Ben Boychuk is joined by Lenore Skenazy, "the World's Worst Mom" and author of the 2009 book, Free-Range Kids. Ever since Skenazy caused a scandal by allowing her then-9-year-old son to ride the subway home alone, she's been waging a sometimes lonely war against what she aptly calls "worst-first thinking." Recently, Skenazy has turned her biting wit against the emerging trend of "Alcatraz Parenting", which was the impetus for what turned into a fairly wide-ranging interview.
Among the questions we discuss:
• Why isn't her Discovery International reality TV series on in the United States?
• How much has really changed since Free Range Kids was published?
• How did the Etan Patz case change public opinion and the laws?
• Just how bad is the kidnapping problem today?
• Should parents take their kids to parks and leave them there?
• How does worst-first thinking threaten self-government?
• Which do you prefer: "Alcatraz parenting"? "Prisoner parenting"? Or "Panopticon parenting"?*
• What are some really dumb products that parents can buy to provide an illusion of safety for their children?
• "Tooth Prints"? Seriously?
• Is the fear of lawsuits overblown?
• What are some of the most important things children should learn before they are 12?
• And much more!
* This is really embarrassing, but when we recorded the interview, I misidentified the originator of the "panopticon" concept. It was, in fact, Jeremy Bentham. For some reason -- age? a small stroke? lack of caffeine? -- I identified the man behind the idea as John Stuart Mill. (Well, I had good reason: Mill was, after all, a student of Bentham's.) It's especially galling because I asserted with supreme confidence that most people listening to this podcast would know what the panopticon is or was. If you don't, just follow the links. Anyway, I cut that part of the exchange from the interview -- about two minutes in all -- although Lenore's musings on the panopticon remain intact.
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Greatest Love of All," Big Daddy
• "The Kids Are Alright," The Queers
• "I'm Your Boogie Man," KC and the Sunshine Band
• "Overlove," Dio
• "Fearless," Pink Floyd
• "Take a Chance," The Bomboras
Please visit and "like" the Ben and Joel page on Facebook to comment on this interview, as well as to receive regular updates about the podcast and links to our weekly syndicated column with ScrippsHoward News Service. You'll be glad you did!
Programming note: This episode of "The Ben and Joel Podcast" is Vol. 5, No. 11 for 2012. Joel Mathis was on vacation when we recorded this one. I should have posted this sooner, but events conspired against it.