I might have already blogged this once, but I don't care. Given how little motivation I have to blog lately, I'm not going to pass up a post idea for a little problem like already having used it.
I take an ass-load of dietary supplements because I read a book that recommended it (and because I like making my urine as expensive as possible).
Anyway, my Vitamin C supplement is delicious and is sought after by our children as if it were candy. A few weeks ago, my 11-year-old daughter asked if she could have one. I said, "Yeah, but do you need help opening it?" She said, "No, I've known how to open those lids since I was five." My wife and I laughed at the ineffectiveness of "child-proof" caps and my daughter said, "What? The instructions are printed right on the cap!"
An interesting point: there are positive safety effects of teaching a child to read (they don't play with power lines and whatnot), but there are also negative safety effects (they learn how to open child-proof caps).
Another example of a negative safety effect of knowing how to read: I used to read a book while I rode my bike to and from school. I'd pay more attention in the morning, then in the afternoon I'd sort of remember where the parked cars were and put more effort into reading than looking around. Well, one day while I was at school, a roll-off trash bin was delivered to a house. I rode home thinking it wasn't there, and I ran directly into the thing, chipping one of my teeth. If I hadn't known how to read, my tooth would still be intact.
Of course this is hardly an argument to restrict literacy. I think we'd all agree the positive safety effects dwarf the negative ones. But in the modern world where no one wants to acknowledge any down-side of any policy he likes, it's important to recognize reminders that, in the real world, nothing is 100% good. There was a down-side to teaching my daughter to read. There's always a down-side. When a policy advocate won't engage with the down-side, he's at best (worst?) a demagogue, and at worst (best?) a fool.