To Get the Full Story, Read Posts from the Bottom Up – after reading this intro

A parent shares his perspective:
“I was very disappointed with the handling of the cross country running ban. Multiple decisions were made that really had me scratching my head. While I did not agree with the ban, this wasn’t the biggest concern for me. I was open to learning why this decision was made but no one would offer any rationale. So my problem is with the process: no input from parents or citizens, no openness about making the decision, no facts presented to support the decision, no follow-up, being told misinformation and non-truths, and a lack of accountability (school administrators said it was Board Policy while the Board said it was the administrators decision to make). This results in a lack of trust.”

Update: December 17, 2013
As the year ends, a few things to be thankful for:

  • Both the Boys and Girls XC Teams stayed focused and positive this past fall season.
  • The support of the XC Team by parents, community members, and Radford’s school staff and administrators.
  • Great XC Coaches and Mentors.
  • People throughout the world that visited this site and shared a common interest in youth and running.
  • The willingness of some Radford Schools’ administrators and school board members to be flexible and responsive to new information.
  • Road running returning to Radford.

From the Bobcat Boosters Website:

With the 2013 Cross Country season getting off to a bad start, the RHS boys and girls were determined… with the Boys Varsity team finishing in 2nd place in the state finals and the Girls Varsity team winning a state championship for the first time in RHS history. Read more and see pictures…

Update: October 22, 2013
While the road restrictions placed on the team members have been an unfortunate distraction and more importantly made for less rigorous training, there is reason to be hopeful as the Radford Schools’ Administrators have shown flexibility by allowing some less restrictive road training. It is not nearly enough, but given the few weeks left in the season, any additional progress at this time will have limited impact. We hope that more streets, specifically ones with less traffic, will continue to be added back to the cross country team’s training routes.

From WDBJ7 coverage of School Board Meeting on Sept. 10, 2013:
“No real evidence has been presented as to why this ban was made.”

A parent said the board made its decision without qualified information and may have implemented the ban illegally, citing a state statute by a very specific section of code.

“As you know, 2.23711 sets out limited exemptions and business the school board can conduct outside of public view.”

runners running

Paranoid Schooling and Worst-Case Thinking

There is a special kind of intelligence for dealing with risk and uncertainty. It doesn’t correlate with IQ, and most psychologists failed to spot it because it is found in such a disparate, rag-tag group of people – American weather-forecasters, professional gamblers, and hedge-fund managers, for example. Many people in positions which require high risk intelligence – doctors, financial regulators and bankers, for instance – seem unable to navigate the “darkened room”, the domain of doubt and uncertainty. Economist, author and university lecturer Dylan Evans discusses just how important risk intelligence is and why managing the risk of a nightmare scenario can be counterproductive in the following [edited] excerpt from his book “Risk Intelligence: How to Live with Uncertainty.”

There’s something mesmerizing about apocalyptic scenarios. Like an alluring femme fatale, they exert an uncanny pull on the imagination. That is why what security expert Bruce Schneier calls “worst-case thinking” is so dangerous. It substitutes imagination for thinking, speculation for risk analysis and fear for reason. …

By transforming low-probability events into complete certainties whenever the events are particularly scary, worst-case thinking leads to terrible decision making. For one thing, it’s only half of the cost/benefit equation. “Every decision has costs and benefits, risks and rewards,” Schneier points out. “By speculating about what can possibly go wrong, and then acting as if that is likely to happen, worst-case thinking focuses only on the extreme but improbable risks and does a poor job at assessing outcomes.”

… “We all do it,” admits Schneier. “Our imaginations run wild with detailed and specific threats. …

Psychologically, this all makes a certain basic sense. Worst-case scenarios are compelling because they evoke vivid mental images that overwhelm rational thinking. …

Fear alone is, however, not a sound basis on which to make policy. The long lines at airports caused by the introduction of new airport security procedures, for example, have led more people to drive rather than fly, and that in turn has led to thousands more road fatalities than would otherwise have occurred, because driving is so much more dangerous than flying. Fear of “stranger danger” has also led to huge changes in parental behavior over the past few decades, which may have a net cost for child welfare. That, at least, is what the sociologist Frank Furedi argues in his challenging book Paranoid Parenting.

