For most Americans of a certain age, learning how to tie their shoes was a milestone of childhood. For today’s children this is increasingly not the case, as Velcro closures and slip-ons render shoelaces nearly obsolete. Sandra Steingraber thinks the loss of shoelace tying as a developmental benchmark illustrates a larger societal shift away from self-sufficiency.
In the Jan/Feb issue of Orion, Steingraber quotes a recent Fortune article which, in analyzing the impact of the decline in oil production, advises: “Learn to garden, and buy some comfortable walking shoes.” While movements toward community gardening, home cooking, and even a return to farming have taken root, Steingraber notes the lack of such awareness in mainstream parenting literature.
“The same day Fortune told me to grow my own dinner,” she writes, “my local newspaper advised me on how to help my children build a competitive résumé for college applications…Of the many items on the list of leadership-building activities, all would necessitate me driving someplace in a car.”
Steingraber asks parents to consider the make up of many popular shoes “that derive from barrels of oil and are assembled in faraway lands.” Furthermore, she wonders how well our society is preparing children to live in “a world more economically and ecologically unreliable” than in the past.
“What does it mean,” she asks, “at this moment in history, to ‘teach your children well’?”