backup flashlight, water, and a few necessary emergency supplies just in case.

The result in every case was a pleasant walk in the woods for an hour or two and nothing else. It would have been even more safe by a small amount, and far more pleasant, with a friend along--which is why I was asking . . .

Regardless, over a lifetime of doing this I can report: Being eaten by bears zero times, eaten by wolves zero times, eaten by coyotes zero times, trampled by crazed moose zero times (though that was by far the closest call--and not coincidentally another of my life's most memorable events), abducted or shot by armed gangs of crazed inner-city youth zero times, and all the rest of the things people fear, also zero times.

I highly recommend it.
posted by flug at 4:32 PM on July 22, 2019 [14 favorites]

In the Netherlands the parents drop children. In Australia, bears drop themselves.
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:39 PM on July 22, 2019 [15 favorites]

When I was five, on a camping trip in the Rockies I wandered away from my parents and was lost for about six hours. I formed a strategy, followed it, and walked back into the campgrounds just as the forest ranger was organizing a search. This was the sixties.

It provided me with two things: a general increase in my sense of self-reliance which has served me well, and a foolish overconfidence in the wilderness that has endangered my life on numerous occasions.

I recommend it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:42 PM on July 22, 2019 [19 favorites]

I don't think I ever saw a thicket of trees deeper than a few hundred meters during my entire time in the Netherlands. Unless you're in, I dunno, North Brabant or something and then it might be a bit further, but not much.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:56 PM on July 22, 2019

As lots of mefites have already said, there's a real difference between the Netherlands and the States. And it largely depends on where you are in North America: people consistently get lost hiking in relatively well traveled and marked parks around Vancouver, because if you wander off a trail you're liable to fall into a ravine and/or break something or just get utterly turned around. Search and Rescue are pretty consistently fishing people off the North Shore mountains who went out for a quick day hike in a pair of sandals with a water bottle and no jacket. There's lots and lots of places where there's nothing between you and the next town but 2,000K of forest.

There's countryside and there's wilderness, and they're really quite different. We don't do countryside, really.

That said, I think this would be a great thing to do as a scouting/guides troupe, as long as you could trace them.
posted by jrochest at 5:02 PM on July 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

> I think this would be a great thing to do as a scouting/guides troupe

Unfortunately we super-duper can't do it with Girl Scouts, unless there's some way around the Safety Activity Checkpoints that some fellow leader could point me towards. Adult supervision is required. So we could kind of do it -- the adults could hang back and refuse to give guidance -- but we can't just say "smell you later" and peel out.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:42 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

When he was in kindergarten, my father-in-law would wander town for hours, unaccompanied, and make it back home in time for dinner, no big deal.

Growing up in rural Israel, I did that starting in first grade. The dangerous wildlife consisted of feral cats, asps, black adders, and scorpions, and I did encounter them, but kept a respectful distance. The real danger was the boring one: cars.

A 6 year old can let his instinctive fear govern his response to dangerous animals. There's a reason we evolved to be prone to certain phobias. But a 6 year old cannot properly gauge the speed of a moving car. THAT is why my own kids are not. free range. (That and the goddamn deer ticks. Come on, New Englanders: there are animals here that can help keep them down. LET THEM. American venomous snakes are very polite, with those rattles they use to ask you to go away. Black adders prefer to let their bite do the talking. )

As for the Netherlands, from what I understand, "camping" there means bringing a sleeping bag to a soccer field. Yeah, I'd "drop" my kids as soon as they can pass a Dutch swimming test.
posted by ocschwar at 7:10 PM on July 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

I agree with jrochest and others who point out the difference between countryside and wilderness. It gets cold here at night, it can take days to find someone, etc.

But - bears. Bears can hurt us, but rarely do. I don't get at all why were are so scared of them. Healthy respect yes - but being so afraid that we don't go out? According to the always reliable internet, there are about three fatal bear attacks every year on the continent (north amearica). More than three people probably die of slipping on the sidewalk every year.

I'm 100% more concerned about CPS and the cops than about anything happening to my kids. I wish they could wander the neighborhood and the nearby open areas more than I think the cops will be comfortable letting them do.
posted by lab.beetle at 7:11 PM on July 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

But - bears. Bears can hurt us, but rarely do. I don't get at all why were are so scared of them.