Parents [and schools] have always been worried about their kids, of course, but Furedi argues that their concerns have intensified in a historically unprecedented way since the late 1970s, to the extent that these days virtually every childhood experience comes with a health warning.

The result is that parents [and schools] look at each experience from the point of view of a worst-case scenario and place increasing restrictions on what their kids can do; in the past few decades, for example, there has been a steep decline in the number of children who are allowed to bicycle to school and in the distance from home that kids are allowed to go to play unsupervised. …

The problem with paranoid parenting [and schooling] is that, like other cases of worst-case thinking, it ignores half of the cost-benefit equation. In worrying about stranger danger [or running on the streets], for example, parents [and schools] focus on the extreme but improbable risk of a child molester attacking or abducting their children [or of an accident with a car] and fail to weigh it against the more mundane but far more likely benefits of exercise, socialization and independence that children gain from being allowed greater freedom. To put it another way, worried parents [and schools] tend to focus on the risks of giving their children greater leeway and fail to consider the risks of not doing so. The long-term developmental consequences of paranoid parenting include isolation from peers, infantilism and loss of autonomy. Unlike the chance of abduction [or automobile accident], though, those risks are highly probable.

Schneier tells a story about a security conference he attended where the moderator asked a panel of distinguished cybersecurity leaders what their nightmare scenario was. The answers were the predictable array of large-scale attacks: against our communications infrastructure, against the power grid, against the financial system, in combination with a physical attack, and so on. Schneier didn’t get to give his answer until the afternoon. Finally, he stood up and said, “My nightmare scenario is that people keep talking about their nightmare scenarios.”

Dylan Evans holds a PhD in philosophy from the London School of Economics and is a lecturer in behavioral science at University College Cork School of Medicine in Ireland.

Read the full excerpt: “Nightmare Scenario: The Fallacy of Worst-Case Thinking,” Risk and Insurance Management Society, April 2

More Former Bobcats Offer Support

From: Former RHS XC Runners
Date: Fri, Oct 4, 2013
Subject: we’ll be rooting for you
To: <radfordbobcatxc@gmail.com>

We’re all really bummed out about the school board’s overly cautious behavior and hope that kids that are en route to school aren’t soon required to hold the hand of an adult. As former members of the RHS CC team, we understand that diversifying the routes serve 2 important purposes: (1) to prepare a team for a wide array of courses with a variety of hills & non-hills and (2) to not be bored into an eye-clawing stupor (that should be saved for track season in the spring).

I’m glad that the parents & students are voicing their concerns and getting support from runners around the country/world. Hopefully the reasoning skills of your supporters will be contagious and eventually transfer into the minds & bodies of those making these bizarre decisions. If we treat high-schoolers like infant children, soon football players will be prevented from running into each other, soccer players will be prevented from kicking balls with their fragile and injury-prone legs, and drama class will be forced to perform and rehearse in an inflatable bouncy room so they don’t risk falling off of a perilous stage. Okay, that last scenario might actually be pretty cool.

Keep fighting the good fight & we’ll be rooting for you!bobcatxc supporters

Don’t Pick the Flowers! An Un-Fairy Tale

Today’s featured contributor on Bill & Dave’s Cocktail Hour is Rick Van Noy. Rick is the author of Surveying the Interior: Literary Cartographers and the Sense of Place and A Natural Sense of Wonder: Connecting Kids with Nature Through the Seasons. He teaches at Radford University in Virginia, where he runs on streets among other dangerous things.

As we discuss a ban on road running in Radford, you may be interested in a similar town that banned flower picking. It was written by one Jonathan Slow, a little-known friend of Jonathan Swift’s. Tune in for the next installment when the queen herself speaks. Continue reading… 

A Black (and Gold) Hole of Information

So we have two approved sidewalk routes to other area schools. Runners must be on sidewalk, single file, wearing vests and must not leave sidewalk to cross street before okay’d by a parent volunteer or coach. This is welcome news, of sorts. So much of what the public has experienced, from secret decisions, to lack of responses to emails and requests for meetings, to being told misinformation and non-truths, as well as being restricted from attending public meetings, is represented well by the image of a black hole.

