Elli's school is locked up tight. I don't just mean during the night, when no one has any good reason to go there, but in fact all the time. There is an obsession with protecting the school from raging lunatics that manages to be completely annoying to everyone who legitimately wants to use the school and simply doesn't accomplish what it is in theory supposed to do. Imagine some lunatic wants to shoot up the place; lets go over what happens. Lunatic walks up to the front door of the school and finds out it is locked. Then lunatic goes home, utterly defeated by the locked doors.
Well, I suppose it could go another way. Lunatic walks up to the front door of the school and finds out it is locked. The door is a metal frame surrounding a giant plate of glass from floor to ceiling so the lunatic smashes the glass with a fist, a weapon, or anything else to hand and walks in and does whatever they want anyway. Or lunatic walks to the other locked door, hits the buzzer, and walks in anyway. Or they walk to the back door of the school, which is never locked, and walks in anyway. Or they walk to the recycling room door, which is never locked, and walks in anyway. So what exactly is locking the doors of the school doing? The answer, quite simply, is that it annoys the hell out of parents and other people who want to get into the school for normal reasons and aren't willing to smash glass and don't want to walk around the school. Other than that trivial annoyance to me and those like me it accomplishes nothing.
Another amusing safety mechanism is the prevention of children from leaving or arriving to the school unaccompanied. In a book I read yesterday, What I Eat, it talked with people living in Brazil who sent their three children aged 10, 8 and 6 to school in a boat powered by an outboard motor that they drove themselves. Here children aged 12 are forbidden from leaving the school to go home for lunch, even if they live in the apartment building adjacent to the school. A parent would have to come to the school to pick them up, thus 'increasing safety'. I think the greatest loss here is the sense of adventure, self reliance and confidence that children lack the opportunity to acquire. Certainly it is an unnecessary burden on parents time and convenience but moreso I think we lose out on teaching children to take care of themselves and be responsible. I know that it shaped me dramatically when I left home and had to begin to take care of myself and I think we do ourselves a tremendous disservice by denying children opportunities to learn a bit about responsibility and take care of themselves in small ways. We know from the past that children of 6 are perfectly able to get home from school and even prepare food for themselves without parents being involved at all - they do not need the stifling level of protection we enforce in schools these days.
We also teach children the wrong things about the world when we enforce safety regulations like this. We teach them that they cannot trust the people around them and that strangers are deadly. We don't use those words directly of course, but the message is clear: You cannot be trusted alone by yourself, someone will randomly come along and kidnap or kill you. The fact is that they won't. Just like we don't live in underground shelters to prevent accidental meteor deaths we don't need to surround our schools with webs of safety regulations to prevent stranger kidnappings.
I would make a scene at the school and try to convince them of their folly but I doubt they have anything to say in the matter. Just like my barefoot experiment that the school crushed, it is brought down on them from above by ruling authorities desperate to avoid lawsuits. Their logic seems to go, "Better to make everybody unhappy than suffer the chance of one person being miserable", but I just don't buy it.