The Wolf EffectPosted by on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
Do you remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? It’s about this kid who is supposed to be on the lookout for wolves. If he sees one, he’s supposed to yell “wolf,” and then the community reacts. He thought it would be funny if he yelled “wolf” without seeing the wolf just to get a rise out of some people. So, he did it. Over and over again. Eventually, the people stopped taking him seriously and didn’t come to help when there was an actual wolf threat. In America today, we are facing a similar phenomenon. A few years ago (at least five by now), I saw a book featured on Book TV that taught how we overuse certain terms and they become so saturated in society that they don’t hold any meaning, and end up being ignored. I call this The Wolf Effect (unrelated to the magnetic spectrum phenomenon of the same name). Unfortunately, I can’t remember the author’s name or the title of the book.
In American today, we still react (and actually overreact) when we hear terms like child endangerment, but I fear it won’t be long before these terms lose their meaning altogether. Currently, we (as a society) are encouraging parents to be worried and overprotective. What used to be seen as abnormal in parenting (constant worry, micromanaging, and fear mongering), are now the standard. If we don’t parent in that manner, we face societal disdain and maybe even legal repercussions.
A woman in Arkansas now faces possible jail time for making her son walk to school. She has been charged with “endangering the welfare of a minor.” Of course, these stories aren’t actually rare, which is why I fear The Wolf Effect. When the real big, bad wolf comes in the form of fragile, unprepared, dependent children, we won’t be ready. Truly, this behavior is more endangering to a child and a society than walking to school. All of those able to help at that point will be behind bars. I guess we’ll have to huff and puff that house down.