Now is good time to reflect on where we’ve been. The news last week that the administration would have to postpone this decision on sidewalk routes (sidewalks!)–to check with their insurance company and lawyers–reminds one of car shopping and the salesperson has to approve the offer with the boss.

Then we learn that the person who we are told can make decisions will not be at the table to help the committee make a decision.

So many contradictions, such cognitive dissonance, a black hole of information.

  • It’s a little like spending much time and volunteer hours to work on a new course only to learn there is no course.
  • It’s like learning it is OK for students to run on their own but running when supervised, when actually safer, is not an option.
  • It’s like being told by the principal and athletic director that they have been thinking about this for some time but being told by the school board that they only thought of it when parents brought it up.
  • It’s like being told you want the ban when clearly you don’t.
  • It’s like being told something is unsafe when there is no evidence or incident to point to its being unsafe.
  • It’s like being told a waiver isn’t worth anything but then being asked to sign a waiver.
  • It’s like wearing reflective clothing in the daytime.
  • It’s like holding a meeting of stakeholders after you’ve made a decision rather than before.
  • It’s like having to clean up a mess you didn’t make.

More thoughts from our Facebook Group Supporters:

  • It’s like telling 16 and 17 year-olds who drive when it is safe to cross the street.
  • Its like being elected to represent the will of the people and then acting with complete disregard for the will of the people.
  • It’s like being told you want your kids to get hit by a car when you, that kid’s parent, would lay your own life down for that kid.
  • It’s like being told McHarg “hill” is adequate when training for monster hills (1/4 miles+) found on Giles and Abingdon courses.
  • It’s like coming up with a bunch of horse flop because you can’t admit you are wrong.
  • It’s like trying to replace a coach who just won a state championship.
  • And finally: it’s like working as hard as you can, despite restrictions and frustrations, toward another.

One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Training routes were detailed on September 24 when the XC team members were given a letter and attachments that detailed the school’s latest conditions:

Per the letter, approximately 2.25 miles of sidewalks and school property (called the Belle Heth and McHarg Runs) will be permitted for Cross Country training on newly developed routes if parents and students (approximately 21 of which are of legal driving age) comply with the following required procedures:

  • runners must wear reflective training vests at all times (in the broad daylight)
  • runners must run in a single file line while on sidewalks
  • a Radford City Schools approved adult volunteer or coach must be present at all crosswalks
  • runners must come to a complete stop at all crosswalks
  • runners cannot enter the crosswalk until an adult volunteer or coach clears them

What does one get for meeting these required conditions? View an animated comparison of three images consisting of the traditional running options and the two new limited routes.

new and old routes compared

Traditional Training Routes contrasted with New Routes.

RCPS newly approved sidewalks and school property routes in more detail:

view map

McHarg “RCPS approved” run

view of map

Belle Heth “RCPS approved” Run

Support from Afghanistan: Keep up the fight!

From: “radfordbobcatxc@gmail.com”
Date: Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 1:13 PM
Subject: Re: Support from Afghanistan (UNCLASSIFIED)
To: “Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army”

Thanks for your thoughts. Do you mind if your comments are posted on either our blog or facebook group? I do believe that this ban is an assault on freedoms imposed by a governing body that is not representing the will of the people. What is the point of all the sacrifices our military makes if we are going to arbitrarily impose limitations to those freedoms on ourself? No need to answer this question…

Again, thanks for your support.
RadfordBobcatxc

From: “Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army”
Date: Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Subject: Support from Afghanistan (UNCLASSIFIED)
To: “radfordbobcatxc@gmail.com”

Fellow XC Runners,
Best of luck, and all my support to your efforts. Banning a cross country team from running on roads and sidewalks for “safety reasons” is like banning the swimming team from using a swimming pool because they could drown (and, y’know, there are lots of good lakes and streams around).

Keep up the fight!

Lieutenant Colonel
Infantry, United States Army
Kabul, Afghanistan

Don't Tread On Me

Don’t Tread On Me