Some of us value our pic-a-nic baskets.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:16 PM on July 22, 2019 [11 favorites]

We did something similar in scouts in the UK when I was about 10 or 11. At midnight we left camp in small groups of boys and we had to find a series of 4 or 5 checkpoints in the woods/countryside using ordnance survey maps (no GPS then). For my group the scoutmasters had screwed up the checkpoint ordering, so what should been a 2 or 3 hour night hike went on for about 5 hours, and they ended up sending out search parties for us, though we found our own way back to camp in the end. That was annoying rather than concerning.
posted by drnick at 8:10 PM on July 22, 2019

Yeah...aside from ticks (and bears and snakes and the Malibu Park murderer), it's just very easy to get lost in the wilderness and die in the United States. America is big! Our wild spaces are very big! Even our not-wild, rural spaces are alarming if you get lost without a means of communication. In the pre-mobile phone era, my dad and grandfather went hunting for wild ginseng in the woods by my grandfather's house. They took a wrong turn and surfaced 10 hours later and one town over. Hikers are warned to make sure other people know where they're going and how long they intend to be there. If they get lost, hikers are advised to ensure their immediate safety and stop moving until they can be rescued. There just aren't a lot of opportunities for "droppings" here.

(That said, this kind of French Women Don't Get Fat, one weird trick lifestyle stuff is very funny to me. I'd pitch the Times on a piece about how the United States doesn't need droppings because we foster resiliency in pampered middle class twentysomethings by throwing them off their parents' good insurance at 26, but I'm certain one of their terrible op-ed columnists beat me to it. And did it with 100% sincerity.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:27 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

A few responses to what's been said: yeah, there's a big difference in geography between what Americans consider to be the "woods" and what the Dutch do. There are also a lot more guns in this country, and not every hunter (who wears blaze orange to keep from being shot by other hunters) hunts in-season. And the big problem with a lot of bears, in the sort of places that are frequented by scouting groups, is that they've become too acclimated to humans, especially when really stupid humans feed them.

Nevertheless, when I read about this, I instantly had a fantasy of having this done to me on the edge of adolescence (which was also when I was really into Scouting), and showing up three months later, wearing deerskin and carrying a bow and a spear with a flawlessly knapped quartz spearhead. (Note: I have no real idea of how to make any of these things, except for brief descriptions from books. Hush, it's my fantasy.) When they tell me that there was a road less than a mile away, I look at them and say, "But that would have been cheating." Then I sit down to dinner, which is my favorite, tater tot casserole, which they tell me was served after my funeral.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:06 PM on July 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

Old Oom Nick did this to me one time; I was in Mönchengladbach and headed for Cologne before he realised I wasn’t actually trying to get back and came after me.
posted by Segundus at 9:12 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

In boy scouts in the early 80s in southern NM we'd do 36 hour survival campouts where we were dropped off out in the desert with one egg and whatever we managed to carry on us with no packs allowed and we'd have to survive from dawn to dusk to dawn to dusk again in the desert in, like, July in southern NM.

The whole solar still thing, it totally works. The secret is to cut up particularly juicy cactus (if you can find any, and yay cutting up cactus for water!), and also if you're near your still when you need to piss, piss in it.

Also, there are weird things to eat out in the desert if you know where to look. Certain roots or different cactus cores or maybe fruits if you find them...

Anyway, two days and one night later we were retrieved and rewarded with food from Lotaburger and showers and beds and eventually merit badges we'd somehow done. Wheeee!

I honestly don't know why parents are so fearful for their children these days. You teach them things, you put them in a controlled situation, and even if they didn't do all that great, they're alive and they learned things.

Anyway, I once got lost in Munich when I was 19 and wandered around for about 2 hours trying to find something familiar and ended up going into a bar to ask directions but it was a leather bar and I didn't know I was gay yet but I certainly got an eye-full and I wonder how much that moment fed into my realization process.

So, yeah! Getting lost, and surviving! Sometimes it might get deep.
posted by hippybear at 9:27 PM on July 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

We do things a little bit differently around here.
For 45 years, eighth graders in Ketchikan, Alaska, have gone on an overnight survival trip to a remote island.
(but I would dispute the tag line's description of Back Island as "remote". It's within sight of the Ketchikan road system and has a navy facility on it.. however it's still a pretty cool program.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:02 PM on July 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Three words: Death Valley Germans
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:27 AM on July 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Count me among 'surprised this isn't a universal thing'. But it makes sense given the hostile landscape elsewhere!

I think I was dropped about 4 times total, from around the age of 8 to 13. At first it was not hard (follow the candles along an obvious path), later on we would be asking Waloon farmers for directions - except you didn't know where you were supposed to go (school trip to the Ardennes). The speaking French part made that more difficult & interesting. As I recall we had part of a map, and had to find more map pieces along the route.

