Carefully Taught

A Reminder to Look(!) Both Ways:


I am still trying to get used to seeing these LOOK! signs around town. They warn people to look up from their devices, or whatever they happen to be staring at while walking, and pay attention before they step out into the street. I certainly understand why the signs are needed. The explosion of smartphones where people are constantly checking their electronic world while walking in the real world, means that people are not paying attention to their surroundings.

And it’s not just a problem exclusive to smartphones. I think that TWW, or texting while walking, has emboldened people to walk while doing other things. Like reading. And not just from their tablets, smartphones and e-readers. I’ve seen a marked increase in the number of people who walk while reading print books and magazines. I’m just not sure that painting signs in the street is the way to solve this problem. To me, it looks like the painting of these signs on are street is a way to deal with the issue on the back end, and not on the front end.

When I attended elementary school (and yes, I’m going to date myself!) we were taught to look both ways before we crossed the street. To pay attention while walking, and not do things like read books and magazines (or devices!). To walk with our head up, and use our eyes to look ahead for anything that we wish to avoid (like dog poop). We were taught how to respect other people’s space in crowded places like subway trains and elevators. How to fold the New York Daily News and the New York Times so that we could read it without spreading it over fellow train passengers. To hold on to the handlebar on the subway, and not lean our backs on it. Yes, we were taught all these things in grade school. It was called: CIVICS.

In civics, we were taught basic manners and ways to move around in our world. And we were taught about our government, the Constitution, and our rights, no small thing when I attended school in the 60s and 70s, where civil rights, protests against the Vietnam War, gay rights, and women’s rights were front-page news. And while some may argue that these teachings should be done in the home, or that these civics classes are a way to push the government’s “agenda,” the fact is that these classes reinforced and enhanced what we were learned at home and in our community. Based on the amount of articles and air time devoted to the lack of manners, I think it’s high time that we put civics back into the classroom.

I wonder if any of these policy folks who gave the green light to putting down the LOOK! signs all over town around town even took the time to see if there is a correlation between the elimination of civics classes, and an increase in the type of behaviors. Distracted walking is no small matter: at best, it’s a public nuisance, and at worse, can cause serious injury, even death (Texting While Walking? Think Twice I would argue that a link can be made  between the two, and that the increase of distracted walking has been exacerbated by the proliferation of smartphones and other electronic devices. Then again, all those policy folks are probably too young to remember when civics was taught in the schools.


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