Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Risk and risk aversion

In the last few days, I have followed tragic news stories of people falling from hills where we have walked and dying, and kids falling through ice and drowning: and yet I still let the kids go out on the iced ponds to skate and we still go for family walks in the hills.

Is this just perverse?

I don’t think so. I think the virtue to consider here is prudence. I think that prudence means both avoiding unnecessary risk, and also being prepared to engage with necessary risk.

I clearly don’t want my children to have serious or fatal accidents; but I think in our modern culture there is another danger, less obvious. which is that the children grow up as cowards, afraid of the wrong things.

I want my kids to fear evil, not potential hazards. And I hope that by teaching them that they can assess and mitigate risk in the natural realm, I will give them the courage to avoid evil when they can, and fight it when they must.

To put that another way, I think that trying to remove all physical risks from kids' experience of life is a very risky strategy for their development and well-being.

In the meantime you might spare a prayer for those who have died in the recent severe weather, and their families.

1 comment:

George Carmody said...

It's an interesting phenomenon that I've observed 3 or 4 times at first hand: parents very protective about what their off-spring eat, where they play etc. But once they turn 16 they're allowed out late at night (including in night clubs) where the moral dangers (drugs, binge-drinking, sexual activity) are far worse and knowingly ignored by parents ("What can you do?", they say).