It was really a lot of fun!

Later on when we were students prospective presidents of student unions were sometimes abducted and dropped as far as possible without money (say London or Germany). People knew they would probably be abducted and started carrying their money in their shoes. Maybe they got the idea from being dropped as kids.
posted by kwartel at 2:44 AM on July 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

My Canadian parents used to do this to my brothers and me all the time in Seventies.

It was called "If you don't behave you are walking home".
posted by srboisvert at 2:56 AM on July 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

I was a free range kid, as were most kids who grew up in the seventies near me...starting at a very young age I would wander alone through the woods behind my house in rural New York. It was large enough so that I could easily get lost when I went off trail, but small enough to know that when I finally made it to a road I would recognize it and could reorient myself or settle in for the five mile walk back to the house. I don't know if it added to my sense of self confidence or independence, but I grew up to have a healthy respect for unfamiliar woods.

I have a fairly large wooded property upstate that I still wander, again, not large enough that I can go more than a mile or two before hitting a road, but now I carry one of these things as my sole line of defense against the coyotes and bears who might want to harass me or my dog. It's loud as hell and cheap as chips and light enough so that you don't even notice you're wearing one around your neck. I hand them out to everyone I know who wanders in the woods like me. I highly recommend it to my fellow woods walkers.
posted by newpotato at 3:24 AM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

1adam12: I don't think I ever saw a thicket of trees deeper than a few hundred meters during my entire time in the Netherlands. Unless you're in, I dunno, North Brabant or something and then it might be a bit further, but not much.

I'm not sure where in the Netherlands you've spent all that time, but I suspect you missed the best parts.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:10 AM on July 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Also, the Netherlands definitely has both ticks and Lyme disease, though I grant you it's low on bears.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:21 AM on July 23, 2019

The Tensor: is the NY Times article accurate?

Yup. Well, we did not get a GPS, but then it was 1981. The dropping was easily the most exciting part of summer camp. There was an adult in the group at least on one occasion, but he did not have any navigation equipment either, and no one had a phone.
I was not a scout, I just went to summer camps organised by an organisation that specialised in, well, summer camps for kids.
It was always the highlight of my year. I learned SO MUCH. Mostly about interacting with others.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:21 AM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

In venturers (next level up from scouts in Australia), myself and four other boys were taken out into the bush for a "drop off". We were given a map and told we had three days to get across some ranges and get to a specific hut. If we didn't make it in time, no lift home. We made it. Best time ever.
posted by greenhornet at 4:37 AM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

hearing that drop offs happen in australia gives me even more trepidation about the american style of child rearing / child confinement.

australia is as much of a car culture as the u.s. and well if popular culture representations are accurate, the wildlife and climate in australia is even more hostile to humans than the wildlife and climate anywhere in the continental us — even places like the desert southwest.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:46 AM on July 23, 2019

Also, the Netherlands definitely has both ticks and Lyme disease, though I grant you it's low on bears.

And also venomous snakes, even if they aren’t particularly dangerous. Of course, snakebites aren’t a major cause of mortality in the United States, either.
posted by TedW at 9:09 AM on July 23, 2019

It's still pretty chill in Iowa. I see kids roaming around everywhere.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:58 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

> Three words: Death Valley Germans

Yeah, I knew that was going to come up the moment I saw this article.

#1. No one is talking about dropping kids in the middle of Death Valley.

#2. Death Valley is exactly 1500 miles from my present location. If we give the Dutch the same 1500-mile latitude to drop their children, they could do it in the arctic tundra of Russia, somewhere in the remote interior of Iceland, or right smack in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

Guess what?

They don't.

They drop them in relatively close-by places that are moderately challenging, measured according to the capabilities of the kids, but not remotely dangerous.

There are plenty of such places in the U.S.--I can think of a couple of dozen within 10 miles of where I sit right now.

The reason we don't has nothing to do with our environment and everything to do with our attitude.

"It is not the mountains we conquer but ourselves."
posted by flug at 2:43 PM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Death Valley Germans are interesting and relevant in the context of discussing an article that describes culturally-bound assumptions and practices about wilderness and children's experiences.

If we accept Mahood's reconstruction, the Germans walked away from help off into the desert, taking their children with them, precisely because of their attitude that they couldn't be that far from civilization, could they? And we'll just pop over and find a guard to help us.
posted by Earthtopus at 7:23 AM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

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